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Mahavira, Nigantha Nataputta, Nigantha Jnataputta, Vardhamana, Vir, Ativir, Sanmati

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Nationality: Ancient Indian

Known to be: Heretical Teacher, Philosopher

Born: Thirteenth day of the rising moon of Chaitra in the Vira Nirvana Samvat calendar in 599 BC at Kundalpur (In the present-day Sikandra Division of Jamui district, Bihar.)

Moksh: Pawapuri

Among the six famous teachers contemporary with the Buddha, Nigantha Nataputta is the only heretical leader whose teachings has survived through the ages and remains a living religion of modem India. In the Jain tradition he is known as Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism. In the Buddhist Pali scriptures, although the six heretical teachers are always mentioned together, the name of Nigatha Nataputta and the Niganthas, the followers of his teachings, are more familiar to the students of the Pali texts.

Jain traditions date Mahavira as living from 599 B.C. to 527 B.C. Western historians date Mahavira as living from 480 BC to 408 BC.[31] Some Western scholars suggest Mahavira died around 425 BC.

According to the Samannaphala Sutta, Nigatha Nataputta was the fifth heretic referred to by King Ajattasatu. The King related to the Buddha that one day he paid a visit to a heretical leader named Nigatha Nataputta and asked him about the present advantages of the life of a recluse. But instead of giving the answers in accordance with the questions, Nataputta expounded to him the fourfold restraint of the Niganthas. It was like being asked about a mango and telling him about a jack-fruit, or asked about a jack-fruit, and telling him about a mango. Thinking that a person like him should not cause trouble to a recluse (samana) living in his kingdom, he left without approving or rejecting Nataputta's view. The following are Nataputta's statements made in reply to King Ajattasatu's questions:

A Nigatha in this World, 0 King, is restrained with the fourfold restraint. How is a Nigantha restrained with the four fold restrain? A Nigantha in this world is restrained as regards all water, is engaged in all water, is shaken off all water, and is spread with all water. Such is a Nigantha restrained with fourfold restrain. And, because of this fourfold restrain, he is called a Nigantha (free from bonds), Gatatta (one whose mind has been in attainment of his aim), Yatatta (one whose mind is under control), and Citatta (one whose mind is fixed).

Nataputta's doctrine as appearing in the above passage quoted from the Samannaphala Sutta is a difficult to understand. Buddhaghosa, in his Sumangala Vilasini, the commentary to the Digha-Nikaya, gives the following interpretations:

"A Nigantha is restrained as regards all water" means that a Nigantha or the Jain monk avoids using cold water. He will drink or perform ablutions only when hot water is obtained. This restraint is observed on the ground of belief that cold water is endowed with the principle of life (jiva). "A Nigatha is engaged in all water" means that he is engaged in avoiding all evils; "A Nigatha is shaken off all water" means that by avoiding all evils his evils are washed away; and "A Nigatha is spread with alt water" means that he is suffused with the sense of evil held at bay.

The record of the Samannaphala Sutta contains only a part of Nataputta's teachings; it does not include all the teachings of this heretical leader. Nataputta was evidently a Kiriyavadin or Kammavadin who propounded, as did the Buddha, the doctrine of karma. But his concept of karma is somewhat different from that of the Buddhists. In the Upalivada Sutta of Majjhima-Nikaya, Nataputta's doctrine of karma is fairly discussed, but instead of using the word “karma " or "action", as used by the Buddha, he employed the word danda for the same purpose. The word ‘karma ', according to the Buddhist, purely means action, which does not particularly carry the sense of good or bad. Only when it is combined with the word ‘kusala' or akusala' is its meaning fixed, e.g., kusala karma -good or meritorious action, and akusala-bad or demeritorious action. The Nigatha's term danda seems, however, to carry a fixed meaning, i.e., it means a hurtful act. It is threefold corresponding to three ways of performing action, namely, kaya-dandabodily (hurtful) action, vaci-danda-verbal (hurtful) action, and mano-danda-mental (hurtful) action. According to Nataputta, kaya-danda or bodily action is, in doing evil deeds, far more criminal than the danda of words and thoughts. This conception is diametrically opposed to that of the Buddhists which regards manokarma or mental action as more forceful than karma performed through words and deeds. This point of controversy between the teaching of Nataputta and that of the Buddha will be discussed later.

In the Culadukkhakkhanda Sutta of Majjhima-Nikaya, Nigantha Nataputta is also said to have taught his disciples to get rid of all evil deeds performed in the past by practicing austerities. The passage of the Sutta referring to his teaching reads:

There were evil deeds, Niganthas, done by you in the past. You should cast them away by following a practice of austerity. When you are now practicing self control in deeds, words and thought, your new evil karma is not accumulated. Because old karma is washed away by austerity (tapa) and new karma is not accumulated, you are free from compulsion. And being free from compulsion, an expiration of karma, suffering is exhausted, sensations (vedana) come to an end; and because sensations come to an end, all your sufferings are eradicated.

 Moksa (emancipation), according to Nataputta, seems to lie in an exhaustion of old karma, and at the same time, new karma is not accumulated. Karma is the cause of bondage and when all karma is exhausted a person is said to have attained liberation. The complete exhaustion of karma is made possible only by the practice of austerities, such as to vow to observe only the standing posture or other physical tortures. The practice of austerities must be strictly followed if a Nigantha wishes to attain emancipation.

A parallel distinction between the Buddhist and the Jain concept of emancipation is worthy of note here. According to Buddhism, suffering is uprooted only when all desires (tanha) are eradicated, and it is because of the eradication of desires that a person is said to be emancipated. According to Nataputta's teachings, it is not desires that are to be eradicated but karma. Only when karma has been exhausted is emancipation said to be fully obtained. This is one of the controversial concepts in these two parallel systems of Kiriyavada, Buddhism and Jainism.

The followers of Nigantha Nataputta, believe in the existence of the permanent and indestructible soul. This soul will undergo birth and death as long as karma has not been exhausted. On the exhaustion of karma by practicing austerities the soul becomes emancipated and will after death, ascend to reside forever on the top of the world. It is free from birth and death and will never again return to this world.

Abha, 10+1 (Medical)

Wisdom World School

Kurukshetra, Haryana, India

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