Nephew of Asita (Kāḷadevala). When Asita realised that he would not live to see the Buddha, he sought out Nālaka and asked him to leave the world at once and become an ascetic and hold himself in readiness to profit by the Buddha’s Enlightenment.
This Nālaka did, though possessing eight hundred billion of wealth, and he spent his time in Himavā. When the time came, he visited the Buddha seven days after the Buddha’s first discourse and questioned him on the practice of a recluse (Moneyya-paṭipadā) — also called the Nālaka-paṭipadā, because it is included in the Nālaka Sutta. Nālaka retired once more into Himavā and there attained Arahantship. There he spent seven months leaning against a golden rock, practising paṭipadā in its highest form. After his death the Buddha, with his monks, visited the scene of his death, cremated his remains, and had a cetiya built over them.
It is said that Nālaka’s aspiration to learn and practise the Moneyya-paṭipadā was made in the time of Padumuttara Buddha. J.i.55; SNA.ii.483 ﬀ., 501. The story as drawn from Tibetan sources differs greatly from this story. (See, e.g. Rockhill: op.cit., p.18, 45 f). In the Mahāvastu (iii.380, 387) he is called Kātyāyana.