The Five Buddha Families

Linda Lewis, a long-time Shambhalian and teacher from Halifax, visited Shambhala St. Pete during the last week. Among her presentations was an introduction to the Five Buddha Families, which she gave in the evening on Wednesday, December 12.

The Buddha Families are a Vajrayana Buddhist representation of five qualities of energy that we all share. The five families are Vajra, Ratna, Padma, Karma, and Buddha. They are often shown as a mandala with the Buddha family in the center and the other families in the four directions.

Unlike astrological signs or other such systems, these families are not meant to solidify the ego through identification with them. They are, according to Lewis, “A fluid working basis for recognizing our current sanity or neurosis.” Within each family, the neurosis (or klesha; poison) can be transformed into a particular wisdom.

The thangka painting below, by Andy Weber, shows the five Dhyani Buddhas associated with each Buddha family. The table that follows gives a very brief summary of the qualities of the families. (See Weber’s other artworks at

Family Dhyani Buddha Position Color Klesha Wisdom
Vajra Akshobhya bottom (east in Tibetan iconography) blue (or sometimes white) anger mirrorlike wisdom
Ratna Ratnasambhava left (south) yellow pride wisdom of equanimity
Padma Amitabha top (west) red desire, passion discriminating awareness
Karma Amoghasiddhi right (north) green jealousy, envy wisdom of all-accomplishing action
Buddha Vairochana center white (or sometimes blue) ignorance wisdom of all-encompassing space

Linda Lewis said that her presentation is only an introduction to concepts that can be studied in depth. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche describes the Five Buddha Families in Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, pages 224 to 232 of the 2002 edition (the “Tantra” chapter).

Further Reading

About The Five Buddha Families: Meaning & Energetic Significance, by Linda Lewis
Chogyam Trungpa: Talk 10
The Future Is Open, by Chogyam Trungpa