The mandala is a template or blueprint of wholeness. It has a center and four directions. Associated with each direction is a color, an element, an obstructed pattern and a wisdom. It is a way to understand yourself and also your world.
The Buddha family is associated with the element of space, which pervades all other elements. In an encumbered state, this family is associated with being “spaced out” and depressed, while its enlightened manifestation is the All-Encompassing Wisdom of Spaciousness. The color usually associated with the Buddha family is white, the quintessence of all colors in the light spectrum, though sometimes it is represented as a deep, radiant blue. It holds the center of the mandala.
The Vajra family is associated with the color blue, the element of water, and it is located in the east of the mandala. In an encumbered state, this family is associated with the emotional poison of anger, both hot rage and cold passive aggression, while its enlightened manifestation is Mirror-Like Wisdom, a vast and precise cognizance that reflects everything with great clarity, yet remains unaffected by what reflects in it. “Vajra” is a Sanskrit term usually translated as “diamond” or “thunderbolt,” and refers to a divine ritual scepter used in Indian and Tibetan tantric traditions. The vajra represents indestructibility, power, transformation, and the sacred masculine (paired with the bell, representing feminine wisdom). In its most common five-pronged form, it represents the transmutation of the five poisons into the five wisdom energies. Enlightened wakefulness is indestructible and unconditioned, and cannot be tarnished or harmed; the vajra symbolizes that wakefulness.
The Ratna family is associated with the earth element, and is located in the south of the mandala. In an encumbered state, this family is associated with pride rooted in a fear of inadequacy, while its enlightened manifestation is the Wisdom of Equanimity. “Ratna” is the Sanskrit word for “jewel,” referring to the Wish-Fulfilling Jewel of our innate enlightened nature. The color associated with this family is a rich golden yellow, reflecting the abundant richness of the earth element. It is connected with the early autumn, when the yellow leaves are falling and the riches of harvest can be enjoyed. It’s often connected with fertile forest or jungle landscapes, with an abundance of fertile life.
The family of Padma is the family of heat and magnetism. This family is associated with the fire element and is located in the west of the mandala, in the direction of the setting sun. In an encumbered state, Padma energy manifests as desire, lust, and craving, while its enlightened manifestation is the wisdom of discernment or discriminating awareness. “Padma” is the Sanskrit term for the lotus flower, a traditional symbol of our enlightened nature. While the lotus roots itself in the thick muck at the bottom of ponds and lakes, it emerges from the mud and blossoms above the water’s surface completely unscathed and fragrant.
The Karma family is associated with the element of air and is located in the north of the mandala. In an encumbered state, Karma energy manifests as jealousy, envy, and ambition, while its enlightened manifestation is all-accomplishing wisdom. “Karma” is a Sanskrit term meaning action, a perfect descriptor for the nature of this family. It is represented by a double-edged sword, which cuts through the two obscurations of emotional afflictions and false concepts about reality. The sword penetrates into truth, slicing through negativity and obstacles, and destroys what needs to be destroyed. Karma is also associated with the color green, the color of growth.