Five Buddha Family Wisdom Mandala: Is it a Therapy or an Awakening?

By Melissa Moore

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Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘circle’ or anything with a center, a periphery, or a fringe. It can include any society, group, or association and often has connotations of a spiritual gathering. In many Eastern traditions, wisdom mandalas are used as meditation practice tools. 

In Karuna Training, we engage the wisdom Mandala of the Five Buddha Families (5BF) by practicing space awareness to learn to trust and understand the nonduality of the seen and unseen forces of the world. Through convening with the 5BF Wisdom Mandala, we learn to access and integrate our innate wisdom. 

Is this a therapeutic approach? Well, yes and no.  It depends on how we define therapeutic. If therapeutic means curing or ‘fixing’ an ailment or addressing a pathology, then no, space awareness practice is not therapeutic. However, in the contemplative definition of healing, when we learn to come home to who we are, unique to each of us, it could be considered healing and certainly relaxing.

Karuna Training offers a deep dive into the practical and imperceivable aspects of the Five Buddha Families through the Mandala's body, speech, mind, quality, and action.  These families are experienced in both confused and wisdom manifestations. The spectrum between confusion and wisdom is the ground we tread daily and where most land habitually. Bringing space, kindness, and awareness to the dimensions of the 5BF Mandala as it manifests within us performs the healing properties of space awareness practice. 

The outer aspect of the 5BF Mandala is the elements and where we begin in Karuna Training: space, water, earth, fire, and wind—making up the entire universe and all its inhabitants. We study each element's unseen energetic aspects and then how the elements transfer into emotional styles and eventually habituate into conditioned experiences. The confused and wise aspects of the 5BF energies are nondual realities, and we exchange with them daily. We call them families because they’re so familiar; however, bringing contemplative awareness to these energies ignites our wisdom mind. 

It's the old adage of ‘it's not what happens to us, but how we hold it that matters’ - a shift of mind can make a difference in our perception and experience. For example, if we plan a picnic and it rains, we may experience disappointment, but if we are farmers amid drought, we experience the rain as a blessing. Our conditioning toward the elemental aspect of the energies matters, and the 5BF also engages deeply with the primary emotions of passion, aggression, ignorance, pride, and envy - all possessing nondual wisdom in their own right. Through space awareness, widening the mind with space and relaxation, we begin to experience the respective wisdom of the 5BFs: discernment, clear seeing, accommodation, equanimity, and skillful action. 

In Karuna Training, we learn to trust the world's intrinsic sanity by studying the 5BF Wisdom Mandala, exchanging ourselves with others' energies, and turning our allegiance to their intrinsic sanity. We practice this through Compassionate Exchange, which allows a broader perspective on the 5BF energies. For example, what passion looks like in me will be very different from all others. The same is true for all shades of emotion.  Again, we learn to widen our minds and hearts with space and relaxation to open to the wisdom of others. 

We are befriending ourselves as we learn to embody and befriend the energies. This is often experienced as healing because internally, we relax, and externally, we expand out of trust and love for the world as it is—not as we wish it to be. So even when emotional energies are uncomfortable, we stay with them and learn to transmute the innate wisdom within the emotion. We make friends with ourselves and become less reactive to the world with its omnipresent impermanence and suffering. 

Space awareness is therapeutic, but not in the sense that we change ourselves; it's much more about befriending and becoming more of who we are, which is always sane and reasonable at our core.  

Article written by Melissa Moore

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