What Are Main & Mixed Practices? 何为正杂二行?


‘Practice has two kinds. First, are “Main Practices”. Second, are “Mixed Practices.”

If this first set of notes is confusing, do skip to the next section directly. The term “Main Practices” (正行) taught by the Pure Land Tradition’s 2nd Patriarch Great Master Shandao (净土宗二祖善导大师) here has a wider scope than the singular “Main Practice” (正行) taught by the Pure Land Tradition’s 9th Patriarch Great Master Ouyi (净土宗九祖藕益大师), which is [Nianfo] Practice of mindfulness of Amitabha Buddha’s name “Amituofo” (with right Faith and sincere Aspiration).

“Supportive Karma” (助业) or “Supportive Practices” (助行) taught by Great Master Shandao here has a smaller scope than the “Supportive Practices” (助行) taught by Great Master Ouyi, with the latter being all practices beyond the singular “Main Practice.”

While the Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yinguang (净土宗十三祖印光大师) used the term “Mixed Cultivation” (杂修) to refer to all practices other than the core of Great Master Shandao’s “Main Practices”, the latter’s “Mixed Practices” (杂行) has a slightly wider scope.

Despite these minor differences in terms used to suit their eras’ audiences, the main (or focused) practice is still the Nianfo practice above, while most other practices are considered supportive (or mixed).

言正行者,专依往生经行行者,是名正行。何者是也? 一心专读诵此《观经》、《弥陀经》、《无量寿经》等;一心专注思想、观察、忆念彼国二报庄严。

Speaking of “Main Practices”, focused reliance on the sutras for rebirth [in Pure Land] for practice, are named as “Main Practices”. What are these? Wholehearted focused study and recitation of these [Pure Land sutras, such as] the “Contemplation Sutra”, “Amitabha Sutra”, “Immeasurable Life Sutra” and others, [for] wholehearted and concentrated contemplation, examination and recollection of that [Pure] Land’s two [direct (正报) and circumstantial (依报) karmic] rewards’ magnificence. 

These practices can be collectively named as “Recollection Of [Amitabha] Buddha (忆佛) And His Pure Land (忆佛净土).”


If [with practice of the body] prostrating, this is wholehearted focused prostrating to that Buddha. If [with practice of the] mouth reciting, this is wholehearted focused recitating of that Buddha[’s name]. If [with practice of] praising and making of offerings, this is wholehearted focused praising and making of offerings [to that Buddha]; these are named as “Main [Practices].”

Notes: These practices can be collectively named as “Mindfulness Of [Amitabha] Buddha (念佛; Nianfo)” with body (i.e. prostration and making of offerings), speech (i.e. recitation of name and praise) and mind (which is wholeheartedly involved throughout).


Also, there within these “Main [Practices]”, again are two kinds. First, is wholehearted focused mindfulness of Amituofo’s name, [be it when] walking, standing, sitting or lying down, not being particular about the duration of time being long or short, from thought to thought not abandoning it, this is named “Definite Right Karma”, as it accords with that Buddha’s vows.   

Notes: Of the “Main Practices”, what can be called the “Primary Main Practice” is Nianfo in terms of sincere recitation of Amituofo’s name in any posture, from moment to moment, as often as possible. As this is aligns with Amituofo’s vows directly, this practice creates the definite cause (“Definite Right Karma”) to reach his Pure Land.


[Second], if relying on [practices of] prostration, recitation [of sutras] and others, these are named as “Supportive Karma.”

What can be called the “Secondary Main Practices” are all other practices such as the above, which are “Mindfulness Of Buddha (Land)” and “Recollection Of Buddha (Land)”, but not Nianfo in terms of the “Primary Main Practice.” These “Secondary Main Practices” all support the “Primary Main Practice” (by creating “Supportive Karma.”)


Apart from these two Main and Supportive Practices, all personal extra [remaining practices of] good, are all named as “Mixed Practices.”’

To summarise all the above, to reach Pure Land, there are the “Main Practices” of “Recollection Of Buddha (Land)” and “Mindfulness Of Buddha (Nianfo)”, while the “Primary Main Practice’ is Nianfo by sincere recitation of Amituofo’s name as often as possible, with the others being “Secondary Main Practices”, which support the “Primary Main Practice”, while all other practices are “Mixed Practices”, which support the “Main Practices” generally. (Note that this does not say that the “Secondary Main Practices” and “Mixed Practices” are not useful or should be avoided, as they do support the “Primary Main Practice” directly and indirectly.)

(观经四贴疏: 释上品往生章)

Pure Land Tradition’s 2nd Patriarch Great Master Shandao 
(Commentary On The Contemplation Sutra In Four Fascicles:
Section On Explanation Of The High Grades Of Rebirth)

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Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!