Since Antiquity, civilizations worldwide looked upon the natural elements –EARTH, WATER, FIRE, AIR and SPACE– as fundamental to existence, respecting the divine presence within them. The Ancients knew that feeling connected to Mother Earth, to whom we owe our life, is crucial for our sanity and well being.

Nowadays, with all systems overloaded, we have lost our connection to the order and cycles of the natural world. We perceive and experience ourselves as isolated entities, believing our individual life force is separate from nature herself.

The Earth, as the primary recipient of our actions, is merely responding to and mirroring what we are doing to ourselves and each other.

“Seeing Nature as Your Own Nature”
by H.H. Kenting Tai Situpa Rinpoche

The Earth which we all walk on and which we are sitting on right now; that is like commitment. The earth represents commitment, the real foundation, unshakable, most tolerant and most stable. Nothing shakes it. It is always there. That is the base, the foundation, the devotion.

Water is like compassion . It makes things grow. Compassion is like water. Compassion cleans like water. You can be the most evil person in the whole universe. The moment you develop true compassion, all that evilness is transformed right there and you cannot be evil again. So, compassion is the purification like water. It is transformation and purification.

Fire is like wisdom because fire burns, fire transforms, and fire makes you see things. It’s dark you can’t see anything. If you have candlelight, you can see. So, fire represents wisdom. It is always there, and with wisdom you see. Without wisdom you don’t see. Therefore fire is like wisdom.

Wind* is like experience. Through learning, through practicing we have experience; and because of that we move, we progress. We get from here to there through experience.

Space is like the mind. It’s endless, it’s vast, it has no limitations; nothing changes it. It can contain everything. So this is like the mind.

H.E. Tai Situ Rinpoche. A Commentary on the Ninth Karmapa’s (Wangchuck Dorje) Ocean of Certainty. Woodstock, NY: Karma Triyana Dharmachakra, 1998.
*In the Apprentice Cards, Wind represents the Air Element.


The Apprentice Cards, like the Earth, serve as a mirror, catalyst and bridge between the outer world and our inner nature. They are intimately connected to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of the Five Elements known as the 5 Dhyani Buddhas.They represent five main physical and mental imbalances transformed into their wisdom aspects and are represented in the chart below.

The Apprentice Cards act as a guide to translating this knowledge, thus gaining mastery over our life.

“When I first started using the Apprentice Cards, I had given zero attention to the meaning or importance of the 5 elements. I was so focused on finding healing and solution, that I ignored the very structure that allows them to heal. The truth is, these cards carry so much purpose and depth, making the experience of using them seem almost surreal. But it is their complexity that makes them undeniably meaningful. I had been utilizing the cards on my own for 9 months before understanding the components and energies behind the 5 elements. After gaining that insight and understanding, my experience with the Apprentice Cards was taken to a level of clarity and beauty that I didn’t know was possible. Any confusion or hesitation garnered from my practice melted away, as I was finally able to connect with the elements that make up our entire existence.”

–Allie Lebos, student at UCSB