Vimalakīrti (Sanskrit: विमल vimala "stainless, undefiled" + कीर्ति kīrti "fame, glory, reputation") is the central figure in the Vimalakirti Sutra,[1] which presents him as the ideal Mahayana Buddhist upāsaka ("lay practitioner")[2] and a contemporary of Gautama Buddha (6th to 5th century BCE).[1] There is no mention of him in Buddhist texts until after Nāgārjuna (1st century BCE to 2nd century CE) revived Mahayana Buddhism in India.[3] The Mahayana Vimalakirti Sutra also spoke of the city of Vaisali as where the lay Licchavi bodhisattva Vimalakirti was residing.[4]

The Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa Sūtra characterizes Vimalakīrti as a wealthy patron of Gautama Buddha.[5] Unlike many other figures of the Mahayana literature, such as Avalokiteśvara, he is generally taken to be a historical figure like Gautama Buddha, rather than mythic or legendary, and as such Vimalakīrti is not commonly venerated on altars or in tantric rituals,[6] but as a prehistoric zen, i.e., chan preacher.[citation needed]