Anathapindika was a wealthy merchant and banker, believed to have been the wealthiest merchant in Savatthi in the time of Gautama Buddha. Born Sudatta, he received the nickname Anathapindika, literally "one who gives alms (pinda) to the helpless (a-natha)", due to his reputation of loving to give to those in need. He founded the Jetavana Monastery in Savatthi, considered one of the two most important temples in the time of the historic Buddha along with the temple Migāramātupāsāda. Anathapindika was the chief male lay disciple and the greatest patron of Gautama Buddha along with his female counterpart, Visakha. He is known as the male lay disciple of the Buddha who was foremost in generosity. Anathapindika is frequently referred to as Anathapindika-setthi, and is sometimes referred to as Mahā Anāthapindika to distinguish him from Cūla Anāthapindika, another disciple of the Buddha.
Apart from the Vedic Brahmins, the Buddha's lifetime coincided with the flourishing of influential śramaṇa schools of thought like Ājīvika, Cārvāka, Jainism, and Ajñana.
Śāriputra and Moggallāna, two of the foremost disciples of the Buddha, were formerly the foremost disciples of Sañjaya Belaṭṭhaputta, the sceptic; and the Pāli canon frequently depicts Buddha engaging in debate with the adherents of rival schools of thought.
When the Buddha's community had grown to around sixty awakened monks, he instructed .
The Jātakas are a voluminous body of literature native to South Asia which mainly concern the previous births of Gautama Buddha in both human and animal form.
Some of these works are also considered great works of literature in their own right.
In these stories, the future Buddha may appear as a king, an outcast, a deva, an animal—but, in whatever form, he exhibits some virtue that the tale thereby inculcates.
Often, Jātaka tales include an extensive .