What Are the Five Buddha Families?

Each of the five buddha families represents a particular emotion, which has both a confused aspect and an enlightened aspect.

Lion’s Roar
11 July 2018
Illustration by Ray Fenwick.

In Buddhist tantra the buddha families are a key way to understand and work with emotional energies. Each family represents a particular emotion, which has both a confused aspect (klesha) and an enlightened aspect (wisdom). The families are embodied by 5 primordial buddhas who are arranged in a mandala.

Buddha

The Buddha family is the wisdom of all-encompassing space and the klesha of ignorance. Buddha is associated with open sky and represented by the buddha Vairocana, who is in the center of the mandala and white in color.

Vajra

Vajra is mirror-like wisdom, which reflects reality purely and directly. Its corresponding klesha is anger. Vajra is connected with winter and the element of water and is represented by Akshobhya, who is in the east and is blue.

Ratna

The Ratna family’s wisdom is equanimity and its confused manifestation is pride. Ratna is associated with richness, autumn, and generosity and is embodied by Ratnasambhava, who is in the south and is yellow.

Padma

Padma is discriminating wisdom, which allows us to see clearly what is needed. Its klesha is passion or possessiveness. Padma is associated with spring, blossoming, and fire and is embodied by Amitabha Buddha, who is in the west and is red.

Karma

Karma is all-accomplishing wisdom. Its kleshas are jealousy and envy. Karma is associated with summer and the energy of wind and is represented by Amoghasiddhi, who is in the north and is green.

Lion's Roar

Lion’s Roar

Lion’s Roar is the website of Lion’s Roar magazine (formerly the Shambhala Sun) and Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly, with exclusive Buddhist news, teachings, art, and commentary. Sign up for the Lion’s Roar weekly newsletter and follow Lion’s Roar on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.