Five Wisdom Energies,
Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Heavenly Virtues

Polar examples associated with the five wisdom energies are reminiscent of the heavenly virtues and deadly sins of the Catholic tradition. However, the purpose of the wisdom energies is to understand the underlying energies behind either virtuous or unenlightened action as a path to enlightenment. So for example, desire is the common underlying energy behind both noble aspirations and cravings of the flesh.

While the traditional heavenly virtues and deadly sins all arise from the actions of wisdom energies, it is not always the case that a virtue and its opposite sin are a product of the same energies. Let's first look at the sins, as they seem to be more widely known.

The deadly sins Lust, greed, and gluttony involve indulgence of desire. Pride and greed involve the misapprehension of one's own riches (physical and otherwise). Envy begins with jealousy of other's riches but invites actions designed to "bring others low" as Dante put it. Wrath is typically the outward manifestation of confusion resulting from ill-informed judgments of others. Lastly, sloth is the failure to engage with one's environment.

The term "seven heavenly virtues" commonly refers to the seven contrary virtues of Prudentius. Chastity and temperance involve a discriminating awareness concerning desire. Charity, that is to say, generosity, relates to richness, but there is a need to avoid idiot generosity, which relates to discriminating awareness in one's desire to be charitable. Diligence is not merely the antidote to sloth but is essential to right action at an individual level. Kindness is essential to right action at a social level. Patience is not only an antidote to wrath but is essential to achieving clarity. Finally, humility grows from an appreciation of one's place in the universe.


The five wisdom energies,which are also known as the five Buddha families, date back to the very beginning of Tibetan Buddhism. Their traditional Tibetan names are Padma, Ratna, Karma, Vagra, and Buddha. The English names used here are similar to those used by Irini Rockwell in her article, the five Buddha families. A great deal has been written about the five wisdom energies, and much of it is readily available on the Internet.
 

Jim Williams, 5/30/09