The Five Buddha Families – Diana J. Mukpo via Shambhala Publications

Art by Anup Gomay


The Five Buddha Families

Tantra is extraordinarily special, and extremely real and personal. The question in this chapter is how to relate our own ordinary existence or daily situation to tantric consciousness. The tantric approach is not just to make sweeping statements about reality and to create calmness and a meditative state. It is more than learning to be creative and contemplative. In tantra we relate with the details of our everyday life according to our own particular makeup. It is a real and personal experience. But in order to relate to our lives in the tantric fashion, there are certain technical details of tantric experience that we have to understand.

The tantric discipline of relating to life is based on what are known as the five buddha principles, or the five buddha families. These principles are traditionally known as families because they are an extension of ourselves in the same way that our blood relations are an extension of us: we have our daddy, we have our mommy, we have our sisters and brothers, and they are all part of our family. But we could also say that these relatives are principles: our motherness, our fatherness, our sisterness, our brotherness, and our me-ness are experienced as definite principles that have distinct characteristics. In the same way, the tantric tradition speaks of five families: five principles, categories, or possibilities.

Those five principles or buddha families are called vajra, ratna, padma, karma, and buddha. They are quite ordinary. There is nothing divine or extraordinary about them. The basic point is that at the tantric level people are divided into particular types: vajra, ratna, padma, karma, and buddha. We constantly come across members of every one of the five families—people who are partially or completely one of those five. We find such people all through life, and every one of them is a fertile person, a workable person who could be related with directly and personally. So, from the tantric point of view, by relating directly with all the different people we encounter, we are actually relating with different styles of enlightenment.

The buddha family, or families, associated with a person describes his or her fundamental style, that person’s intrinsic perspective or stance in perceiving the world and working with it. Each family is associated with both a neurotic and an enlightened style. The neurotic expression of any buddha family can be transmuted into its wisdom or enlightened aspect. As well as describing people’s styles, the buddha families are also associated with colors, elements, landscapes, directions, seasons—with any aspect of the phenomenal world.

The first buddha family is the vajra family, which literally means the family of sharpness, crystallization, and indestructibility. The term vajra is superficially translated as “diamond,” but that is not quite accurate. Traditionally, vajra is a celestial precious stone that cuts through any other solid object. So it is more than a diamond; it is complete indestructibility. The vajra family is symbolized by the vajra scepter, or dorje in Tibetan. This vajra scepter or superdiamond has five prongs, which represent relating to the five emotions: aggression, pride, passion, jealousy, and ignorance. The sharp edges or prongs of the vajra represent cutting through any neurotic emotional tendencies; they also represent the sharp quality of being aware of many possible perspectives. The indestructible vajra is said to be like a heap of razor blades: if we naively try to hold it or touch it, there are all kinds of sharp edges that are both cutting and penetrating. The notion here is that vajra corrects or remedies any neurotic distortion in a precise and sharp way.

In the ordinary world, the experience of vajra is perhaps not as extreme as holding razor blades in our hand, but at the same time, it is penetrating and very personal. It is like a sharp, cutting, biting-cold winter. Each time we expose ourselves to the open air, we get frostbite instantly. Intellectually vajra is very sharp. All the intellectual traditions belong to this family. A person in the vajra family knows how to evaluate logically the arguments that are used to explain experience. He can tell whether the logic is true or false. Vajra family intellect also has a sense of constant openness and perspective. For instance, a vajra person could view a crystal ball from hundreds of perspectives, according to where it was placed, the way it was perceived, the distance from which he was looking at it, and so forth. The intellect of the vajra family is not just encyclopedic; it is sharpness, directness, and awareness of perspectives. Such indestructibility and sharpness are very personal and very real.

The neurotic expression of vajra is associated with anger and intellectual fixation. If we become fixated on a particular logic, the sharpness of vajra can become rigidity. We become possessive of our insight, rather than having a sense of open perspective. The anger of vajra neurosis could be pure aggression or also a sense of uptightness because we are so attached to our sharpness of mind. Vajra is also associated with the element of water. Cloudy, turbulent water symbolizes the defensive and aggressive nature of anger, while clear water suggests the sharp, precise, clear reflectiveness of vajra wisdom. In fact, vajra wisdom is traditionally called the mirrorlike wisdom, which evokes this image of a calm pond or reflecting pool.

Incidentally, the use of the term vajra in such words as vajrayanavajra master, and vajra pride does not refer to this particular buddha family, but simply expresses basic indestructibility.

The next buddha family is ratna. Ratna is a personal and real sense of expanding ourselves and enriching our environment. It is expansion, enrichment, plentifulness. Such plentifulness could also have problems and weaknesses. In the neurotic sense, the richness of ratna manifests as being completely fat, or extraordinarily ostentatious, beyond the limits of our sanity. We expand constantly, open heedlessly, and indulge ourselves to the level of insanity. It is like swimming in a dense lake of honey and butter. When we coat ourselves in this mixture of butter and honey, it is very difficult to remove. We cannot just remove it by wiping it off, but we have to apply all kinds of cleaning agents, such as cleanser and soap, to loosen its grasp.

In the positive expression of the ratna family, the principle of richness is extraordinary. We feel very rich and plentiful, and we extend ourselves to our world personally, directly, emotionally, psychologically, even spiritually. We are extending constantly, expanding like a flood or an earthquake. There is a sense of spreading, shaking the earth, and creating more and more cracks in it. That is the powerful expansiveness of ratna.

The enlightened expression of ratna is called the wisdom of equanimity, because ratna can include everything in its expansive environment. Thus ratna is associated with the element of earth. It is like a rotting log that makes itself at home in the country. Such a log does not want to leave its home ground. It would like to stay, but at the same time, it grows all kinds of mushrooms and plants and allows animals to nest in it. That lazy settling down and making ourselves at home, and inviting other people to come in and rest as well, is ratna.

The next family is padma, which literally means “lotus flower.” The symbol of the enlightened padma family is the lotus, which grows and blooms in the mud, yet still comes out pure and clean, virginal and clear. Padma neurosis is connected with passion, a grasping quality and a desire to possess. We are completely wrapped up in desire and want only to seduce the world, without concern for real communication. We could be a hustler or an advertiser, but basically, we are like a peacock. In fact, Amitabha Buddha, the buddha of the padma family, traditionally sits on a peacock, which represents subjugating padma neurosis. A person with padma neurosis speaks gently, fantastically gently, and he or she is seemingly very sexy, kind, magnificent, and completely accommodating: “If you hurt me, that’s fine. That is part of our love affair. Come toward me.” Such padma seduction sometimes becomes excessive and sometimes becomes compassionate, depending on how we work with it.

Padma is connected with the element of fire. In the confused state, fire does not distinguish among the things it grasps, burns, and destroys. But in the awakened state, the heat of passion is transmuted into the warmth of compassion. When padma neurosis is transmuted, it becomes fantastically precise and aware; it turns into tremendous interest and inquisitiveness. Everything is seen in its own distinct way, with its own particular qualities and characteristics. Thus the wisdom of padma is called discriminating-awareness wisdom.

The genuine character of padma seduction is real openness, a willingness to demonstrate what we have and what we are to the phenomenal world. What we bring to the world is a sense of pleasure, a sense of promise. In whatever we experience, we begin to feel that there is lots of promise. We constantly experience a sense of magnetization and spontaneous hospitality.

This quality of padma is like bathing in perfume or jasmine tea. Each time we bathe, we feel refreshed, fantastic. It feels good to be magnetized. The sweet air is fantastic and the hospitality of our host is magnificent. We eat the good food provided by our host, which is delicious, but not too filling. We live in a world of honey and milk, in a very delicate sense, unlike the rich but heavy experience of the ratna family. Fantastic! Even our bread is scented with all kinds of delicious smells. Our ice cream is colored by beautiful pink lotus-like colors. We cannot wait to eat. Sweet music is playing in the background constantly. When there is no music, we listen to the whistling of the wind around our padma environment, and it becomes beautiful music as well. Even though we are not musicians, we compose all kinds of music. We wish we were a poet or a fantastic lover.

The next family is the karma family, which is a different kettle of fish. In this case we are not talking about karmic debts, or karmic consequences; karma in this case simply means “action.” The neurotic quality of action or activity is connected with jealousy, comparison, and envy. The enlightened aspect of karma is called the wisdom of all-accomplishing action. It is the transcendental sense of complete fulfillment of action without being hassled or pushed into neurosis. It is natural fulfillment in how we relate with our world. In either case, whether we relate to karma family on the transcendental level or the neurotic level, karma is the energy of efficiency.

If we have a karma family neurosis, we feel highly irritated if we see a hair on our teacup. First we think that our cup is broken and that the hair is a crack in the cup. Then there is some relief. Our cup is not broken; it just has a piece of hair on the side. But then, when we begin to look at the hair on our cup of tea, we become angry all over again. We would like to make everything very efficient, pure, and absolutely clean. However, if we do achieve cleanliness, then that cleanliness itself becomes a further problem: We feel insecure because there is nothing to administer, nothing to work on. We constantly try to check every loose end. Being very keen on efficiency, we get hung up on it.

If we meet a person who is not efficient, who does not have his life together, we regard him as a terrible person. We would like to get rid of such inefficient people, and certainly we do not respect them, even if they are talented musicians or scientists or whatever they may be. On the other hand, if someone has immaculate efficiency, we begin to feel that he is a good person to be with. We would like to associate ourselves exclusively with people who are both responsible and clean-cut. However, we find that we are envious and jealous of such efficient people. We want others to be efficient, but not more efficient than we are.

The epitome of karma family neurosis is wanting to create a uniform world. Even though we might have very little philosophy, very little meditation, very little consciousness in terms of developing ourselves, we feel that we can handle our world properly. We have composure, and we relate properly with the whole world, and we are resentful that everybody else does not see things in the same way that we do. Karma is connected with the element of wind. The wind never blows in all directions but it blows in one direction at a time. This is the one-way view of resentment and envy, which picks on one little fault or virtue and blows it out of proportion. With karma wisdom, the quality of resentment falls away but the qualities of energy, fulfillment of action, and openness remain. In other words, the active aspect of wind is retained so that our energetic activity touches everything in its path. We see the possibilities inherent in situations and automatically take the appropriate course. Action fulfills its purpose.

The fifth family is called the buddha family. It is associated with the element of space. Buddha energy is the foundation or the basic space. It is the environment or oxygen that makes it possible for the other principles to function. It has a sedate, solid quality. Persons in this family have a strong sense of contemplative experience, and they are highly meditative. Buddha neurosis is the quality of being spaced-out rather than spacious. It is often associated with an unwillingness to express ourselves. For example, we might see that our neighbors are destroying our picket fence with a sledgehammer. We can hear them and see them; in fact, we have been watching our neighbors at work all day, continuously smashing our picket fence. But instead of reacting, we just observe them and then we return to our snug little home. We eat our breakfast, lunch, and dinner and ignore what they are doing. We are paralyzed, unable to talk to outsiders.

Another quality of buddha neurosis is that we couldn’t be bothered. Our dirty laundry is piled up in a corner of our room. Sometimes we use our dirty laundry to wipe up spills on the floor or table and then we put it back on the same pile. As time goes on, our dirty socks become unbearable, but we just sit there.

If we are embarking on a political career, our colleagues may suggest that we develop a certain project and expand our organization. If we have a buddha neurosis, we will choose to develop the area that needs the least effort. We do not want to deal directly with the details of handling reality. Entertaining friends is also a hassle. We prefer to take our friends to a restaurant rather than cook in our home. And if we want to have a love affair, instead of seducing a partner, talking to him or her and making friends, we just look for somebody who is already keen on us. We cannot be bothered with talking somebody into something.

Sometimes we feel we are sinking into the earth, the solid mud and earth. Sometimes we feel good because we think we are the most stable person in the universe. We slowly begin to grin to ourselves, smile at ourselves, because we are the best person of all. We are the only person who manages to stay stable. But sometimes we feel that we are the loneliest person in the whole universe. We do not particularly like to dance, and when we are asked to dance with somebody, we feel embarrassed and uncomfortable. We want to stay in our own little corner.

When the ignoring quality of buddha neurosis is transmuted into wisdom, it becomes an environment of all-pervasive spaciousness. This enlightened aspect is called the wisdom of all-encompassing space. In itself it might still have a somewhat desolate and empty quality, but at the same time, it is a quality of completely open potential. It can accommodate anything. It is spacious and vast like the sky.

In tantric iconography, the five buddha families are arrayed in the center and the four cardinal points of a mandala. The mandala of the five buddha families of course represents their wisdom or enlightened aspect. Traditionally, the buddha family is in the center. That is to say, in the center there is the basic coordination and basic wisdom of buddha, which is symbolized by a wheel and the color white. Vajra is in the east, because vajra is connected with the dawn. It is also connected with the color blue and is symbolized by the vajra scepter. It is the sharpness of experience, as in the morning when we wake up. We begin to see the dawn, when light is first reflected on the world, as a symbol of awakening reality.

Ratna is in the south. It is connected with richness and is symbolized by a jewel and the color yellow. Ratna is connected with the midday, when we begin to need refreshment, nourishment. Padma is in the west and is symbolized by the lotus and the color red. As our day gets older, we also have to relate with recruiting a lover. It is time to socialize, to make a date with our lover. Or, if we have fallen in love with an antique or if we have fallen in love with some clothing, it is time to go out and buy it. The last family is karma, in the north. It is symbolized by a sword and the color green. Finally we have captured the whole situation: We have everything we need, and there is nothing more to get. We have brought our merchandise back home or our lover back home, and we say, “Let’s close the door; let’s lock it.” So the mandala of the five buddha families represents the progress of a whole day or a whole course of action.

Without understanding the five buddha families, we have no working basis to relate with tantra, and we begin to find ourselves alienated from tantra. Tantra is seen as such an outrageous thing, which seems to have no bearing on us as individuals. We may feel the vajrayana is purely a distant aim, a distant goal. So it is necessary to study the five buddha principles. They provide a bridge between tantric experience and everyday life.

It is necessary to understand and relate with the five buddha principles before we begin tantric discipline, so that we can begin to understand what tantra is all about. If tantra is a mystical experience, how can we relate it to our ordinary everyday life at home? There could be a big gap between tantric experience and day-to-day life. But it is possible, by understanding the five buddha families, to close the gap. Working with the buddha families we discover that we already have certain qualities. According to the tantric perspective, we cannot ignore them and we cannot reject them and try to be something else. We have our aggression and our passion and our jealousy and our resentment and our ignorance—or whatever we have. We belong to certain buddha families already, and we cannot reject them. We should work with our neuroses, relate with them, and experience them properly. They are the only potential we have, and when we begin to work with them, we see that we can use them as stepping-stones.

© Diana J. Mukpo.
Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston, 


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Ascended Masters in Physical Form – Kara Schallock

Lord melchizedek by Gayliaa Berzins @ Radiant Rose Academy


Ascended Masters in Physical Form – 18-Oct-2017

We each are on our own Path and have our own missions. Some are activists, some help clear the masses of old energies, others share Light, some light up folks’ path, while others increase the Love within and upon Earth and all of life. There are many paths and missions in life; we each are unique in what we share, yet we are all One. Each shares in their own way, whether they are aware of it or not. Awareness is key, as when one is aware of what their mission is, it doesn’t matter how they choose to share their Light; just that they know they do so uniquely. One can be in what may appear to be a mundane job, yet if that being is in Joy and Passion, they are aware of what their mission is. One’s mission is not some magical knowing; it is obvious to the Aware One. It simply takes looking deeper with Awareness in how they share their mission from their Heart. An awakened one doesn’t compare their mission with another, realizing that no mission is less or more than any other.

We have all come far in our expression as Souls and in our Awakening to the Divinity within. This month actually prepares us for next year, where there is more integrating of our Divine Selves. I see it as a transition month. We have done so much work clearing and integrating that if you journal how you’ve been in the past, you will not recognize that person. Of importance is to see how you have created endings in your life, so that you may begin anew. The answers to “why” lie deep below the surface. Dive below and discover the gift, for everything has a gift of Awareness within it, no matter how tragic you perceive the surface event to be. As you discover the gift, be grateful even while you grieve the loss of old life.

There has been a tremendous letting-go, which has resulted in a perceived separation from loved ones, as one scenario. Yet, all is in Divine Order. You can grieve if you have a belief in “loss,” yet ask yourself what “loss” really is. Is it an illusion? To me, it is illusion, for we do not “lose” anything; all is connected and things may change form, which affects one’s life in a grand way. If you can see “loss” as a readjustment and gift for you, then your consciousness rises to the next level. In all situations, there comes a time to let go, so you can being a new chapter in life. The more you resist this, the more difficult life becomes. Allow the flow of Grace to carry you through perceived difficulties. (Notice I use the word “perceived,” as all is based on one’s own perception and is not necessarily Truth.)

We are still releasing the ancient wound of separation. This can be seen being played out by many people, organizations and governments. Much of the very distant past is also coming forth to be healed/wholed. This includes people we have known and not known in history, saints, gurus, ancestors and entire belief systems. Focus on your mission without being distracted by so much duality. What you focus on is what is created and powerfully manifest. Gaia certainly is releasing a lot; yet it all is in Divine Order. Stay true to who you are without getting sucked down the rabbit hole.

We are creating the New Earth as we focus entirely on being Love. Just as each of the animal kingdom has their own path (a big Hawk just showed up as a confirmation), so do we. Each of us also may experience being very scattered as we traverse the old and the New. This goes for the folks around us as well. Be patient. The mind cannot quite get what the New is all about and there is a tendency to attach to the old, because it is familiar. Yet, we are further along in our desire to let go of the old, so focus on Divine Service, being in Nature, meditating and remind yourself that you are doing the very best you can. There is much activation of our New Selves to calibrate ourselves to a new way of being. It’s not like we’re all alone in this, we are helped by engaging with the activations and by making conscious choices. Have complete Faith that you are guided by your Highest Self, so be aware of all of what you are guided to do moment by moment. This guidance comes in the form of messages, both inner and outer, and by your own Intuitional feeling.

As we let go of the old, we may not know what to do next. Do not fret about this or analyze it. Stay in  the Now Moment; from this place you will know what step to take next. We are like the caterpillar, who dissolves completely in the chrysalis, and in time the Butterfly is assembled in Wholeness. It takes a while. After all, it has taken many lifetimes for us to create who we are/were, so be patient. We are emerging from our chrysalis as a New being of Love; beautiful in our magnificence. I am not saying it will take many lifetimes to be completely New; unless that is your Souls choice. Stay in the Now and put all of your focus on being Love; on your Path; on who you are becoming. Let go of the past and the future. Be here now. Let go of expectations about how it’s supposed to be and let go of any attachment you have to plans. In the New, there are no plans. There is only Now.

One of the best ways to anchor the New is to surrender. This isn’t passive; as you surrender to what is with Heart-intentions it is like you are on a river. Without a paddle, it’s easy to get stuck in an eddy or on a rock or branch. With a paddle, you become One with the flow. This is empowered Movement. You are not helpless. You are not a victim of circumstance. You guide your boat. Surrender with intention to your preferred way of being. Consciously make a decision to be active in the Flow of New Life. This will help you align with the highest expression of Love. Surrender is letting go and allowing. Surrendering with intention is aligning to your purpose and to the highest outcome. Surrendering is important, for you don’t control or manage the Flow; you become One with the Flow. Let go of end results; allow your intention to be manifest by Source. You are Source!

Because we’re still releasing old emotions/energy, we will experience release in many ways. You may pee or sweat a lot. You are clearing not only old emotions, but the stuck toxins in your cells as well.

We are all starseeds from other dimensions. We have agreed to take on a body. When we do that, we also step into any unfinished business of other lifetimes. We have agreed to not only bring forth a higher consciousness, but to also clear our bodies and planet of all that is not Love. Being a starseed, you are probably very empathic and sensitive to energies. Through this clearing, we become even more sensitive and empathic, yet these all help us navigate the world through our Intuition and Awareness. From this place of high Awareness, we make decisions that help to align us with our Soul; an aspect of Source. Aligning or merging with Soul increases our vibration and thus we are able to transform the old into the New. Meditation greatly helps with this, for meditation aligns us with our purpose and Soul-merging. Simply breathe Divine Source Love/Light into your Heart, High Heart or Pineal Chakra. Bring this Divinity throughout all your chakras and cells. You do this with intention and breath and visualization, if you are visual.

We are anchoring our New blueprints, which helps us integrate and manifest our highest potential. As we do this, we move into a new experience physically. This is because our Light Bodies are more powerfully connected to our Earth bodies as well as to the higher dimensions. This is Soul-merging. We will begin to walk the Earth as ascended masters. What does being an ascended master in a human body on Earth mean to you? Being an ascended master in human form means you take full Responsibility for all your choices fully awake. You are not a victim of any circumstance. You are powerful as you stand in your own Light and Knowing. Of course, this is just one aspect of being an ascended master.

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Lord melchizedek by Gayliaa Berzins @ Radiant Rose Academy