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The 5 Wisdoms - Working with The Five Buddha Families In Our Daily Lives

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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The main message of the teachings on the 5 Wisdoms is that the energy of both our neuroses or emotional afflictions and the energy behind the Wisdom of a Buddha are the same energy.

This energy is also the energy behind the 5 elements that make up our body, and our world. It also makes up all of our body/mind components which are our Forms, Feelings, Perceptions, Intentions, and Awareness. It is described as similar to H2O. Water molecules, and the atoms that make them up, exist throughout the whole universe, just like the components that make up our mind and body.

When water molecules are collected together to a certain degree, they appear as steam or fog, which is similar to the appearance of the 5 wisdom energies. When compressed a little further they become water, like in our lakes and rivers, which is similar to the body/mind energy becoming our perceptions, feelings, and thoughts. When compressed further it becomes ice, just like how our Body and Forms are created out of the combination of the more condensed elements of Water, Earth, Fire, and Wind within Space.

When we freeze or cling to this energy, the 5 wisdoms become the 5 emotional afflictions. This is how Intelligence and Alertness becomes Anger and Fear, Generosity & Balance becomes Pride or Miserliness, Appreciation and Compassion become Longing or Manipulation, Skillfulness and Enthusiasm become Jealousy and Competition, and Awareness and Wisdom becomes Self-Absorption and Indifference.

Recognizing that the 5 Wisdoms underly the 5 afflictions allows us to change the afflictions into wisdom at any time during our experience of them. Meditation practice allows us to recognize the afflictions while they are arising and gives us a sense of space between ourselves and our afflictions. It's at this point that we can use this teaching to transform our afflictions back into wisdom.

The method to transform afflictions into wisdom is by applying the appropriate perfections which, when combined with the underlying energy, turns the frozen energy into its corresponding wisdom.

This means that when we are experiencing Fear, Anger, or Frustration, we remind ourselves that Intelligence underlies these afflictions. We then apply patience while continuing to penetrate and analyze the situation we are experiencing. Analysis of the causes and conditions, combined with patience, then provides us with the clear seeing that was the original message behind our Fear or Anger.

In the same way, when we experience Pride and a sense of Abundance, we can recognize that it is a sign that we have something to offer others and then use the perfection of Generosity to create a sense of equality, nourishment, and balance in our world. In the same way, when we are feeling miserly and attached, we can recognize that staying open to the world and devoted to the workings of the reality around us, we will actually experience the world's generosity towards us. We will learn about the laws of Karma and the support and balance that's maintained in the universe.

When we are full of Longing, a desire for acquiring, or feel the need to manipulate to get what we want, we can get this sense of Appreciation and Oneness with the world through the practices of Morality and Compassion. By vowing not to harm others with our thought, speech, or action (Morality), and vowing to work for their happiness and freedom from suffering (Compassion), we will eventually end up achieving all that we desire and gaining a sense of joy and one-ness without the need for longing OR manipulation.

Being Jealous of others, or trying to compete and control can be turned into Accomplishment and Creativity, once we apply perseverance and enthusiasm to these feelings. When we recognize that we can get the same things that others have through our own effort and perseverance then jealousy and envy will disappear. If we recognize that other people's ability to obtain a desired object or quality means that we can also obtain it, and that their example provides us with knowledge of one way to obtain that sought-after object or quality, then our enthusiam will increase. This can lead to a greater and greater sense of accomplishment. With the understanding of Karma and the creation of causes and conditions, Control becomes less of an issue and the need to compete dissolves.

Finally, confusion, dullness, and self-centredness prevent us from seeing the world clearly and understanding how it operates. Concentration helps us to examine our world more closely and the wisdom, that comes from observing our world, helps to show us that there is a larger world outside of the one that we cling to. Learning through meditation to become more and more comfortable with this new world view helps us to step out of our habitual boundaries. From this new viewpoint, we see a vast universe without a centre, which includes everything without conflict, and which operates like a magic show and a joyous dance of energies.


In our normal life, Forms and Feelings seem to take precedence over everything else. Our attachment to these things overwhelms everything else. Our pre-occupation with gross existence blinds us to the subtle side of our life to the point where the subtler aspects occupy a very small part of our awareness or attention. A large portion of our suffering comes about because our focus on Form and Feeling overshadows and pre-empts any attention to, or examination of, our self-definition, viewpoint, goals, values, and the process of perception.


The message of the teachings on the 5 Wisdoms is that we are composed of all 5 of these energies equally and we can work with all of them, when required, to transform our experience of the world around us. We will learn, through this, about the unity of Wisdom and Compassion and the experience of the union of Peace and Joy that results.

What we need to do to make this happen is to flip our viewpoint so that Form and Feeling become less important and Awareness and Intention become our primary focus. We need to pay more attention to maintaining a complete view of reality and controlling our Karmic reactions to the world around us.


We need to ensure that we are continually reinforcing the view that everything is impermanent. We need to remind ourselves that we can't get permanent satisfaction from temporary things and that temporary things hold the potential for suffering. We need to remember that nothing exists independently of the circumstances around it and everything is interconnected. Finally, we need to remember that there is no separate, fixed self, anywhere in our existence or in the universe.

From the point of view of Karma, we need to make sure that our intentions reflect the complete view, recognizing impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, interconnection, and selflessness when responding to the world around us. We then need to work on developing virtuous thought, speech, and action and eliminating non-virtuous karmas at the same time.

This means watching out for longing and attachment, avoiding actions that reinforce them, and then replacing them with contentment and renunciation. It means not acting out of anger or fear and replacing them with patience and alertness. It means not reinforcing indifference but developing Compassion. It means recognizing doubt and confusion and working through them to obtain confidence and wisdom.

We accomplish this by first emphasizing greater Awareness or Mindfulness and examining our intentions, goals, and values before we act, categorize, or accept a particular way of feeling about a particular situation.

Tantric Buddhism and the Bardo or intermediate state teachings start from the basic, open, and clear space that underlies everything. This is referred to as Voidness and keeping this Voidness in mind is called Wisdom. This Space is not empty though, and includes the entire realm of Potential Energy. This Potential Energy manifests in its pure form as Joy and Compassion. This state of inseparable Voidness and Bliss, or Wisdom and Compassion, is referred to as our Truth Body or Dharmakaya. We need to start from this point of view before we relate to the world around us.

From this basic truth body comes what is called the Enjoyment Body, or Sambhogakaya. This body is composed of the essential qualities of that potential energy and our experience of all of those qualities within Space. This "Enjoyment" is the Peace, Confidence, Joy, Strength, and Clarity that arise from the energy of the 5 Wisdom Families in their pure state.

The final fruition of this energy in terms of thought, speech, action, and form is called the Emanation body or Nirmanakaya. We experience this manifestation as our body and mind and the forms around us that are all composed of the 5 elements. It involves the 5 functions of Experiencing, Creating, Unifying, Strengthening, and Resolving that are parts of what is called Buddha Activity.

Each of us contains all of these elements and Body/Mind components. We are all composed of Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, and Space and each one of these elements contains an underlying intelligence and wisdom. This also means that our Body/Mind components of Form, Feeling, Perception, Intention, and Consciousness also contain this underlying intelligence and wisdom. This means that each of us also has the potential to achieve ALL of the wisdoms, ALL of the enjoyments, and ALL of the functions involved in ALL 5 Buddha Families.

Using these descriptions and teachings will allow us to transform our worst neuroses and show us how to access any of the wisdoms that we may currently be missing. We can then experience continuous Peace, Confidence, Joy, Balance, and Clarity. Our entire lives will become expressions of the Experiencing of the Buddha Family, the Creating of the Karma Family, the Unifying of the Padma Family, the Strengthening of the Ratna Family, and the Organizing and Resolving of the Vajra Family.

In the processs, we need to remember about Karma and how the force of our past habits will cause us difficulties and obstacles in converting our neuroses into wisdom. The habitual force of our grasping, resisting, and avoiding can be very strong. We have been reinforcing some of these neuroses for many years in this lifetime and for many other lifetimes besides. A great deal of alertness and repeated effort is required to gradually learn to express these energies with wisdom instead of succumbing to neurotic expressions of these forces.

Finally, We need to be patient with ourselves and keep re-minding ourselves and keep persevering in our work of spiritual improvement. Hopefully, by remembering that wisdom energy is always underlying our neuroses and emotional afflictions, it will make it easier for us to transform our emotional disturbances into wisdom as they happen. Once again, effort, mindfulness, and concentration are all required to make this work.