Buddhist literature in Pāli presents a world that is rich in animal imagery, with some animals carrying largely positive associations and other animals seen in a consistently negative light. Among the many species that populate the Pāli imaginaire
, the jackal bears a particular status as a much-maligned beast. Jackals are depicted in Pāli literature as lowly, inferior, greedy, and cunning creatures. The jackal, as a natural scavenger, exists on the periphery of both human and animal society and is commonly associated with carrion, human corpses, impurity, and death. In this paper, I am interested in the use of the jackal as an image for both heresy and heterodoxy—that is, the jackal’s consistent association with heretical Buddhist figures, such as Devadatta, and with heterodox teachers, such as the leaders of competing samaṇa
movements. Why was the jackal such an appropriate animal to stand for those who hold the wrong views? And how does association with such an animal sometimes result in a particularly nefarious sort of dehumanization that goes against the teachings of Buddhism?
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited