I’ve been trying to do more research into the Jataka, and during what little I’ve found I think I’ve noticed an interesting theme! Nikaya/Agama Buddhisms and more specifically, Jataka literature, seems to have an animist theme going on through it. What really catches my attention at this moment is Jataka 316 dealing with the selfless hare.
From what I’ve noticed the Jataka literature in general tend to embody a more “wild” form of Buddhism, with alot of similarities to animistic religions with regards to it’s more “magical” outlook on the path and the role of noble animals/nature spirits.
Do we have examples of potential animism in the Jataka tales or other buddhist scriptures? I would love to do a deep dive on this, I think it’s a fascinating.
So far as I am aware, the Jataka tales are devoid of a central feature of animistic religions like, say, the roman religion - spirits of objects and places.
To a Roman, objects - most prominently the Legion Eagle Standards - and places, such as lakes or neighborhoods, were regarded as having spirits of their own. It wasn’t just that, say, a spiritual being lived / haunted these places or objects. There was a real sense that the spirits were the spirits of these things.
In Buddhism, by contrast, there are a few mentions of spiritual beings, particularly ghandabbas, “haunting” places, particularly fragrant plants. But there is a clear sense that these are independent, often spontaneously born, beings who just so happen to choose to hang out in places.
In animism, the whole world is spiritually alive. In Buddhism, I believe the mainstream view is that of all the things that can be seen with the mundane eye, only humans and animals are spiritually alive.