Is classical Theravada mostly proven false by Nagarjuna?

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Re: Is classical Theravada mostly proven false by Nagarjuna?

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings Caodemarte,
Caodemarte wrote: Thu Dec 05, 2019 10:07 pm Nagarjuna does not argue for the non-existence of the world, or that nothing is real. In fact, he criticizes this view.
I have heard it said that Nagarjuna's works are effectively a commentary, or extension upon SN 12.15: Kaccayanagotta Sutta - do you know if that is so?

If it is, then I can understand why misconceptions would arise, as this sutta is routinely misrepresented even within this tradition by those attached to the "polarity" of "existence & non-existence".

Metta,
Paul. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

"Overcome the liar by truth." (Dhp 223)
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Re: Is classical Theravada mostly proven false by Nagarjuna?

Post by zan »

Purportedly from a classical perspective this was never an issue. According to these authors Nagarjuna didn't rely on valid axioms and disproved nothing for Theravada:

Did Nāgārjuna Really Refute All Philosophical Views?
By Richard H. Robinson

Nagarjuna: Master of Paradox, Mystic or
Perpetrator of Fallacies?
By Richard P. Hayes

So, no, classical Theravada is not proven mostly false by Nagarjuna. It is not proven any amount false.

What a relief.

Is he still a revolutionary thinker for Mahayana? I believe so and I do not think any less of his work. This is solely from the orthodox Theravada perspective, to which it, according to the above authors, does not apply.

Thanks to everyone for the helpful and thoughtful answers. The Buddhist journey would be much less rich without this community. I am truly grateful for you all!
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Re: Is classical Theravada mostly proven false by Nagarjuna?

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings zan,
zan wrote: Thu Dec 05, 2019 10:35 pm So, no, classical Theravada is not proven mostly false by Nagarjuna. It is not proven any amount false.
You seem very concerned with "proving" something right or wrong. Unfortunately, Nagarjuna and Classic Theravada "talk past each other" to a significant degree, so I doubt you'll see much "proved" either way... unless of course that's what you want to see.
zan wrote: Thu Dec 05, 2019 10:35 pm What a relief.
Attachment to view.

All the best.

Metta,
Paul. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

"Overcome the liar by truth." (Dhp 223)
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Re: Is classical Theravada mostly proven false by Nagarjuna?

Post by zan »

retrofuturist wrote: Thu Dec 05, 2019 10:42 pm Greetings zan,
zan wrote: Thu Dec 05, 2019 10:35 pm So, no, classical Theravada is not proven mostly false by Nagarjuna. It is not proven any amount false.
You seem very concerned with "proving" something right or wrong. Unfortunately, Nagarjuna and Classic Theravada "talk past each other" to a significant degree, so I doubt you'll see much "proved"... unless of course that's what you want to see.
zan wrote: Thu Dec 05, 2019 10:35 pm What a relief.
Attachment to view.

All the best.

Metta,
Paul. :)
Ok thanks. If we look at this from a secular, academic perspective, leaving aside my attachment to views (relevant to us as Buddhists, but less so to secular academia), Robinson and Hayes demonstrated the invalidity of Nagarjuna's arguments, particularly in relation to abhidharma, thus proving that Nagarjuna could not be said to have disproven the abhidharma.

So that much is reasonable and I think a good conclusion that favors the classical Theravada view.

That said, returning to our non secular world, I'll eradicate all of my views and get back to you ;).
I am just a learner. Keep that in mind when you read my words.

Just to be safe, assume all of my words could be incorrect. Look to an arahant for total accuracy and confirmation.
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Re: Is classical Theravada mostly proven false by Nagarjuna?

Post by Caodemarte »

retrofuturist wrote: Thu Dec 05, 2019 10:18 pm Greetings Caodemarte,
Caodemarte wrote: Thu Dec 05, 2019 10:07 pm Nagarjuna does not argue for the non-existence of the world, or that nothing is real. In fact, he criticizes this view.
I have heard it said that Nagarjuna's works are effectively a commentary, or extension upon SN 12.15: Kaccayanagotta Sutta - do you know if that is so?

If it is, then I can understand why misconceptions would arise, as this sutta is routinely misrepresented even within this tradition by those attached to the "polarity" of "existence & non-existence".

Metta,
Paul. :)
It is not false as Nagarjuna's works are effectively a commentary or explanation of the ramifications of fundamental Buddhism as exemplified in the suttas, like the Kaccayanagotta. Both Kalupahana and Murthi cite numerous sutta passages to make this clear. So not only is there no inevitable conflict with Theravada (Nagarjuna would never of heard of Theravada by the way). Far from seeing a conflict, Kalupahana goes so far to say Nagarjuna's ideas are Theravada's ideas and that in this sense Nagarjuna is a Theravadist (Kalupahana was more than a bit of a Theravada triumphalist).
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Re: Is classical Theravada mostly proven false by Nagarjuna?

Post by DooDoot »

Caodemarte wrote: Thu Dec 05, 2019 11:22 pm Both Kalupahana and Murthi cite numerous sutta passages to make this clear.
You keep posting the above but do not post the above arguments of Kalupahana and Murthi for critique.
zan wrote: Thu Dec 05, 2019 11:02 pm Robinson and Hayes demonstrated the invalidity of Nagarjuna's arguments, particularly in relation to abhidharma, thus proving that Nagarjuna could not be said to have disproven the abhidharma.
Nagarjuna's arguments appear to rely on a very fertile imagination; such as claiming the paramattha dhammas & sabhava do not exist because they are made up of smaller conditions. This is merely imagination rather than something real.
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Re: Is classical Theravada mostly proven false by Nagarjuna?

Post by mikenz66 »

See also the discussion on this thread:
viewtopic.php?f=13&t=35846&p=537354#p537354

:heart:
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Re: Is classical Theravada mostly proven false by Nagarjuna?

Post by zan »

robertk wrote: Thu Dec 05, 2019 4:37 am ..... (earlier post) .....
Thanks!
Last edited by retrofuturist on Sat Dec 07, 2019 8:03 am, edited 2 times in total.
Reason: Verbatim quote of long post removed
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Re: Is classical Theravada mostly proven false by Nagarjuna?

Post by Friendofsthaviravada »

Dear Friend,

Maybe one way to enter -or at least have a peak through- the door opened by Nāgārjuna and his Madhyamika followers (and in accordance, I believe, with all Buddhist families) is SN 12.15 (Kaccayanagotta Sutta) on Right View.

“By and large, Kaccayana, this world takes as its object a polarity, that of existence and non-existence. But when one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one”.

At my –mundane- level of understanding, I do not see Nāgārjuna, through his often challenging investigations, presenting Saṃsāra or Nirvāṇa as “existing”, “not-existing” or “being the same” and so forth. Rather, he kindly and very methodically “adjust” our Right View in a mode that can discern Saṃsāra, Nirvāṇa (or else) beyond being words, concepts or theories. Saṃsāra as a word, concept or theory has no independent existence, Nirvāṇa as a word, concept or theory has no independent existence. Ok, at least to me, that is truly challenging.

By refuting the extremes of “existence”,“non-existence”, both or none of them, Nāgārjuna therefore uses emptiness and impermanence (inconsistence) as tools to unlock the fetters of co-dependent origination. At least, that is the hypothesis I would like to further explore.

What do you think?
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Re: Is classical Theravada mostly proven false by Nagarjuna?

Post by DooDoot »

Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sat Dec 07, 2019 8:28 pm ...existence and non-existence.
The Pali for the above words is atthita and natthita. What exactly are these two words referring to? Thanks. I doubt a discussion of the Kaccayanagotta Sutta can occur without explaining these two words.
Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sat Dec 07, 2019 8:28 pm But when one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one”.
How does seeing the origination of the world exclusively negate 'non-existence'? How does seeing the cessation of the world exclusively negate 'existence'? Thanks
Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sat Dec 07, 2019 8:28 pmRather, he kindly and very methodically “adjust” our Right View in a mode that can discern Saṃsāra, Nirvāṇa (or else) beyond being words, concepts or theories.
But the Buddha never taught words, concepts or theories were the cause of suffering. The Buddha said ignorance if specific laws & realities and craving were the causes of suffering.
Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sat Dec 07, 2019 8:28 pmNirvāṇa as a word, concept or theory has no independent existence.
Nirvana is peace. Nirvana is not a word.
Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sat Dec 07, 2019 8:28 pmBy refuting the extremes of “existence”,“non-existence”, both or none of them
SN 12.15 obviously refutes both of them them rather than none of them. It appears both you and Nagarjuna are equating "arising" with "existence" and "cessation" with "non-existence.
Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sat Dec 07, 2019 8:28 pm Nāgārjuna therefore uses emptiness and impermanence (inconsistence)
The Buddha used impermanence to explain emptiness (anatta).
Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sat Dec 07, 2019 8:28 pmto as tools to unlock the fetters of co-dependent origination.
Nagarjuna appears to equate "co-dependent origination" with "emptiness". Since emptiness is freedom and dependent origination is fetters, how can "co-dependent origination" represent "emptiness"?
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Re: Is classical Theravada mostly proven false by Nagarjuna?

Post by salayatananirodha »

i support nagarjuna
16. 'In what has the world originated?' — so said the Yakkha Hemavata, — 'with what is the world intimate? by what is the world afflicted, after having grasped at what?' (167)

17. 'In six the world has originated, O Hemavata,' — so said Bhagavat, — 'with six it is intimate, by six the world is afflicted, after having grasped at six.' (168)

- Hemavatasutta


links:
https://www.ancient-buddhist-texts.net/index.htm
http://thaiforestwisdom.org/canonical-texts/
http://seeingthroughthenet.net/wp-conte ... _Heart.pdf
https://www.dhammatalks.org/index.html
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Re: Is classical Theravada mostly proven false by Nagarjuna?

Post by Friendofsthaviravada »

Dear Friend,

I am touched that you took time to read my post and even more that you come back with clarifications and questions. Thank you for that.

Below some more as to further explore our views on the topic.

But maybe first I should try and answer the original question this way : No, as far as I understand his investigations, classical Theravada is NOT proven false by Nāgārjuna. He does not “prove” anything being “correct” or “false”. He indicates to us that if we methodologically investigate deep enough, then all phenomena, all words and all concepts lack an intrinsic self or independent existence. Including suffering. In this way, he helps us train our Right View.

And one more: emptiness (Śūnyatā, suññatā) does not mean oblivion or nihilism or nothingness at all. It seems to me that emptiness means that Saṃsāra and Nirvāṇa do not have (cannot have) a separate existence. If you look deep into Saṃsāra – with the right view, right resolve, right conduct and so forth-, then you can touch Nirvāṇa. When you touch Nirvāṇa, you do not leave Saṃsāra because they are never separate.
DooDoot wrote: Sat Dec 07, 2019 9:42 pm
Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sat Dec 07, 2019 8:28 pm ...existence and non-existence.
The Pali for the above words is atthita and natthita. What exactly are these two words referring to? Thanks. I doubt a discussion of the Kaccayanagotta Sutta can occur without explaining these two words.

Absolutely. As you know much better than me, atthita is the word defining “existence”, but in the abstract, in an absolute way. Natthita is then its contrary, non-existence in an absolute way. One element the Buddha kindly teaches us within the Kaccayanagotta Sutta is how we can refute both atthita (leading to eternalism) and natthita (leading to nihilism).
Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sat Dec 07, 2019 8:28 pm But when one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one”.
How does seeing the origination of the world exclusively negate 'non-existence'? How does seeing the cessation of the world exclusively negate 'existence'? Thanks

Here, I think we should understand the word “world” not in his ordinary sense (a place in which we move and interact with other beings) but in its meaning related to the six senses. Like in “—ardent, alert, & having sati —subduing greed & distress with reference to the world” (SN 48:10). Meaning subduing greed and distress with reference to the six senses. In this context, atthita- when apprehended with right discernment and with reference to the six senses, does not occur. Nor does natthita.
Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sat Dec 07, 2019 8:28 pmRather, he kindly and very methodically “adjust” our Right View in a mode that can discern Saṃsāra, Nirvāṇa (or else) beyond being words, concepts or theories.
But the Buddha never taught words, concepts or theories were the cause of suffering. The Buddha said ignorance if specific laws & realities and craving were the causes of suffering.

And I cannot be more in agreement with you! Indeed, the Buddha teaches us all the time, with infinite patience, that the origin of suffering is ignorance (avijjā, avidyā). And we know that ignorance is the “root” of the twelve-fold chain (dvādasanidānāni, pratītyasamutpāda).

The question is: ignorance of what ? To stay in line with what was discussed above, let’s propose “ignorance of the true nature of the world”. Meaning, to me at least, ignorance of the lack of inherent, “true” nature of the world (and the representation of said world conveyed by our six senses). By removing the extremes of both atthita and natthita as truly existent, we can cut suffering at its root, by knowing the inherent empty nature of all phenomena, including suffering. The empty nature of suffering being understood as suffering being fabricated by “non-suffering” elements.
Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sat Dec 07, 2019 8:28 pmNirvāṇa as a word, concept or theory has no independent existence.
Nirvana is peace. Nirvana is not a word.

And, again, I cannot more agree with you. Nirvāṇa is not a word, and that’s exactly what Nāgārjuna tells us. You can call Nirvāṇa “peace”, and that is perfectly fine, truly. Others would call it “dharmadhātu”, or “luminous primordial wisdom”, or whatever you want. It is not important. Nirvāṇa is beyond, Nirvāṇa is on the other shore. And if Nirvāṇa is, then Saṃsāra is too. They are not separated.
Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sat Dec 07, 2019 8:28 pmBy refuting the extremes of “existence”,“non-existence”, both or none of them
SN 12.15 obviously refutes both of them them rather than none of them. It appears both you and Nagarjuna are equating "arising" with "existence" and "cessation" with "non-existence.

Mmmmh, not exactly. And please, I am not in Nāgārjuna’s league but thank you for the comparison. I truly understand atthita in its “absolute” sense. Not like bhava as “becoming”. So no, neither Nāgārjuna, nor me -at a much much lower level-, would ever equate “arising” with “existence” or “cessation” with “non-existence”. Not at all. I can elaborate on that if requested.
Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sat Dec 07, 2019 8:28 pm Nāgārjuna therefore uses emptiness and impermanence (inconsistence)
The Buddha used impermanence to explain emptiness (anatta).

I fully agree, sorry if my writing was not clear.
Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sat Dec 07, 2019 8:28 pmto as tools to unlock the fetters of co-dependent origination.
Nagarjuna appears to equate "co-dependent origination" with "emptiness". Since emptiness is freedom and dependent origination is fetters, how can "co-dependent origination" represent "emptiness"?
You like equations and definitions, don’t you ? I am the same… In my understanding, Nāgārjuna does NOT equate "co-dependent origination" with "emptiness". Never does he, as far as I can tell. I am certainly not, by far, an exegete of Nāgārjuna but I never read such an equation written by him. Emptiness is rather used as a tool, like a shovel, or a saw, or a scalpel. The function of this “emptiness tool” is to help us discern -almost dissect- “co-dependent origination” with the (right) view. And that allows us to cut ignorance at its root.

In conclusion, I very strongly believe that you can be an ardent Theravada (or any other Buddhist family) practitioner and still find great support in reading Nāgārjuna if you take the time to go beyond the superficial and habitual “a priori”. Look, it is very easy to see that Theravada is not my first practice. Nevertheless, and more and more (“way to much” would some of my family members say), I read the Pali canon (and its good translations) because it gives explanations, or another “lightning” on many difficulties I encounter to understand the Dharma or Dhamma if you prefer. I believe the same can be true in the other way.

Have a good day!
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Re: Is classical Theravada mostly proven false by Nagarjuna?

Post by DooDoot »

Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sun Dec 08, 2019 10:50 am And one more: emptiness (Śūnyatā, suññatā) does not mean oblivion or nihilism or nothingness at all.
The Buddha explained to us what he meant by suññatā. The above appears to infer above we have not read the suttas and we do not place our trust in the Buddha. The Buddha said suññatā means "empty of self & anything related to/pertaining to/belonging to self".
Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sun Dec 08, 2019 10:50 amIt seems to me that emptiness means that Saṃsāra and Nirvāṇa do not have (cannot have) a separate existence.
The above words do not sound convincing at all.
Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sun Dec 08, 2019 10:50 amIf you look deep into Saṃsāra – with the right view, right resolve, right conduct and so forth-,
The above does not make sense to me because when the mind looks deeply into samsara, I imagine the samsara will cease due to the deep clear seeing. It is similar to feeling one's hand touching a fire. When the fire is touched, the reflex action of the mind removes the hand from the fire. Similarly, when Samsara is truly seen, it is abandoned.
Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sun Dec 08, 2019 10:50 am then you can touch Nirvāṇa.
No. The mind experiences Nibbana when Samsara ceases; just as coolness is felt after a fire is extinguished. Obviously, both the heat of fire & the coolness of extinguishment cannot be experienced at the same time.
Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sun Dec 08, 2019 10:50 amWhen you touch Nirvāṇa, you do not leave Saṃsāra because they are never separate.
They are separate, just as heat & cold are separate. Time for bed, here. :zzz:
Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sun Dec 08, 2019 10:50 amAbsolutely. As you know much better than me, atthita is the word defining “existence”, but in the abstract, in an absolute way. Natthita is then its contrary, non-existence in an absolute way.
Actually, I don't understand what is meant by "natthita". I have made many guesses about this but it remains uncertain.
Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sun Dec 08, 2019 10:50 am One element the Buddha kindly teaches us within the Kaccayanagotta Sutta is how we can refute both atthita (leading to eternalism) and natthita (leading to nihilism).
Sorry but question about "natthita" has not been answered conclusively thus, imo, it is premature to move forward.
Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sun Dec 08, 2019 10:50 amHere, I think we should understand the word “world” not in his ordinary sense (a place in which we move and interact with other beings) but in its meaning related to the six senses. Like in “—ardent, alert, & having sati —subduing greed & distress with reference to the world” (SN 48:10).
The word "world" is used in many ways in the suttas. Since SN 12.15 is about D.O., the word "world" probably has the same meaning as in SN 12.44.

Lets chat more tomorrow. 10:15 pm here. Kind regards :hello: :zzz:
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Re: Is classical Theravada mostly proven false by Nagarjuna?

Post by dylanj »

He never says samsara & nibbana are the same, he says they lack differentiation.

The text as a whole refutes the views of both identity & differentiation.
Born, become, arisen – made, prepared, short-lived
Bonded by decay and death – a nest for sickness, perishable
Produced by seeking nutriment – not fit to take delight in


Departure from this is peaceful – beyond reasoning and enduring
Unborn, unarisen – free from sorrow and stain
Ceasing of all factors of suffering – stilling of all preparations is bliss
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Re: Is classical Theravada mostly proven false by Nagarjuna?

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Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sun Dec 08, 2019 10:50 amThe question is: ignorance of what ? To stay in line with what was discussed above, let’s propose “ignorance of the true nature of the world”.
But the Pali suttas already define "ignorance" therefore why must a new definition be offered?
Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sun Dec 08, 2019 10:50 amMeaning, to me at least, ignorance of the lack of inherent, “true” nature of the world (and the representation of said world conveyed by our six senses).
The above appears to be mere intellectualism because there is nothing inherently ignorant about what is experienced by the six senses.

Also, the world has a true nature. Its true nature is impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, notself & emptiness. Refer to SN 35.82.
Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sun Dec 08, 2019 10:50 amBy removing the extremes of both atthita and natthita as truly existent, we can cut suffering at its root, by knowing the inherent empty nature of all phenomena, including suffering.
The above says nothing. The root of suffering, as explained by the Buddha, is "delight" ("nandi"). Removing the extremes of both atthita and natthita may not actually end delight. To end delight, it must be seen conditioned phenomena cannot bring lasting happiness. In addition, the happiness of jhana is helpful.
Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sun Dec 08, 2019 10:50 am The empty nature of suffering being understood as suffering being fabricated by “non-suffering” elements.
More intellectualism. The above appears unrelated to meditative insight.

Also, suffering is not fabricated by “non-suffering” elements. Suffering is fabricated by the "fires" of greed, hatred & delusion. This "blast-furnace" must be experienced so the mind via insight disinclines towards greed, hatred & delusion.
Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sun Dec 08, 2019 10:50 amIn conclusion, I very strongly believe that you can be an ardent Theravada (or any other Buddhist family) practitioner and still find great support in reading Nāgārjuna
Disagree. I just stopped browsing Kalupahana's book. Its a waste of time.
Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sun Dec 08, 2019 10:50 am if you take the time to go beyond the superficial and habitual “a priori”.
Nagarjuna is superficial; rather than the Buddha-Dhamma.
Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sun Dec 08, 2019 10:50 amLook, it is very easy to see that Theravada is not my first practice.
Its easy to see what is written has no relationship to real meditation practice.
Friendofsthaviravada wrote: Sun Dec 08, 2019 10:50 am Nevertheless, and more and more (“way to much” would some of my family members say), I read the Pali canon (and its good translations) because it gives explanations, or another “lightning” on many difficulties I encounter to understand the Dharma or Dhamma if you prefer. I believe the same can be true in the other way.
The Buddha taught everything necessary in a succinct form. Nagarjuna misconstrued "sabhava" (similar to lies about WMDs) and then attempted a war against nothing. In summary, your rationale appears to be what the Buddha taught is incomplete. :smile:
Last edited by DooDoot on Mon Dec 09, 2019 9:32 am, edited 5 times in total.
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