Everyone knows that Siddhartha Gautama taught a religious structure that didn’t invoke deities. He wasn’t the first one to have this revolutionary idea.
Adinatha is credited as the founder of a religion called Jainism. He founded Jainism in India 2500 years before the time of the Buddha.
He was a contemplative, just as the Buddha would later be. He saw the dominant religion of his day, the Vedic religion that would later evolve into Hinduism and he thought it was not good enough. He saw people worshiping deities and making sacrifices and he found it pointless. His view was that if there is a God that is separate from us, then there isn’t really meaning in the world. If there are deities, then the truth is that human life means nothing. He didn’t agree with that. But, he did have a mystical point of view.
He believed in transcendence and oneness, so he wanted to create a spiritual path for others to follow, one that didn’t require worshiping some magical being outside of ourselves.
But, religion without God left a vacuum. We know that in the case of Buddhism, that vacuum was filled by meditation and the inward journey. Adinatha filled it in a different way.
In Buddhism we have meditation instead of prayer. In Adinatha’s path, they had austerity. He believed in detachment from the world as a means of purification. Fasting, eating only once a day, not drinking at night, etc. He created a system that involved denying the body’s desires in order to reach a higher consciousness.
Adinatha made the first godless religion. The Buddha would later follow in his footsteps, in a way, and create the first meditative religion.
One of the stories of the Buddha’s life involves him practicing rigid austerities and failing to find enlightenment by that method. That is what led him to create the Middle Way. But, we should still show respect for what came before. There is little doubt that Adinatha’s spiritual journey contributed to the Buddha’s.