Jaina tradition and Buddhism

As Mahavira was the senior contemporary of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, it is natural that in the Buddhist literature there should be several references of a personal nature to Mahavira. It is, however, very significant to note that in Buddhist books Mahavira is always described as nigantha Nataputta (Nirgrantha Jnatrputra), i.e., the naked ascetic of the Jnatr clan and never as the founder of Jainism. Further, in the Buddhist literature Jainism is not shown as a new religion but is referred to as an ancient religion. There are ample references in Buddhist books to the Jaina naked ascetics to the worship of Arhats in Jaina chaityas or temples and to the chaturyama-dharma (i.e. fourfold religion) of 23rd Tirthankara Parsvanatha.

Moreover, it is very pertinent to find that the Buddhist literature refers to the Jaina tradition of Tirthankaras and specifically mentions the names of Jaina Tirthankaras like Rsabhadeva, Padmaprabha, Chandraprabha, Puspadanta, Vimalnath, Dharmanath and Neminatha. The Dharmottara- pradipa, the well known Buddhist book, Mentions Rsabhadeva along with the name of Mahavira or Vardhamana as an Apta or Tirthankara. The Dhammikasutta of the Amgutara-nikaya speaks of Aristanemi or Nemi-natha as one of the six Tirthankaras mentioned there. The Buddhist book Manorathapurani, mentions the names of many lay men and women as followers of the Parsvanatha tradition and among them is the name of Vappa, the uncle of Gautama Buddha. In fact it is mentioned in the Buddhist literature that Gautama Buddha himself practiced penance according to the Jaina way before he propounded his new religion.