The Buddha Tarot Book and Deck Set

This is a reissue by Schiffer/REDFeather of the Buddha Tarot that was originally published by Llewellyn in 2001

The Buddha Tarot: Mandala of Cards is a boxed set

with a 79 card deck and a 288 page book

It is $40 plus shipping:

$10 in the US, $30 for Canada, and $43 for other countries.

To order email Robert M Place at:

US and Canadian customers may use this link to order

My involvement with the Tarot started with a dream, and every one of the decks that have designed was inspired by a dream or a vision.  However, for The Tarot of the Buddha, I feel that it was inspired by a dream, but I can not actually recall the dream.  The inspiration for this deck started on Christmas in 1996.  My wife and I were staying at her parent’s house in New Jersey. On Christmas Eve, I had been reading The Illustrated World’s Religions by Huston Smith and went to bed after reading the section on Buddhism.  When I woke on Christmas morning, a correlation between the life of Buddha and the Tarot was all worked out.  I could clearly see how the details of the story of Buddha’s life fit together flawlessly with the Tarot trumps, illustrating that they are essentially the same stories.  I had worked on it in my sleep but I could not remember the process only the result. 

The Chariot Card

I started explaining my revelation to my wife, Rose Ann, and amazed myself with how the elements of Buddha’s life fit the images in the Tarot.  There were the four sights that convinced Siddhartha to leave his life of pleasure and his lover and become an ascetic: an old man, suffering, death, and a hermit.  There was even the chariot that he used to ride to town to see the sights.  Before this, his farther had ruled his life like a Pope and had been guiding him toward the role of Emperor, another trump.  Once he realized that the ascetic life was also a dead end, he embraced the virtue temperance and had to deal with the temptations of Mara, the Devil.  Buddha remained undefeated and rose through various levels of enlightenment just as the Tarot depicted a hierarchy of celestial images leading to the mystical vision on the highest trump.  The story even fit the three-part pattern that I have found in the tarot: the first dealing with hope, the second with fear, and the third the middle path, beyond hope and fear that leads to mastery or enlightenment.

The Sun Trump depicting Buddha and his Sakti

There is ample evidence that the story of Buddha was available to the Renaissance creators of the Tarot, but although the structure and details of the trumps can be shown to fit this story, It is most likely that Buddha was not on the mind of the first Tarot artist.  The Tarot is mystical and follows this same story pattern, but it does so with symbols and images that are entirely derived from the Renaissance Christian culture that created and used the cards.  Although the story of Buddha may have become part of the mix of mystical ideas that were prevalent in the Renaissance, It seems more likely that the similarity between the Tarot Trumps and Buddha’s legend is because they both follow the same archetypal pattern, the one that scholar, Joseph Campbell, calls the hero’s journey.  However, when we look at other manifestations of this archetype, such as the twelve labors of Hercules, a hero who actually appears in one of the earliest Tarot decks on the Strength card, we see that the fit is not as close, detail for detail, as it is with Buddha and the Tarot.  It seems more likely that the similarity between the Tarot Trumps and Buddha’s legend is one of those magical occurrences that Jung called “synchronicity,” especially when we consider that the fit became stronger as the Tarot evolved and changed. 

White Tara as the World Card

The World Card in the traditional Tarot depicts a goddess, who is the World Soul, the mother of the physical world. This image is a mandala depicting her in the center of this sacred map of the world. As Buddhism developed, Buddha, himself, was given this archetypal pattern.  When he ascended to Nirvana.  He became not just one Buddha but five, called the five Jinas, each with his female counterpart called his Shakti. There is one couple for the center and one for each of the four cardinal directions.  Besides a Shakti, each Jina has a protector animal and a Dikini servent. These are the court cards for each suite. Each Jina also has a symbol that I have used as the suit symbols. This is the same pattern that runs through the entire Tarot deck with it five divisions, the four minor suits, representing the four directions and other four-fold associations, and the trumps, representing the sacred center and the hero’s journey. 

The Jinas of the four directions

In traditional Tibetan culture, artists create hand painted cards called tsakli.  Unlike a mandala with its multiple imagery organized in geometric unity, each tsakli depicts just one sacred object, Bodhisattva, or deity.  The tsakli are used in ritual and meditation to focus on the single element, but the same archetypal unity runs through the set of cards.  They are a mandala broken into its separate parts, a mandala of cards.  This is how I see the Tarot.  The Tarot is a set of individual images that are derived from the synthesis that is Renaissance culture, but in the entire deck there is an archetypal pattern that is sacred and enlightening.  

The Two of Double Vajras with the Golden Fish