The Five Buddha Families
and Their Palace

In the majority of mandalas the innermost sacral area is housed at the center of a square. This square represents the ground plan of a three-dimensional palace that houses a central figure or symbol. Each wall of the palace corresponds to one of the cardinal directions, with the center considered as the fifth cardinal point, and is presented in the color associated with that direction. Each of these directions is also associated with one of the five Tathagata Buddhas, representing the heads of the five different buddha families. The Tathagatas, though they seem to be five different figures, are in fact one and the same, merely symbolizing different aspects of the singular experience of enlightenment.

blue green white red yellow

Buddha Akshobhya and the Eastern Quarter of a Sarvadurgatiparishodhana Mandala
Southern Central Tibet; 13th century
Pigments and gold on cotton
Zimmerman Family Collection