Nigantha, Nigaṇṭha, Niganthā: 5 definitions



Nigantha means something in Buddhism, Pali, Jainism, Prakrit. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Buddhism

Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

Source: Pali Kanon: Pali Proper Names

The name given to the Jains, the followers of Nigantha Nataputta. Unlike the Acelakas, they wore one garment, a covering in front. But when praised for their modesty, they answered that their reason for wearing a garment was to prevent dust and dirt from falling into their alms dishes. For even dust and dirt are actual individuals and endowed with the principle of life (DhA.iii.489).

The chief precepts of the Nigantha are included in the catuyamasamvara - the fourfold restraint (for their beliefs and practices see Nigantha Nataputta). The chief centres of the Niganthas, in the time of the Buddha, seem to have been Vesali (e.g., J.iii.1; M.i.228) and Nalanda (M.i.371), though they had settlements in other important towns, such as Rajagaha (e.g., at Kalasila, on the slopes of Isigili, M.i.92).

The chief patrons of the Buddhas time were:

Sihasenapati in Vesali, Upaligahapati in Nalanda and Vappa the Sakyan in Kapilavatthu (AA.ii.751).

The books contain several names besides that of Nataputta of distinguished members of the Nigantha Order - e.g., Digha Tapassi, and Saccaka, and also of several women, Sacca, Lola, Avavadaka and Patacara (J.iii.1).

The lay followers of the Niganthas wore white garments (M.ii.244).

In the Chalabhijati classification of Purana Kassapa, the Ekasataka Niganthas occupied the third rank, the red (A.iii.384). The Buddha condemned the Niganthas as unworthy in ten respects:

they were without faith, unrighteous, without fear and shame, they chose wicked men as friends, extolled themselves and disparaged others, were greedy of present gain, obstinate, untrustworthy, sinful in their thoughts, and held wrong views (A.v.150).

Their fast resembled a herdsman looking after the kine by day, which were restored to their owners at eventide (Ibid., i.205f). The Niganthas were so called because they claimed to be free from all bonds (amhakam ganthanakileso palibujjhanakileso natthi, kilesaganthirahita mayan ti evam vaditaya laddhanamavasena Nigantho) (E.g., MA.i.423).

The Buddhist books record (M.ii.243f.; D.iii.117, 210) that there was great dissension among the Niganthas after the death of Nataputta at Pava. The Commentaries state (DA.iii.906; MA.ii.831) that Nataputta, realizing on his death bed the folly and futility of his teaching, wished his followers to accept the Buddhas teaching In order to bring this about, he taught his doctrine in two different ways to two different pupils, just before his death. To the one he said that his teaching was Nihilism (uccheda), and to the other that it was Eternalism (sassata). As a result, they quarrelled violently among themselves, and the Order broke up.

That the Niganthas lasted till, at least, the time of Nagasena,

context information

Theravāda is a major branch of Buddhism having the the Pali canon (tipitaka) as their canonical literature, which includes the vinaya-pitaka (monastic rules), the sutta-pitaka (Buddhist sermons) and the abhidhamma-pitaka (philosophy and psychology).

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In Jainism

General definition (in Jainism)

Source: Wisdom Library: Jainism

Nigaṇṭha (निगण्ठ) or Niyaṇṭha or Nirgrantha refers to a Jain monk or ascetic (i.e., a follower of Mahāvīra).

Source: Pali Text Society: Journal vol. XXVI (jainism)

Nigaṇṭha (निगण्ठ) is clearly recognized as a Jain term is shown by the etymological explanation occasionally recorded in the Pāli commentaries, an etymology which is ascribed to the Jains and actually attested in their own tradition: “we do not have defilements which are like knots, we are free of the defilements of obstruction, hence the name Nigaṇṭha”. This statement accords with Jain texts, where the traditional image of the spiritual “knots” (already known from several Upanișads) is felt as being conveyed by the word ṇiggantha in the commentaries. Thus Pāli sources do not seem to bear trace of any malicious or derogatory interpretation of the term. The fact that nigaṇṭha is used as the normal designation of Jain ascetics in the oldest Jain sources (Śramaṇic poetry as well as disciplinary books) confirms its antiquity. The phonetic aspect of the word (nigaṇṭha, with a single -ga-, and the prefix ni- instead of nir-) are supported by Prakrit niyaṇṭha and also point to an old form.

General definition book cover
context information

Jainism is an Indian religion of Dharma whose doctrine revolves around harmlessness (ahimsa) towards every living being. The two major branches (Digambara and Svetambara) of Jainism stimulate self-control (or, shramana, ‘self-reliance’) and spiritual development through a path of peace for the soul to progess to the ultimate goal.

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Languages of India and abroad

Pali-English dictionary

[«previous next»] — Nigantha in Pali glossary
Source: BuddhaSasana: Concise Pali-English Dictionary

nigaṇṭha : (m.) a member of the Jain Order. Naked ascetic.

Source: Sutta: The Pali Text Society's Pali-English Dictionary

Nigaṇṭha, (BSk. nirgrantha (Divy 143, 262 etc.) “freed from all ties, ” nis+gaṇṭhi. This is the customary (correct?) etym. Prk. niggantha, cp. Weber, Bhagavatī p. 165) a member of the Jain order (see M. I, 370—375, 380 & cp. jaṭila) Vin. I, 233 (Nātaputta, the head of that Order, cp. D. I, 57; also Sīho senāpati n-sāvako); S. I, 78, 82 (°bhikkhā); A. I, 205 sq. (°uposatha), cp. 220; II, 196 (°sāvaka); III, 276, 383; V, 150 (dasahi asaddhammehi samannāgata); Sn. 381; Ud. 65 (jaṭilā, n. , acelā, ekasātā, paribbājakā); J. II, 262 (object to eating flesh); DA. I, 162; DhA. I, 440; III, 489; VvA. 29 (n. nāma samaṇajāti).—f. nigaṇṭhī D. I, 54 (nigaṇṭhi-gabbha). (Page 354)

Pali book cover
context information

Pali is the language of the Tipiṭaka, which is the sacred canon of Theravāda Buddhism and contains much of the Buddha’s speech. Closeley related to Sanskrit, both languages are used interchangeably between religions.

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