Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Oct 11, 2011 1:25 am

Alex123 wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:As I have said, a book cannot get to know you and your oddities, it cannot hear your tone of voice, it cannot ask you a question that might unlock a problem area. Pretty much, you are left with being your own imperfections as you try to toddle down the path of your own interptretations.


And what prevents that teacher himself from making mistakes when dealing with you?
You learn.

What prevents the teacher from dealing in a standard way with you (something you can read from the books)? Teachers do not have the Buddha's capability of reading minds and mistakes are possible. Even Ven, Sariputta a Chief Disciple and Arahant could misjudge a person in front of him.
That puts you in a really hard place. Cannot trust teachers to be perfect. Being unawakened, driven by delusion and such stuff, cannot trust your own interptretations not to be seriously affected by such defilements. Cannot trust translations by unawakened, imperfect people to be a guide. And even poor Sariputta, an arahant himself, screwed up. Heavens to betsy; it is a hard world out there.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby Alex123 » Tue Oct 11, 2011 1:33 am

Buddha has left His teaching to be used as a guide. I do not believe that suttas are written so poorly that they require lots of interpretation for practice. I think that the Buddha was the Best teacher and His instructions are written in the best form to be used individually.

Teachers can make mistakes and one shouldn't, imho, idealize them. Also many books written by them are also available, so it is not that one has to use one's own interpretation of the suttas. I believe that people should eventually become independent when it comes to Dhamma and be able to find answers for themselves rather than to rely on someone.


tiltbillings wrote:it is a hard world out there.

Yes, it is hard world out there. This is why Dukkha is the 1st Noble Truth.

When the Buddha has died, He has left His teaching as the Teacher. He didn't appoint someone (like Ananda) to be The Teacher or as a successor. The Sutta and Vinaya that Buddha gave is the Teacher.




"Master Ananda, is there any one monk appointed by Master Gotama [with the words], 'He will be your arbitrator after I am gone,' to whom you now turn?"

"No, brahman. There isn't any one monk appointed by the Blessed One — the one who knows, the one who sees, worthy & rightly self-awakened — [with the words] 'He will be your arbitrator after I am gone,' to whom we now turn."

"Then is there any one monk authorized by the Sangha and appointed by a large body of elder monks [with the words], 'He will be our arbitrator after the Blessed One is gone,' to whom you now turn?"

"No, brahman. There isn't any one monk authorized by the Sangha and appointed by a large body of elder monks [with the words] 'He will be our arbitrator after the Blessed One is gone,' to whom we now turn."

"Being thus without an arbitrator, Master Ananda, what is the reason for your concord?"

"It's not the case, brahman, that we're without an arbitrator. We have an arbitrator. The Dhamma is our arbitrator."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Oct 11, 2011 1:42 am

Alex123 wrote:Buddha has left His teaching to be used as a guide. I do not believe that suttas are written so poorly that they require lots of interpretation for practice. I think that the Buddha was the Best teacher and His instructions are written in the best form to be used individually.
But since you do not read Pali, you must rely on imperfect translations, and it is obvious just from this forum itself how wildly divergent interpretations of the same text can be. But even if the translations were perfect, you, as unawakened individual, driven by delusion, want, fears, and other such goodies, must interpret them.

Teachers can make mistakes and one shouldn't, imho, idealize them.
No one here is idealizing teachers.

Also many books written by them are also available, so it is not that one has to use one's own interpretation of the suttas. I believe that people should eventually become independent when it comes to Dhamma and be able to find answers for themselves rather than to rely on someone.
Books have their limitations, and as for becoming independent of relying on others, sure; however . . . .

Do you actually have something new to say here, or are you going to keep going in circles? octathlon is getting dizzy from this round-and-round business.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby Nicro » Tue Oct 11, 2011 1:48 am

Alex, why are you so opposed to a teacher? You are willing to read their book but not study with them?

octathlon wrote:
bodom wrote:Having a "teacher" is ideal but is not an absolute requirement. Having good experienced friends to discuss your practice with such as here at Dhamma Wheel is a blessing. Please dont give up your sitting practice because you dont have access to a teacher. Mindfulness of breathing can be undertaken by anyone and will produce good results without a teacher sitting over you watching every breath.

Buddhadasa Bhikkhu:

The next consideration is what they call an "acariya (teacher, master)". But in truth, even in the old training systems, they did not talk much about "acariya." They called such a person a "good friend (kalyana-mitta)." To say "friend" - an advisor who can help us with certain things - is correct. We should not forget, however, principle that no one can help someone else directly. Yet nowadays, everyone wants to have a teacher to supervise them! A good friend is someone who has extensive personal experience and knowledge about the meditation practice or whatever else it is that we are striving to do. Although he is able to answer questions and explain some difficulties, it is not necessary for him to sit over us and supervise every breath. A good friend who will answer questions and help us work through certain obstacles is more than enough. To have such a kalyana-mitta is one more thing to arrange.


http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/books ... athing.htm

:anjali:

Thanks for this answer, Bodom. It sounds encouraging, but I don't feel I made any progress with my mindfulness of breathing even after several months of almost-daily practice. I don't necessarily blame it on not having a teacher, though. I may be doing something wrong but as you say, it's pretty simple! It is more likely that I would need to increase session times or have patience and continue steadfastly, but I have just burned out on it I guess. It's funny, I actually did a lot better when I first started and it gradually went downhill from there.



What kind of meditation were you doing? Anapanasati? Whose method? I think progress can be made with any good method. You just gotta be consistent. In my own opinion, if you meditate at least an hour a day you won't go backwards and if you do at least 2 hours a day you will go forwards.

octathlon wrote:
What about going to a teacher of a different school and getting confused vs. meditating on your own vs. not at all?


What is the local community of? If its Zen there seems to me to be a lot of similarities of Zazen to Vipasana, especially Bhante G's method. You could even go to a group session early and ask the leader if he is OK with you sitting with them but doing your own style of meditation.
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby Ben » Tue Oct 11, 2011 1:52 am

Sorry for the delay, Octathlon,

octathlon wrote: Would you consider the people on this forum to meet that requirement? I know no other Buddhist practitioners in my town, though I'm sure there must be some.

Yes, I can give you some recommendations of people on this forum that I believe would be excellent buddies (if they are willing - and I am sure they will be). You are welcome to contact me via PM.
kind regards,

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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby Goofaholix » Tue Oct 11, 2011 2:10 am

Alex123 wrote:I believe that people should eventually become independent when it comes to Dhamma and be able to find answers for themselves rather than to rely on someone.


I think they keyword there is eventually.

I fully agree with the above, I suspect those arguing for the importance of teachers probably do too. I also think the grounding, support, and assistance of people who have been in this game longer is crucial at the beginng to to get you to the stage where that eventually can eventuate.

Nobody is suggesting that one should submit to the authority of some guru like teacher. A teachers role is not to tell you what to think but to encourage, motivate, point out your blindspots, and suggest alternative approaches when you get stuck.

Nobody would become a lawyer or a doctor without first commiting to several years studying under those qualified to teach it, and yet it never ceases to amaze me that people think they can learn to undertake the path to awakening (a much more difficult undertaking) by just reading a book or browsing the internet.

It seems to me that someone not interested in commitment large amounts of time to retreat or to associating with those who may be more experienced on the path is really not very serious about the practice or is deluding themselves.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby ground » Tue Oct 11, 2011 2:38 am

Is this debate about whether it is objectively true that generally a teacher is required (i.e. all persons do require a teacher) ?
Or is it about whether it is objectively true that a particular person whose name is not mentioned requires a teacher?
Or is it about whether one feels (i.e. it is subjectively true) that generally a teacher is required (i.e. all persons do require a teacher)?
Or is it about whether one feels (i.e. it is subjectively true) that a particular person whose name is not mentioned requires a teacher?
Or is it about whether one feels (i.e. it is subjectively true) that oneself requires a teacher?


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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Oct 11, 2011 2:50 am

Yes.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: does anyone here do kasina meditation?

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Oct 11, 2011 7:01 am

octathlon wrote:... I don't feel I made any progress with my mindfulness of breathing even after several months of almost-daily practice. I don't necessarily blame it on not having a teacher, though. I may be doing something wrong but as you say, it's pretty simple! It is more likely that I would need to increase session times or have patience and continue steadfastly, but I have just burned out on it I guess. It's funny, I actually did a lot better when I first started and it gradually went downhill from there.

That last sentence suggests to me that you experienced a very common phenomenon. Results in the beginning can be quite dramatic but the changes come more slowly once you've had that initial burst of discovery. It's not confined to meditation, either. It only takes an hour or two to go from a non-trumpet-player to a bad trumpet player, but years to go from bad to good. Ditto horse rider, knitter, etc.
And that period of reduced *apparent* progress is usually the killer. It's hard to stay motivated if you don't see improvement, if you're not motivated you don't put in the time and effort, and if you don't put in the time and effort you don't make *any* progress. Vicious circle!
Does any of that sound familiar?

:namaste:
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Oct 11, 2011 7:35 am

Alex123 wrote:Buddha has left His teaching to be used as a guide. I do not believe that suttas are written so poorly that they require lots of interpretation for practice. I think that the Buddha was the Best teacher and His instructions are written in the best form to be used individually.


Yes, I follow the Buddha's instructions, and there are a number of occasions in the Suttas where it is clear that there was a lot of personal instruction going on, not just by the Buddha.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One was staying at Savatthi in the Eastern Monastery, the palace of Migara's mother, together with many well-known elder disciples — with Ven. Sariputta, Ven. Maha Moggallana, Ven. Maha Kassapa, Ven. Maha Kaccana, Ven. Maha Kotthita, Ven. Maha Kappina, Ven. Maha Cunda, Ven. Revata, Ven. Ananda, and other well-known elder disciples. On that occasion the elder monks were teaching & instructing. Some elder monks were teaching & instructing ten monks, some were teaching & instructing twenty monks, some were teaching & instructing thirty monks, some were teaching & instructing forty monks. The new monks, being taught & instructed by the elder monks, were discerning grand, successive distinctions.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"
As for the individual who has attained neither internal tranquillity of awareness nor insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, he should approach an individual who has attained both internal tranquillity of awareness & insight into phenomena through heightened discernment... and ask him, 'How should the mind be steadied? How should it be made to settle down? How should it be unified? How should it be concentrated? How should fabrications be regarded? How should they be investigated? How should they be seen with insight?' The other will answer in line with what he has seen & experienced: 'The mind should be steadied in this way. The mind should be made to settle down in this way. The mind should be unified in this way. The mind should be concentrated in this way. Fabrications should be regarded in this way. Fabrications should be investigated in this way. Fabrications should be seen in this way with insight.' Then eventually he [the first] will become one who has attained both internal tranquillity of awareness & insight into phenomena through heightened discernment.


It's good to read, but it's easy to ignore things that really challenge you. Reading a passage like:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 48#p141527
After only a year and a half of practice at Wat Ba Pong, one American [Jack Kornfield] asked and received permission [from Ajahn Chah] to travel and study with other Thai and Burmese teachers. A year or two later, he returned full of tales of his travels, of many months of extraordinary and intensive practice and of a number of remarkable experiences. . . . Then the Western monk went to the cottage of Achaan Sumedho, the senior Western disciple of Achaan Chah, and told all his stories and adventures, his new understandings and great insights into practice. Sumedho listened in silence and prepared afternoon tea from the roots of certain forest plants. When the stories were completed and the insights recounted, Sumedho smiled and said, "Ah, how wonderful. Something else to let go of."

Is a very different experience from when your teacher says it...

:anjali:
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby PeterB » Tue Oct 11, 2011 8:58 am

Aint that the truth... :smile: :anjali:
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby chownah » Tue Oct 11, 2011 12:26 pm

I guess some people take things more seriously when a "teacher" says it.....and I guess that some people do not.....
When the Buddha was near death and the monks near him were concerned about who would be their teacher didn't the Buddha tell them that it would be the Dhamma?....he didn't tell them to go find another teacher person....I think that's how it went....but I could be wrong....
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby Travis » Tue Oct 11, 2011 4:00 pm

Bhante Gunaratana learned meditation without a teacher...

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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby PeterB » Tue Oct 11, 2011 4:11 pm

How many students does Bhante now have ? Hundreds at least.
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby Alex123 » Tue Oct 11, 2011 8:30 pm

tiltbillings wrote:But since you do not read Pali,


There are pali translation programs available. Sometimes I like to check various translations of certain pali key terms. Also there are few good translations available so one often can double check the translation of the sutta made by different monks.


tiltbillings wrote: you must rely on imperfect translations, and it is obvious just from this forum itself how wildly divergent interpretations of the same text can be.


This is why we should stick to what the sutta actually says rather than add on personal layers of meaning that can be different for different peопле. It is also possible that even if there is some room for interpretation, certain things may vary and be perfectly alright. As long as key teachings are fulfilled I don't believe that one must "sit in lotus facing east" or awakening won't happen, or that one must focus "on the nose rather than around the mouth" or Anapanasati won't be done, etc etc.

Just as I can make mistakes, so can the teacher. There is no guarantee that a teacher is much better than you. There are bad teachers who abuse their students, and there are well meaning ones who can make mistakes. Not everyone can get access to a teacher. Does this means that one shouldn't practice? no!

Is having a physical teacher a requirement for Aryanhood? No.
I was not; I was; I am not; I do not care."
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby ground » Wed Oct 12, 2011 3:07 am

PeterB wrote:How many students does Bhante now have ? Hundreds at least.


This may be understood as both, a recommendation ("quantity award") and a warning ("quantity is likely to distract") for those who seek a teacher. It may attract those who are inclined towards "association" and put off those those who are inclinced towards solitude.


Kind regards
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Oct 12, 2011 3:31 am

Alex123 wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:But since you do not read Pali,


There are pali translation programs available.
Which, like any translation program, leaves something to be desired.

Sometimes I like to check various translations of certain pali key terms. Also there are few good translations available so one often can double check the translation of the sutta made by different monks.
Monks are not the only translators and being a monk does not make one a good translator, but this statement of yours as a whole is one of the few things in this exchange that shows good sense. It is what one should do. Nonetheless, you are still working with an other's interpretation of a language you do not know.


tiltbillings wrote: you must rely on imperfect translations, and it is obvious just from this forum itself how wildly divergent interpretations of the same text can be.


This is why we should stick to what the sutta actually says rather than add on personal layers of meaning that can be different for different peопле.
But if you do not know the language, you do not know what the suttas say other than what the translation skills of the translators say they say.

The point is, you are bringing to the suttas your stuff.

Just as I can make mistakes, so can the teacher. There is no guarantee that a teacher is much better than you. There are bad teachers who abuse their students, and there are well meaning ones who can make mistakes. Not everyone can get access to a teacher. Does this means that one shouldn't practice? no!

Is having a physical teacher a requirement for Aryanhood? No.
All of this has been carefully addressed by me and others more than once and you have side stepped much of what has been said, and repeating the same thing over and over again, you have added nothing new here, making this a


Image

exchange. If you feel you do not need a teacher, just like thinking you do not need a lawyer in court, that is obviously your choice, and no one here has said that you cannot nor should not practice in such a way. There are simply more pitfalls with practicing on your own than with a good teacher and a supportive sangha.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby Pondera » Wed Oct 12, 2011 6:10 am

The first thing the Buddha did after leaving his home was to seek out teachers. He sought out Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta

""Having thus gone forth in search of what might be skillful, seeking the unexcelled state of sublime peace, I went to Alara Kalama and, on arrival, said to him: 'Friend Kalama, I want to practice in this doctrine & discipline.'

"When this was said, he replied to me, 'You may stay here, my friend. This doctrine is such that a wise person can soon enter & dwell in his own teacher's knowledge, having realized it for himself through direct knowledge.'

"It was not long before I quickly learned the doctrine. As far as mere lip-reciting & repetition, I could speak the words of knowledge, the words of the elders, and I could affirm that I knew & saw — I, along with others.

"I thought: 'It isn't through mere conviction alone that Alara Kalama declares, "I have entered & dwell in this Dhamma, having realized it for myself through direct knowledge." Certainly he dwells knowing & seeing this Dhamma.' So I went to him and said, 'To what extent do you declare that you have entered & dwell in this Dhamma?' When this was said, he declared the dimension of nothingness."

MN 26

So, perhaps for all of the books and CD's out there, a person can maybe attest to knowing the teachings of these items by mere lip-reciting and repetition. But Alara Kalama invites the Bodhisattva to "stay", since a person staying under the direction of the teaching and the teacher can, if he is wise enough, know that same teacher's knowledge, having realized it for himself through direct knowledge.

As far as the question goes as to who should become the prime teacher of the dharma after the Buddha passed, it wasn't about who was going to teach, it was about who was going to lead the sangha. The answer was, to Devadatta, that no one at all, not even Sariputra or Maha Moggallana, would lead the sangha. Teaching must have continued though, as best as it could be done without the Buddha there.

You can, if you really want to, teach your self Yoga. And in the same way you can teach your self proper meditation. But if you set out to teach your self yoga, and the same kind of posturing that the traditional yoga practitioners manage to practice, this will take you a very, very long time.

There is just one principle in Yoga. Focus on the one part of the body. If you are patient and focused you will let yourself fall into the posture. It happens naturally. I'm teaching my self Yoga in various stages, even as I write this. So far, by my self, all on my own, I have found out how to spontaneously and without pretentious assumption, get into that posture where you Namaste with your hands to your heart (or above your head) and bring your right leg up and bend it so that your heel sits above or upon your left knee. Whatever this posture is called, I have -all by my self, learned how to find my self in it. I am very proud, because I already knew this was a Yoga posture and in a very specific way I learned to naturally fall into it. It's a heart posture.

As for the other hundreds of other poses; those will most likely have to wait. To be honest there isn't so much as one percent chance in three million that I will ever arrive at anything beyond four or five postures based on my own investigation.

I believe that attention to ones breath is beneficial in any circumstance. It can be beneficial to every aspect of a person's life, regardless of what situation they find themselves in. At work, with family, paying attention to ones breath actually makes life a lot simpler. It makes decisions easier and actions or words more beneficial for all. You are breathing all of the time anyhow. One might as well learn for themselves what happens to their natural behaviors when that breathing process is given over to mindfulness. It turns out that what you want to do, you do better, you do without hesitation, you do without doubt, you do against all laziness.

So, since most people have to go through the mundane routines of daily life anyway, they should do their selves a favor and pay mind to their breath. Chores become something you're just doing when you pay mind to your breath. Like, just the other day, I learned that even though I drive an automatic vehicle, the gears are shifting as if I was driving a standard. Whereas in the past when I used to accelerate I would step on the accelerator with one steady uniform amount of pressure, now -having stopped all thinking about the car, instead focusing on the driver and his breath (that's me), I realized that I can extend the life of my car by driving it as if it were a standard shift vehicle.

This example shows that when I lacked focus on my self I failed to understand the nature of the vehicle surrounding me. However, by simply paying attention to the most basic of things; breathing, I gainfully learned or rather became sensitive to something I should have known for a long time, e.g. that even an automatic transition needs time away from the accelerator in order to properly transition. Now I don't drive quite so much like the moron I used to. It's simple things like this that are so easy to forget about when we go about life pretending that our existence is somehow involved with the objects in our lives.

Like, wow.

So, I like how my life works when all I do is think about my breath, because I get things done and I avoid situations and events which would otherwise make me uneasy, anxious, doubtful. And that's just as attention to breath applies to the mundane life I live.

If I was to apply this attention to my breath for the purpose of setting my mind free of all imaginable attachments I wouldn't be conducting my life as it applies to the outside world, I would be attempting to conduct my life as it applies to the most elemental form of my existence. In that case, I would seek advise for the proper use of such a technique.
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby PeterB » Wed Oct 12, 2011 7:42 am

TMingyur wrote:
PeterB wrote:How many students does Bhante now have ? Hundreds at least.


This may be understood as both, a recommendation ("quantity award") and a warning ("quantity is likely to distract") for those who seek a teacher. It may attract those who are inclined towards "association" and put off those those who are inclinced towards solitude.


Kind regards



This here,,,barn door. That over there, point I was making...both appear unscathed.
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Re: Is a Teacher required to practice meditation?

Postby octathlon » Wed Oct 12, 2011 10:28 pm

There were several posts directed to me earlier, and I have just been too tired to write out responses. But I just want to let those people know, I did read them closely and I appreciate the advice, thanks!
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