What Are You Like?
Or, to which Buddha family do we belong?

Much has been written about this complex topic. There are five Buddha families or wisdom energy types, each of which have certain attributes. Accompanying these are five neurotic aspects that we acquire in order to survive in the world.

The point is that we are a certain type, which is different from another’s type. If we recognise this, we won’t be so quick to want to make others like us, when they are, in fact, of another family. This isn’t fixed as we adapt to situations, and so can change track, but we do all have certain flavour. It’s important to be able to get along.

Trungpa Rinpoche suggests that we look for our main neurosis in order to find our Buddha family. Knowing that we, as individuals, come from different stand points is imperative in order to respect others, providing that first step to giving someone space, rather than condemning them – and when I say ‘giving them space’, this could mean giving them a wide berth – steering clear! It sometimes feels as if we come from different planets 😀

I have found the identity of a neurosis more valuable than identifying the wisdom: from a personal perspective, it’s in that “There I go again” moment.

The following is from “The Secret of the Vajra World” by Reginald Ray

“The question, “To what Buddha family to I belong?’ ot “To what Buddha family does so-and-so belong?’ can be difficult to answer. One way to determine which Buddha family is to look at the predominant neurotic style of the person, which is ego’s way of trying to handle the primary wisdom. Sometimes, however, the neurotic stye is a complex mix of habitual patterns relating to several Buddha families, which can be hard to sort out. In some people, one of the Buddha family styles is so pronounced as to be self-evident. In many people however, there may be two or even three energies visible. A person with one energy predominant will tend to rely on this approach in every situation. People with more than one energy will tend to shift gears, depending on what is called for. Thus a Ratna-Karma person might be very warm, accommodating at home, but cold, active and competitive in the work environment …

“… This leads to an important question. If the five wisdoms are inherent in the Buddha nature of each one of us, then why do we differ in the energies that we manifest? The answer has to do with our karma, with the particular way in which we, as sentient beings, have evolved. But why this way and not another? Karma, as understood in Buddhism, is both past-orientated and future-orientated; it is individual, and also connected with all other sentient beings. Thus we could say, “I am the way I am because of what happened to me in the past”, but this is only part of the answer. We can also say, “I am the way I am because of what I need to be in the future, and this is related to all other sentient beings, and to what the world needs of me down the road.” Seen from this point of view, each of us has a particular gift to bring to the limitless realm of being, and this gift is reflected in our primary Buddha family, and in our particular configuration of the five wisdoms altogether.”

Buddha family







All-encompassing space





Enlightened style

Spacious and accommodating

Clarity and precision


Selfless appreciation and love

efficiency without ambition







Neurotic style

Spaced out, stupid

Aggressive, irritable

Territorial, suffocating

Clinging, grasping, poverty-stricken

Competitive, pugnacious


God, animal


Hungry ghost


Jealous god

Primary function






Type of suffering

Insentient, no feeling



Wishful thinking


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