Suffering as a gateway to the truth

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Nicolas
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Re: Suffering as a gateway to the truth

Post by Nicolas » Thu Aug 15, 2019 1:38 pm

"Truth" is not the ultimate goal. Some truths are not worth pursuing, because they don't lead to liberation (cf. Siṃsapa Sutta). Even a liberating truth isn't the ultimate goal, it's the means to an end. Liberation is what's essential, the heartwood, because dukkha is the fundamental problem of existence. Beings are guided by the pleasure principle in a hardwired quasi-axiomatic way. As such, we unawakened ones are not indifferent to dukkha. Every "problem" one has can be reduced to dukkha. Whatever one wants, family, children, objects, power, fame, fullfilment, etc., all these have as root cause wanting sukha and not wanting dukkha.
Mahāsāropama Sutta (MN 29) wrote: So this holy life, bhikkhus, does not have gain, honour, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of virtue for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakeable deliverance of mind that is the goal of this holy life, its heartwood, and its end.

chownah
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Re: Suffering as a gateway to the truth

Post by chownah » Thu Aug 15, 2019 1:47 pm

Maybe some kind of "higher truth" can be found here:
SN 35.75 PTS: S iv 47 CDB ii 1159
Gilana Sutta: Ill (2)
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
"I understand that the Blessed One has not taught the Dhamma with purity of virtue as its goal."

"If you understand that I have not taught the Dhamma with purity of virtue as its goal, then for what goal do you understand that I have taught the Dhamma?"

"I understand that the Blessed One has taught the Dhamma with total Unbinding through lack of clinging as its goal."

"Good, good, monk. It's good that you understand that I have taught the Dhamma with total Unbinding through lack of clinging as its goal, for I have taught the Dhamma with total Unbinding through lack of clinging as its goal.

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Bundokji
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Re: Suffering as a gateway to the truth

Post by Bundokji » Thu Aug 15, 2019 3:29 pm

Thus have I heard. At one time the Blessed One was dwelling at Bārāṇasī in the Deer Park at Isipatana. There the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus of the group of five thus: "Bhikkhus, these two extremes should not be followed by one gone forth (into the homeless life). What two? That which is this pursuit of sensual happiness in sense pleasures, which is low, vulgar, the way of the ordinary person, ignoble, not connected to the goal; and that which is this pursuit of self-mortification, which is painful, ignoble, not connected to the goal. Bhikkhus, without veering towards either of these two extremes, the One Attuned to Reality has awakened to the middle way, which gives rise to vision, which gives rise to knowledge, which leads to peace, to higher knowledge, to full awakening, to Nibbāna.
"(Likewise,) in me, bhikkhus, in regard to things unheard before, there arose vision, knowledge, wisdom, true knowledge and light, with respect to: 'This, for the spiritually ennobled ones, is the true reality which is the way leading to the cessation of pain,' 'This — for the spiritually ennobled ones, the true reality which is the way leading to the cessation of pain — is to be developed,' and 'This — for the spiritually ennobled ones, the true reality which is way leading to the cessation of pain — has been developed.'
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

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Nicolas
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Re: Suffering as a gateway to the truth

Post by Nicolas » Thu Aug 15, 2019 3:37 pm

Nibbāna is the supreme goal. It so happens that higher knowledge is necessary for attaining Nibbana, but knowledge is not the goal, not an end in itself. Knowledge is knowledge, what the knowledge yields is what matters.

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Bundokji
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Re: Suffering as a gateway to the truth

Post by Bundokji » Thu Aug 15, 2019 3:45 pm

Nicolas wrote:
Thu Aug 15, 2019 1:38 pm
"Truth" is not the ultimate goal. Some truths are not worth pursuing, because they don't lead to liberation (cf. Siṃsapa Sutta). Even a liberating truth isn't the ultimate goal, it's the means to an end. Liberation is what's essential, the heartwood, because dukkha is the fundamental problem of existence. Beings are guided by the pleasure principle in a hardwired quasi-axiomatic way. As such, we unawakened ones are not indifferent to dukkha. Every "problem" one has can be reduced to dukkha. Whatever one wants, family, children, objects, power, fame, fullfilment, etc., all these have as root cause wanting sukha and not wanting dukkha.
Mahāsāropama Sutta (MN 29) wrote: So this holy life, bhikkhus, does not have gain, honour, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of virtue for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakeable deliverance of mind that is the goal of this holy life, its heartwood, and its end.
Thanks Nicholas :anjali:

The word truth can mean different things depending on the context, but in general, it is not easy to ignore that whatever causes distortion to the truth is what the Buddha happen to describe as "suffering".

Take attachment to views as an example, where people go into lengths to twist things against evidence. The via negativa approach of investigation seem to encourage us to pay attention to where things might have been overlooked.

Paying attention to the uncertainty of dependently originated knowledge is the way forward to reach certainty and true knowledge: Nibbana

I find the following Dhamma talk by Ajahn Chah relevant:

''Not Sure!'' - The Standard of the Noble Ones


https://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Not_Sure_Standard.php
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

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Bundokji
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Re: Suffering as a gateway to the truth

Post by Bundokji » Thu Aug 15, 2019 3:52 pm

Therefore they teach about the five powers (bala): saddhā,viriya, sati, samādhi, paññā. Saddhā is conviction; viriya is diligent effort; sati is recollection; samādhi is fixedness of mind; paññā is all-embracing knowledge. Don't say that paññā is simply knowledge - paññā is all-embracing, consummate knowledge.
Actually the real Dhamma, the gist of what I have been saying today, isn't so mysterious. Whatever you experience is simply form, simply feeling, simply perception, simply volition, and simply consciousness. There are only these basic qualities, where is there any certainty within them?

If we come to understand the true nature of things like this, lust, infatuation and attachment fade away. Why do they fade away? Because we understand, we know. We shift from ignorance to understanding. Understanding is born from ignorance, knowing is born from unknowing, purity is born from defilement. It works like this.


Ajahn Chah
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Suffering as a gateway to the truth

Post by Sam Vara » Thu Aug 15, 2019 5:09 pm

Bundokji wrote:
Thu Aug 15, 2019 3:29 pm
Thus have I heard. At one time the Blessed One was dwelling at Bārāṇasī in the Deer Park at Isipatana. There the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus of the group of five thus: "Bhikkhus, these two extremes should not be followed by one gone forth (into the homeless life). What two? That which is this pursuit of sensual happiness in sense pleasures, which is low, vulgar, the way of the ordinary person, ignoble, not connected to the goal; and that which is this pursuit of self-mortification, which is painful, ignoble, not connected to the goal. Bhikkhus, without veering towards either of these two extremes, the One Attuned to Reality has awakened to the middle way, which gives rise to vision, which gives rise to knowledge, which leads to peace, to higher knowledge, to full awakening, to Nibbāna.
"(Likewise,) in me, bhikkhus, in regard to things unheard before, there arose vision, knowledge, wisdom, true knowledge and light, with respect to: 'This, for the spiritually ennobled ones, is the true reality which is the way leading to the cessation of pain,' 'This — for the spiritually ennobled ones, the true reality which is the way leading to the cessation of pain — is to be developed,' and 'This — for the spiritually ennobled ones, the true reality which is way leading to the cessation of pain — has been developed.'
The question of the relationship between liberation and gnosis is an interesting one, as well as how this plays out in terms of our practice. Gombrich makes the point (in What the Buddha Thought) that there were two parallel approaches to soteriology at the time of the Buddha. The Upanisadic approach was predominantly gnostic, emphasising that our problem is one of failure to understand; and what became the Jain approach emphasised our wayward emotions and lack of control, which led to attachment. Acknowledging the potential for over-simplification here, he calls these two approaches the "intellectual" and the "emotionalist".
...'it was the Buddha who found the perfect combination of the two approaches. You cannot see things straight because you are blinded by passion, and you allow your emotions to control you because you do not see things as they are. If one wanted to argue with this, it is not easy to see how one would begin - though of course many have tried."
This is quite a subtle point which works on many levels, and Gombrich goes on to make the point that it is Buddhism's appeal to both the emotional and the intellectual traditions which has contributed to its survival.

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Re: Suffering as a gateway to the truth

Post by Bundokji » Thu Aug 15, 2019 5:40 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Thu Aug 15, 2019 5:09 pm
The question of the relationship between liberation and gnosis is an interesting one, as well as how this plays out in terms of our practice. Gombrich makes the point (in What the Buddha Thought) that there were two parallel approaches to soteriology at the time of the Buddha. The Upanisadic approach was predominantly gnostic, emphasising that our problem is one of failure to understand; and what became the Jain approach emphasised our wayward emotions and lack of control, which led to attachment. Acknowledging the potential for over-simplification here, he calls these two approaches the "intellectual" and the "emotionalist".
...'it was the Buddha who found the perfect combination of the two approaches. You cannot see things straight because you are blinded by passion, and you allow your emotions to control you because you do not see things as they are. If one wanted to argue with this, it is not easy to see how one would begin - though of course many have tried."
This is quite a subtle point which works on many levels, and Gombrich goes on to make the point that it is Buddhism's appeal to both the emotional and the intellectual traditions which has contributed to its survival.
Indeed, which might have manifested itself as different emphasis among different schools of Buddhism: Theravadins emphasizing wisdom and Mahaynists emphasizing compassion.

The middle way implies avoiding excesses, and reducing phenomena to "suffering" is intuitively excessive as it does not correspond with our simple daily observations. The question as to why the Buddha chose "suffering" as a gateway to his truth might improve our understanding of the first noble truth.

In my opinion, acknowledging that it is not all that bad improve our understand of where the problem lies. If everything related to our existence is "literally" suffering, revealing the deception (or understanding what suffering really means) would be much easier. More often than not, our reliance on dependently originated phenomena served its relative purpose which ensured its self continuity.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

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SDC
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Re: Suffering as a gateway to the truth

Post by SDC » Thu Aug 15, 2019 5:59 pm

Bundokji wrote:
Thu Aug 15, 2019 4:54 am
I am not sure if the nature of purpose is abandoned in the case of the Arahant because they are still capable of using intention. My interpretation is that assuming a purpose at the macro level can be the result of the fallacy of composition where it is assumed that what is applicable at the level of individual action (purpose) is true for the whole (life which is the sum of individual actions) and which has to do with our sense of self continuity.
I think it depends on what the individual assumes that macro/general purpose to be. I'm going to be so bold as to say that unless that general purpose is complete freedom from suffering, the person is allowing for the continuity of their ignorance. By refusing to pursue their situation as far as they must in order be free from suffering, a person does not accept responsibility for what they do not know and has no hope of not being bound to some purpose which is "for me". And with that, there remains, not a unity of intentionality on a macro/general level, but a diversity, where dependent on circumstances and determined by intention, a person will be taken by desire-and-lust in regards to the five aggregates in any number of ways. In other words, it would be impossible for the teleological framework to be completely understood - without knowing the nature of the most principle purpose, it can never be overcome.

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Re: Suffering as a gateway to the truth

Post by Bundokji » Thu Aug 15, 2019 7:56 pm

SDC wrote:
Thu Aug 15, 2019 5:59 pm
I think it depends on what the individual assumes that macro/general purpose to be. I'm going to be so bold as to say that unless that general purpose is complete freedom from suffering, the person is allowing for the continuity of their ignorance. By refusing to pursue their situation as far as they must in order be free from suffering, a person does not accept responsibility for what they do not know and has no hope of not being bound to some purpose which is "for me". And with that, there remains, not a unity of intentionality on a macro/general level, but a diversity, where dependent on circumstances and determined by intention, a person will be taken by desire-and-lust in regards to the five aggregates in any number of ways. In other words, it would be impossible for the teleological framework to be completely understood - without knowing the nature of the most principle purpose, it can never be overcome.
Your input might provide an explanation as to why the Buddha reduced things to suffering. The act of reduction serves as the general purpose you talked about often presented as "the desire to eliminate all desires", but such approach (or act of unification) does not come about without problems of its own:

1- By stating a purpose (the end of suffering)
2- By providing rational justifications through an argument focusing on reliability

What old age, sickness and death have in common is a reminder of the ultimate unreliability of conditioned phenomena. Purpose is necessary for justification, and justification implies reliability, and reliability implies persistence and persistence implies existence.

Following the above logic, one can have sympathy with why we cling/put much faith in our existence, because it appears to be the most persisting of all phenomena (and therefore the most reliable). I think this is why the teachings focused on self view rather than purpose as the root cause. Seeing it as the most persisting, and therefore the most certain reveals its relationship to ignorance. From that perspective, liberation would be attaining a more reliable knowledge than existence itself, even if this knowledge constitutes reaching a certainty about ultimate unreliability or existence, which in turn makes it unjustifiable and without a purpose.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

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SDC
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Re: Suffering as a gateway to the truth

Post by SDC » Thu Aug 15, 2019 10:22 pm

Bundokji wrote:
Thu Aug 15, 2019 7:56 pm
Your input might provide an explanation as to why the Buddha reduced things to suffering. The act of reduction serves as the general purpose you talked about often presented as "the desire to eliminate all desires", but such approach (or act of unification) does not come about without problems of its own:

1- By stating a purpose (the end of suffering)
2- By providing rational justifications through an argument focusing on reliability

What old age, sickness and death have in common is a reminder of the ultimate unreliability of conditioned phenomena. Purpose is necessary for justification, and justification implies reliability, and reliability implies persistence and persistence implies existence.
I think part of the problem is that until one brings an end to suffering, they don't really know what that implies or even what it actually means. Not only do they proceed on faith, but they also desire something that - while they don't understand it - they know that it must be unlike anything I could possibly know now.

Ven. N. Nyanamoli pointed out the below verse a few years ago and it really puts this in perspective:
SN 22.101 wrote:“When, bhikkhus, a carpenter or a carpenter’s apprentice looks at the handle of his adze, he sees the impressions of his fingers and his thumb, but he does not know: ‘So much of the adze handle has been worn away today, so much yesterday, so much earlier.’ But when it has worn away, the knowledge occurs to him that it has worn away.

“So too, bhikkhus, when a bhikkhu dwells devoted to development, even though no such knowledge occurs to him: ‘So much of my taints has been worn away today, so much yesterday, so much earlier,’ yet when they are worn away, the knowledge occurs to him that they have been worn away.
If you think about, it is as if you have a purpose, you don't actually know what it is precisely, nor do you know precisely when you will know. The carpenter above can see that he has worn away the handle, he can see that he has made progress, but there is still that unknown.
Bundokji wrote:
Thu Aug 15, 2019 7:56 pm
Following the above logic, one can have sympathy with why we cling/put much faith in our existence, because it appears to be the most persisting of all phenomena (and therefore the most reliable). I think this is why the teachings focused on self view rather than purpose as the root cause. Seeing it as the most persisting, and therefore the most certain reveals its relationship to ignorance. From that perspective, liberation would be attaining a more reliable knowledge than existence itself, even if this knowledge constitutes reaching a certainty about ultimate unreliability or existence, which in turn makes it unjustifiable and without a purpose.
I think I know exactly what you mean, and, to your earlier point - and especially at the outset - when the meaning of the state of arahant is juxtaposed to the meaning of "you", it presents a discrepancy that is almost unfathomable in scope. There you are trying to imagine your normal state becoming that of an arahant, but that does not seem to be what the Buddha described. The nature of the puthujjana, the nature of the five-holding-aggregates is a situation which is bound, not just to birth, sickness, death and suffering, but to the very notion that things are there "for me" (let alone the notion "I am " for a moment). The puthujjana cannot leave those grounds. Only when those grounds are left there, only when the possibility of "for me" is left there without the significance to signify "for me", can the puthujjana see that it was never the goal to become an ariya, but only to discern it. But since, as a puthujjana, the view was previously unavailable, there was no other alternative but to use the nature of desire to "burn the bridge on the way out".

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Re: Suffering as a gateway to the truth

Post by alfa » Fri Aug 16, 2019 1:28 am

SDC wrote:
Thu Aug 15, 2019 12:14 pm
alfa wrote:
Thu Aug 15, 2019 5:05 am
SDC wrote:
Thu Aug 15, 2019 2:24 am
If, Ānanda, they were to ask you: ‘Friend Ānanda...what are the things of which an arising is manifest, a ceasing is manifest, a persisting-while-changing is discerned?’—being asked thus, Ānanda, how would you answer?”
Can u explain the bolded part?
The phrase is ṭhitassa aññathattaṃ paññāyatī’ti and has been rendered several different ways over the years:

persisting-while-changing is manifest
change-while-standing...
alteration of that which stands...
change-while-persisting...
Invariance under transformation...

Think of your body for instance. It continues to be that same body in the sense that it is persisting through change. Persisting through growth, alteration. In different particular ways your body has changed, but what hasn't changed is that it is the fact that it stands for same thing until it breaks up. It is an enduring phenomenon, despite its particular alterations.

If you look at the sutta, all three of those states (arising, ceasing, persist-while-changing) share the nature to manifest, which could be interpreted as: the five aggregates have the nature to manifest as arising, manifest as ceasing and manifest as enduring.
Wouldn't this then point to something unchangeable behind them?

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Re: Suffering as a gateway to the truth

Post by SDC » Fri Aug 16, 2019 5:50 am

alfa wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 1:28 am
Wouldn't this then point to something unchangeable behind them?
I think when you say "unchangeable", it points to exactly to what is meant by "persist". Things have the nature to manifest; to arise, cease and endure in appearance, but just because that nature is consistent for that duration, does not imply something behind or beyond it. Why? Because no matter where a thing is assumed to be located, whether in, out, up, down, beyond, outside or hidden or wherever, it is subject to impermanence. No matter how far outside the scope it is assumed to be - if it has arisen, it will cease. Even from the position of that which determines, which would be what a thing depends on for meaning, even that is impermanent.

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Bundokji
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Re: Suffering as a gateway to the truth

Post by Bundokji » Fri Aug 16, 2019 2:15 pm

SDC wrote:
Thu Aug 15, 2019 10:22 pm
I think part of the problem is that until one brings an end to suffering, they don't really know what that implies or even what it actually means. Not only do they proceed on faith, but they also desire something that - while they don't understand it - they know that it must be unlike anything I could possibly know now.
I think I know exactly what you mean, and, to your earlier point - and especially at the outset - when the meaning of the state of arahant is juxtaposed to the meaning of "you", it presents a discrepancy that is almost unfathomable in scope. There you are trying to imagine your normal state becoming that of an arahant, but that does not seem to be what the Buddha described. The nature of the puthujjana, the nature of the five-holding-aggregates is a situation which is bound, not just to birth, sickness, death and suffering, but to the very notion that things are there "for me" (let alone the notion "I am " for a moment). The puthujjana cannot leave those grounds. Only when those grounds are left there, only when the possibility of "for me" is left there without the significance to signify "for me", can the puthujjana see that it was never the goal to become an ariya, but only to discern it. But since, as a puthujjana, the view was previously unavailable, there was no other alternative but to use the nature of desire to "burn the bridge on the way out".
I think the lack of certainty or clarity about what we are pursuing, or the nature of the goal, can be used to assess which approach or interpretation of the goal is more sensible. Considering the rarity of reaching the goal and the lack of consensus among Buddhist about almost everything, an honest approach would take: 1- Individual responsibility and 2- possible or even probable failure

If i am on my death bed and want to look back at my life: what interpretation of the goal would make me feel more satisfied even if i don't reach it (which is statistically the most likely scenario)? Which life is better spent, seeking knowledge or avoiding suffering ?(if we assume that its either this or that)

If all is there to live for is to seek eliminating suffering, then hedonism and suicide seem to me to be more effective and straightforward.

Whether its suffering or knowledge that we are seeking, having a unifying goal to pursue is beneficial considering the fluidity of the age we live in. Focusing on knowledge or certainty, however, encourage a learning attitude, and if one day we look back at what we have been doing, i imagine there would be less room for regret. A life spent in the pursuit of knowledge is worth living regardless if certainty is attained or not in my opinion. I am not sure if the same is applicable in the case of having "ending suffering" as a goal.

I remember encountering a story about some of Ajahn Chah's disciples losing faith when he got sick. Possibly, in their mind, they saw a man who dedicated his life to ending suffering and is unable to control his own defecation. One can't help but to raise questions about the cause of their disappointment if the story is true.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

chownah
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Re: Suffering as a gateway to the truth

Post by chownah » Fri Aug 16, 2019 3:11 pm

Bundokji wrote:
Fri Aug 16, 2019 2:15 pm
I remember encountering a story about some of Ajahn Chah's disciples losing faith when he got sick. Possibly, in their mind, they saw a man who dedicated his life to ending suffering and is unable to control his own defecation. One can't help but to raise questions about the cause of their disappointment if the story is true.
Accepting what you relate about chah on faith I ask the questions: Did chah suffer becaue of his inability to control his defecation? and Did chah lose faith when he got sick? Aren't the answers to these questions more meaningful than the reactions of some "disciples" (not knowing anything about them)? Lots of people are incontinent in old age....for alot of them it is just part of growing up....sometimes their family members suffer more from their negative reactions than the aged one who is wearing the diapers.
chownah

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