Reiko Ohnuma's Unfortunate Destiny: Animals in the Indian Buddhist Imagination (Oxford University Press, 2017) is a masterful treatment of animals in Indian Buddhist literature. Although they are lower than humans in the paths of rebirth, stories about animals show them as virtuous and generous---and often the victim of human failings. In the life stories of the Buddha, animals serve as "doubles," thereby adding nuance and complexity to various episodes in the Buddha's life. Ohnuma, in this groundbreaking study, argues that animals in Indian Buddhist literature serve to illuminate what it means to be a human being.
Natasha Heller is an Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. You can find her on Twitter @nheller or email her at email@example.com.