Why Are There Focused And Complete Cultivation Methods? 为何有专圆二修?


[On the Pure Land Tradition’s Second Patriarch Great Master] Shàndǎo’s (净土宗二祖善导大师) Focused Cultivation [of] pure karma [i.e practice of direct mindfulness of Āmítuófó’s name (阿弥陀佛) with profound Faith and sincere Aspiration to be born in his Pure Land], [it] can [be] named [as] expression [of] focused wholeheartedness.

[Note 1: This is to practise only mindfulness of Āmítuófó’s name with the Three Provisions (三资粮).]


[On the Pure Land Tradition’s Sixth Patriarch Great Master] Yǒngmíng’s (净土宗六祖永明导大师) ten thousand goodnesses’ Complete Cultivation, how [can it be] named [as] obstruction [of] focused wholeheartedness? [Naming so] is directly [with this] one mistake to [the] end.

[Note 2: This is to practise mindfulness of Āmítuófó’s name, with various and many other Dharma practices for accumulating even more blessings and wisdom. As focused wholehearted mindfulness of Āmítuófó’s name is already included, this cannot be said to obstruct it.]


[It] should [be] said [that the] Pure Land Dharma Door, has cultivation [that is] Focused [and] Complete.


Due [to] sentient beings’ [spiritual] roots’ capacities not [being] singular, [this] led to many Patriarchs’ establishing [of the] Dharma [to] not [be the] same.

[Note 3: With the same objective of reaching Pure Land, there are no conflicts between Focused Cultivation and Complete Cultivation. These different methods are taught simply because different beings have different spiritual roots, so as to skilfully suit them all.]


[Great Master] Shàndǎo, [who was a manifestation of Āmítuófó], enabled people [to] wholeheartedly uphold [Āmítuófó’s] name, [for] them [to] not cultivate mixed karmas [with mixed practices].


[This is out of] fear [that] people [of] middle [and] low [roots, [are] with karmas mixed, [that] cause [their] minds [to be] difficult [to] return, [to be unified with the] one [Aspiration of reaching Pure Land], thus guiding them [to have] Focused Cultivation.

[Note 4: For those with average and weak spiritual capacities, if they have mixed practices while lacking a clear focus, it will be hard to reach Pure Land, what more to attain Buddhahood. Thus, they should have Focused Cultivation, which is the simplest practice, without possibly losing their spiritual sense of direction. This should be so, at least at first, until they have greater spiritual capacities, if possible. This does not mean that having mixed practices is not good, as long as the Three Provisions are present.]


[Great Master] Yǒngmíng, [who was also a manifestation of Āmítuófó], enabled people [to have] ten thousand goodnesses together cultivated, [with] them dedicated [for rebirth in] Pure Land.


[This is out of] fear [that] people [of] high roots, [are with] practices falling [to be] one-sided, [that] cause [their] blessings [and] wisdom [to] not [be] able [to] match [their Buddha-]nature completely, thus guiding them [to have] Complete Cultivation.

[Note 5: For those with greater spiritual capacities, if they have many mixed practices done with inadequate Self-power (自力) and Other-power (他力) of the Buddha, which makes their accumulation of blessings and wisdom hard to align with the full potential of their Buddha-nature, it will be hard to attain Buddhahood.

Thus, they should have Complete Cultivation, which includes Focused Cultivation above, with all their meritorious virtues dedicated for reaching Pure Land, through which Buddhahood is definitely and most swiftly attainable. As many of those with greater spiritual capacities would naturally wish to cultivate more than Focused Cultivation, Compete Cultivation is suitable for them.

As all Dharma practices are interconnected, and since the name of Āmítuófó represents their total essence, well-practised Focused Cultivation contains the essence of Complete Cultivation (专中有圆), just as well-practised Complete Cultivation, being complete, of course contains Focused Cultivation (圆中有专).

With these two Great Masters’ approaches together, this is how all beings of all spiritual capacities can be guided to reach Pure Land. It thus does not make sense to think either is superior or purer than the other. What more, these Great Masters were both Āmítuófó’s manifestations, with equally immeasurable compassion and wisdom to guide all to Pure Land with maximum skilful means!]


Pure Land Tradition’s Thirteenth Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng  
(Second Reply Letter [To A] Certain  Yǒngjiā Layperson)

Namo Amituofo : Translation and notes by Shen Shi’an

Related Articles:

Verses On Focused And Complete Cultivation

Is Great Master Shàndǎo The Only Pure Land Patriarch?

What Are Main & Mixed Practices?

Importance Of Dedicating All Practices For Reaching Pure Land

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