The Five Buddha Families is a Buddhist teaching that suggests the view of existence as a mandala, a composite of five main energies or ‘families’ of Buddhas. Each family is unique, indispensable and complements the others. Each aspect of reality, every animal, person, thought/word/deed, conflict, action can be viewed as a composite of the five, each in different balances and levels of constraint or liberation, delusion or realization. When viewed holistically, realized and unrealized potential energies can be discerned and invoked through practice of chants, prayer or visualization or other creative means. The chart below lays out the basic characteristics of the five Buddha Families.
The Five Buddha Families is a fundamental teaching in Zen Peacemakers activities. Founder Zen Master Bernie Glassman developed Bearing Witness retreatsÂ as well as social enterprises such as Greyston, based on these teachings, ever reaching to a finer articulation of the needs of those he served.