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


Practice has two kinds. First, [are] ‘Main Practices’. Second, [are] ‘Mixed Practices’.

Note 1: 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 (净土宗九祖澫益大师), 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] those ‘Main Practices’, those [with] focused reliance [on the] sutras [for] rebirth [in Pure Land for] practice, are named [as having] ‘Main Practices’. What are those? Wholehearted focused study [and] recitation [of] these [Pure Land sutras, such as] the ‘Contemplation Sutra’, ‘[A]mita[bha] 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. 

Note 2: 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 the same [as] wholehearted focused prostrating [to] that Buddha. If [with practice of the] mouth reciting, [this] is the same [as] wholehearted focused reciting [of] that Buddha[‘s name]. If [with practice of] praising [and] making [of] offerings, [this] is the same [as] wholehearted focused praising [and] making [of] offerings [to that Buddha]. These [are] named as ‘Main [Practices]’.

Note 3: 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, thereupon within these ‘Main [Practices]’, again are two kinds. First, [is] wholehearted focused mindfulness [of A]mituo[fo’s] name, [be it when] walking, standing, sitting [or] lying down, no matter [if the] duration [of] time [is] long [or] short, [from] thought to thought not abandoning it, [this] is named ‘Right Definite Karma’, [as this] accords [with] that Buddha’s vows thus.   

Note 4: 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 (or ‘Right Definite Karma’) to reach his Pure Land.


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

Note 5: What can be called the ‘Secondary Main Practices’ are all other practices such as the above, which are ‘Recollection Of Buddha (Land)’ and ‘Mindfulness 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’.

Note 6: 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)

Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an

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Why Are There Focused & Complete Cultivation Methods?

Verses On Focused And Complete Cultivation

Is Great Master Shàndǎo The Only Pure Land Patriarch?

Importance Of Dedicating All Practices For Reaching Pure Land

Please be mindful of your speech, Amituofo!

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