Nephew of Asita (Kāladevala). When Asita realized 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 eighty thousand crores of wealth, and he spent his time in Himavā. When the time came, he visited the Buddha seven days after the Buddha's first sermon and questioned him on the Moneyyapatipadā (also called the Nālakapatipadā, 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 patipadā 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 Moneyyapatipadā was made in the time of Padumuttara Buddha. J.i.55; SNA.ii.483ff., 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.