The Five Buddha Families are a vital principle in Buddhist philosophy. Buddhism is primarily concerned with reaching a state of Enlightenment, wholly separated from the individualistic and earth-bound tendencies of the Ego. Through the purging of ego-based beliefs and emotions, we grow to inhabit a space of Connection and Oneness with the Source. As a result, we become intimately conscious of being at One with All Creation.
Granted, we aren’t all Buddhist monks seeking absolute Enlightenment. Yet, the techniques that have been developed for this purpose can still be helpful in our own spiritual journeys.
In the first place, they can help us to understand our emotional landscapes. Secondly, they can help transcend limiting beliefs that might be holding us back from a higher consciousness. One of these techniques is known as the Five Buddha Families.
What are the Five Buddha Families?
Five Families, Five Emotional Energies
The Five Buddha Families help us to understand and work with emotional energies. Each family is the expression of a state of being, represented by a Dhyani, or Meditation, Buddha. A season, element, symbol, colour and position on a five-sided mandala is associated with every family. Similarly, every state of being has its pure, wise or balanced form. Also, its klesha, imbalanced or deluded form.
The Five Buddha Families and their associated meditations provide a means of recognising which aspects of our emotional energy are out of balance. Subsequently, we can meditate on or pray to the appropriate family to regain equilibrium. In addition, we can seek to purge or pacify the emotional delusion that is holding us from Enlightenment.
The Five Buddha Families present a comprehensive understanding of the natural human condition. For instance, showing the interplay and dialogue between Enlightened and Deluded states of being rather than denying or repressing Deluded states, the Five Meditation Buddhas call upon us to acknowledge and recognise them. Thus transforming their emotional force into positive energies.
The Five Families approach is not static or written in stone. Generally speaking, it’s a method by which we can identify our prevailing state of being.
Likewise, it is the perspective from which we are currently engaging with the world. This might be different from one year to the next, from one day to the next, or even from one hour to the next! It’s simply a guide so we can understand where we are coming from, and how this can help or hinder us.
Without further ado, here are the Five Buddha Families:
The Buddha Family
Lord: Vairochana, One Who Completely Manifests
- Symbol: wheel
- Element: space
Position in mandala: Centre
- Colour: white
- Enlightened State: making space
- Deluded State: ignorance or dullness
The Buddha aspect is the one that allows the other families to function. In effect, acting as the root of these emotional energies. When in balance, we can make space for ourselves and others to better manifest our truth. Nevertheless, if our Buddha aspects are off-kilter, we can sink into lethargy. In other words, a spiritually unproductive space where nothing is being manifested.
The Varja Family
Lord: Akshobhya, The Unshakeable One
- Symbol: vajra
- Season: winter
- Element: water
- Colour: blue
- Enlightened State: purifying our perception of reality
- Deluded State: anger
The Vajra family is all about the precision and intellectual exactness that allows us to perceive life with clarity. Emotions can often taint our perception of reality. However, Akshobhya calls us to sit with our feelings to recognise their causes.
Finding clarity within the emotion is crucial for not giving in to all-consuming anger. Of course, this can cloud our judgement and hides reality from us. Just as still pools reflect our truth back to us, or steady streams lead us to the ocean, turbulent waters and rushing rivers make it harder to perceive reality.
The Ratna Family
Lord: Ratnasambhava, Source of Preciousness
- Symbol: jewel
- Season: autumn
- Element: earth
- Colour: yellow
- Enlightened State: equanimity
- Deluded State: pride
The Ratna Family is associated with merit, wealth and generosity. We know what is good and has value. For this reason, we do our best to attract it or increase its presence in our lives. Albeit, without falling into the trap of hoarding or avarice.
In remaining balanced and equanimous in our attitude to wealth, riches and merit, we steer clear of growing prideful and mean. We understand that we reap what we sow. Moreover, like the earth, we work to multiply the riches and merit around us. All in the spirit of appreciation, generosity and love.
The Padma Family
Lord: Amitabha, Infinite Light
- Symbol: Lotus flower
- Season: spring
- Element: fire
- Colour: red
- Enlightened State: empowering discrimination, seeing clearly what is needed
- Deluded State: desirous attachment
This family is often linked with creativity and the arts. This is because of the association with passion and spring. However, this wisdom lies in discriminating love and attachment. It knows what to attract or reject for the betterment of our spiritual journey. As such, much like a flaming torch, it lights the way towards what we need.
Fatuous and temporary fascination or seduction, on the other hand, is misguiding. Consequently, it can lead us astray from our path of spiritual growth.
The Karma Family
Lord: Amogasiddhi, One Who Accomplishes What is Meaningful
- Symbol: double vajra
- Season: summer
- Element: air
- Colour: green
- Enlightened State: accomplishing good
- Deluded State: jealousy
The Karma family very much encapsulates ‘doing.’ This means accomplishing things with meaning and impact. For example, picture an invigorating breath of fresh air on a hot summer’s day. This Karma aspect is energising and purposeful. However, if we are consumed with jealousy for another, it’s difficult to achieve anything based on good intentions. More to the point, our selfless drive and ambition can be hampered.
Finding Your Buddha Family
Which family do you identify with most? Are you more in a balanced or imbalanced state of being? As previously mentioned, the answer to these questions might change from day to day, month to month, or year to year. Still, it is good to regularly reflect on your perspective through the lens of the Five Buddha Families. Only then can you work towards maintaining balanced states of mind in all aspects.
We all veer from love and passion to jealousy and possession. Or from thoughtful discrimination to harsh, destructive anger. Ultimately, the Five Meditation Buddhas are the perfect tools with which to bring our Soul back to the centre.
After all, we should be ready to use our emotions for the progress of our spiritual journeys. Not let them be barriers to our growth.
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