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Zen Koan #9: Parable of The Moon Cannot Be Stolen – Buddhist Teaching on Letting Go

Zen Koan #9: Parable of The Moon Cannot Be Stolen - Buddhist Teaching on Letting Go The ethical guidelines of the Zen Buddhist tradition invite us to live a life of doting commiseration through restraint and cultivation. We communicate with the world through our bodies, verbalization and minds, and so we are inspirited to explore the intentions and forces that guide our words, actions and pyretic conceptions, and culls, appreciating the puissance they hold to impact on our world in each moment.

The ethical guidelines, undertaken as a Zen Meditation practice, invite us to explore the inchoation of our actions, verbalization, and thought. Shakyamuni Buddha himself devoted forty-odd years to teaching and saving sentient beings. You may be a highly intelligent person who works very hard and has good karmic roots. The second line explains what prevents us. You may think that by putting down the method and relaxing for a while, you are re-charging your energy.

Is there an equivalent to the “Pope” in Buddhism? No mind, or Zen, is a state of non-arising and non-perishing. In working with difficulties—desire, anger, restlessness, doubt, fear which are the Zen traditional hindrances which arise in Zen Meditation—how can one work with them, how can one make one’s spiritual practice so that these become workable?

Zen Koan: “The Moon Cannot Be Stolen” Parable

Ryokan, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there was nothing to steal.

Ryokan returned and caught him. “You have come a long way to visit me,” he told the prowler, “and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift.”

The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away.

Ryoken sat naked, watching the moon. “Poor fellow,” he mused, “I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon.”

Buddhist Insight on Letting Go

The great majority of people today allow others to do their thinking for them. Your life would become a lot more alive and precious for you. Against such a misleading statement, one must enter an emphatic protest. Otherwise, there will be mutual cursing and other ramifications. More often than not, the infection is transmitted to progeny as well. Yet the rewards of letting go are infinitely more. The British meditation teacher Christina Feldman writes in The Buddhist Path to Simplicity,

We believe that it is difficult to let go but, in truth, it is much more difficult and painful to hold and protect. Reflect upon anything in your lives that you grasp hold of – an opinion, a historical resentment, an ambition, or an unfulfilled fantasy. Sense the tightness, fear, and defensiveness that surrounds the grasping. It is a painful, anxious experience of unhappiness. We do not let go in order to make ourselves impoverished or bereft. We let go in order to discover happiness and peace. As Krishnamurti once said, “There is a great happiness in not wanting, in not being something, in not going somewhere.”

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Holy Grail and Its Healing Properties

A handcolored etching of the Holy Grail, from a series of illustrations for Richard Wagner's opera Parsifal (1882).

Holy Grail is a mystical cup that was thought by Christians to have healing properties.

The Holy Grail is first mentioned in the Arthurian romance Perceval, Le Conte du Graaf (c. 1181) by Chretien de Troyes (1135–1183). The Grail itself is simply a beautifully decorated chalice, or cup, used to hold the Mass wafer, which Catholics receive as the literal, transubstantiated body of Christ. In the story, the wafer sustains the injured Fisher King, who lives by this bread alone. In its earliest conception, therefore, the Holy Grail is best thought of as a romantic medieval appropriation of the Eucharist, which brings health to those who partake of it.

The thirteenth-century poet Robert de Boron added to the Grail legend by describing it as the combination of the chalice Jesus used at the Last Supper and the blood of Jesus that Joseph of Arimathea saved during the crucifixion. In this way, Joseph of Arimathea became the first of the Grail guardians, and it was his task to keep the Grail safe until it could help in healing the faithful. In later Arthurian romances, the “Grail Quest” is undertaken by King Arthur’s knights as a means to help restore Camelot-the near paradisiacal kingdom on Earth—which is being torn apart by sin.

Sir Thomas Malory wrote of the Holy Grail in Le Marte d’Arthur (1485): “Then looked they and saw a man come out of the holy vessel …”

Although the Holy Grail has gradually become more than a simple metaphor for the Eucharist, it still retains the strong Christian notion that Jesus’s sacrifice makes possible redemption not only as the healing of moral brokenness (the forgiveness of sins) but also the healing of nonmoral brokenness (the restoration of broken bodies, dying lands, and so on). The legend of the Holy Grail depicts humanity’s quest for redemption, but also hints at what that redemption might look like.

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Get to Know the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ: Apostle #10: James the Younger

Get to Know the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ: Apostle #10: James the Younger

In all four inventories of the apostles, James, the son of Alpheus, is grouped with Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot. Academics conjecture that there was a common thread amongst these men prior to joining Jesus, and that perhaps they all once fit in to the rebellious religious faction known as the Zealots.

James the Younger is occasionally called “the Less” (Mark 15:40) though no noteworthy reason has been found for this, except for perhaps to differentiate him from “James the Elder” or “the Great.”

It is commonly thought that James was the brother of Matthew, because both were sons of Alpheus. Like his brother, James came from Capernaum in Galilee, on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. Here Jesus came to land early in his ministry, propagandizing in the native synagogues, private homes, and on the sandy shores of the sea. Crowds congregated throughout to listen, and perhaps James came to hear Jesus’ teachings in such a way. However it is believed that James contrasted ideologically with Matthew, both brothers were inspired by Jesus. Renouncing all else behind, together they set aside their disparities and followed him.

One story maintained in the Golden Legend relates that James so bore a resemblance to Jesus that it was difficult for those who did not know them well to tell the two apart. Perhaps there is a minor kernel of truth here. Might this be the motive that the kiss of Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane, according to Scripture, was needed? Perchance it was to make certain that Jesus and not the holy apostle James was detained.

In the Apostle James’ last days he earned the name the “Divine Seed” for he labored during the course of his life to sow the seeds of Jesus’ message. Thus he flourished in planting faith and benevolence in all who listened.

  • His symbol is the fuller’s club (used in blacksmithing) or a book.
  • Holy days: in the Eastern churches on October 9; in the West, the Book of Common Prayer joins him with Philip on May 1; and in the Roman Catholic Church, his holy day is May 3.
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Zen Koan #8: Parable of Great Waves – Buddhist Teaching on Mindfulness

Zen Koan #8: Parable of Great Waves - Buddhist Teaching on Mindfulness Zen Buddhism is usually characterized as a no dualistic Zen tradition. The truth can also be unwholesome—even though it’s truthful, it could be abusive towards somebody and done out of anger. Do not try to overcome the pain as if you had to burst through a barrier. The Buddha described observing the precepts as a gift: a gift both to yourself and to the people around you. You give protection to other people’s lives, their property, and their knowledge of the truth. Yes, the miseries of the retreat are quite real. In consummate totality, there is no sense of solitude.

You should see that there are no real differences between the various methods. Then we simply renew our commitment to stay open to others, aspiring to start fresh. When you attach to or reject anything, you are in a position of duality with that object. Otherwise, taking these two lines literally would imply that if one person becomes a Buddha, everyone else has to become a Buddha. However, if you are disposed to apperceive being a dunce, then take the time to climb the mountain. This is prevalent among neophytes.

Our path remains incomplete as long as this third treasure is omitted. When the mind is not making distinctions, there is no self, no other, no good, and no bad.

Zen Koan: “Great Waves” Parable

In the early days of the Meiji era there lived a well-known wrestler called O-nami, Great Waves.

O-nami was immensely strong and knew the art of wrestling. In his private bouts he defeated even his teacher, but in public he was so bashful that his own pupils threw him.

O-nami felt he should go to a Zen master for help. Hakuju, a wandering teacher, was stopping in a little temple nearby, so O-nami went to see him and told him of his trouble.

“Great Waves is your name,” the teacher advised, “so stay in this temple tonight. Imagine that you are those billows. You are no longer a wrestler who is afraid. You are those huge waves sweeping everything before them, swallowing all in their path. Do this and you will be the greatest wrestler in the land.”

The teacher retired. O-nami sat in meditation trying to imagine himself as waves. He thought of many different things. Then gradually he turned more and more to the feeling of the waves. As the night advanced the waves became larger and larger. They swept away the flowers in their vases. Even the Buddha in the shrine was inundated. Before dawn the temple was nothing but the ebb and flow of an immense sea.

In the morning the teacher found O-nami meditating, a faint smile on his face. He patted the wrestler’s shoulder. “Now nothing can disturb you,” he said. “You are those waves. You will sweep everything before you.”

The same day O-nami entered the wrestling contests and won. After that, no one in Japan was able to defeat him.

Buddhist Insight on The Difference Between Mindfulness and Concentration

This little thing in the breath has something to teach us. I didn’t know what an important practice it is and how beneficial it is in terms of purification. Those too are not freedom; they’re simply very groovy states of mind. When these men heard it, they were unable to camouflage the truth. That is the difference between mindfulness and concentration. What can truth or reality gain by all our practice? The American Theravada Buddhism monk and author Ajahn Sumedho writes in Teachings of a Buddhist Monk,

Some people do not know the difference between “mindfulness” and “concentration.” They concentrate on what they’re doing, thinking that is being mindful… We can concentrate on what we are doing, but if we are not mindful at the same time, with the ability to reflect on the moment, then if somebody interferes with our concentration, we may blow up, get carried away by anger at being frustrated. If we are mindful, we are aware of the tendency to first concentrate and then to feel anger when something interferes with that concentration. With mindfulness we can concentrate when it is appropriate to do so and not concentrate when it is appropriate not to do so.

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The Idea of Religious Tolerance is to Allow Religious Freedom

Sir Godfrey Kneller's portrait of John Locke, 1697.

No one should be denied equal rights on account of their religion. In A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689), John Locke wrote, “No man can be a Christian … without that faith which works … by love.”

The idea of religious tolerance is to allow religious freedom—in civil terms, to leave the adherents of a particular religion unmolested in private and in public. In a political sense, it means granting equal rights to individuals regardless of their religious beliefs.

Jn 1689, English philosopher and physician John Locke (1632-1704) advocated religious tolerance in his Epistola de Tolerantia (A Letter Concerning Toleration). He wrote the letter, addressed to an anonymous “Honoured Sir,” while in exile in Holland, which was a secular state that permitted religious differences. The recipient of Locke’s letter was his friend, the Dutch theologian Philipp van Limborch (1633-1712), who published it.

The objective of a modern Catholic community is the setting for John Locke’s political philosophy, and what was both a liberal and Protestant reaction to the political beliefs of the Restoration era. Having since 1666 been a disciple of the Parliamentary Whig leader Lord Ashley, later Earl of Shaftesbury, Locke was the scholarly bete noir of the Restoration Stuarts.

At that time, there were fears that Roman Catholicism might take over England. Locke was involved in helping draft the English Bill of Rights of 1689, but it did not go as far as he wanted regarding religious tolerance. The same year, Parliament passed the Toleration Act, which granted freedom of worship to Nonconformists, such as Baptists and Congregationalists, but not to Catholics and Unitarians. Locke suggested that religious tolerance might resolve the problems experienced by both government and religious leaders, and that there should be a separation between church and state.

John Locke held a studentship at Christ Church, Oxford, from 1652, but was evicted from Christ Church on Charles II’s unambiguous orders in 1684. He was previously in banishment in the Low Countries at that point, and did not set foot in England during James’ sovereignty, which began the next year. Locke convoyed the Princess Mary on her return to England, after her husband William, Prince of Orange, acquired the success of the Revolution there in 1689.

Locke’s letter caused a controversy among members of the Anglican High Church. Clergyman and writer Thomas Long thought that the letter was part of a Jesuit plot aimed at enabling the Catholic Church to achieve dominance by causing chaos. There followed a protracted published correspondence between Locke and clergyman and academic Jonas Proast (c.1640-1710), who asserted that the state had the right to use force to make dissenters reflect on the merits of Anglicanism. Locke’s ideas came to form the basis of modern views on the toleration of religious differences.

The important works that define John Locke’s philosophy were written while he was in exile: the Essay Concerning Human Understanding, the Two Treatises of Civil Government and the First Letter Concerning Toleration. None were printed until after the Revolution. As one, they collect Locke’s enduring trepidations: the nature of knowledge; entitlement to property; the legitimacy of government and its use of force; revolution; the nature of religious belief; liberty of opinion. With the benefit of hindsight, these works have also been taken as scholarly justifications for the Revolution and its jurisdictive settlement. That connection should not be overstated. For example, the English Toleration Act was in many respects a reward to Protestant nonconformists for the support they gave to the Revolution, and the honorable restraint they had shown when refusing to take advantage of James’ extra-Parliamentary declarations of indulgence.

  • John Locke’s Jurisdictional Argument: “Force, you allow, is improper to convert men to any religion. Toleration is but the removing that force.”
  • John Locke’s Anticompulsion Argument: “Whatever profession we make, to whatever outward worship we conform, if we are not fully satisfied in our own mind that the one is true, and the other well-pleasing to God, such profession and such practice, far from being any furtherance, are indeed great obstacles to our salvation.”
  • John Locke’s Limits to Toleration—Real and Imagined: “The Magistrate ought not to forbid the preaching or professing of any speculative opinions in any church, because they have no manner of relation to the civil rights of the subjects. If a Roman Catholick believe that to be really the body of Christ, which another man calls bread, he does no injury thereby to his neighbour.”
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According to Daoism, Everything Contains Some Proportion of Yin and Yang

An illustration (c. 1700) of the three sages of T'ai Chi, a martial art derived from Daoism.

Daoism refers to the attainment of tranquility by living in harmony with the natural world.

Daoism is a Chinese philosophical and religious tradition that originated with Laozi (fl. sixth century BCE) and was later expanded on by Zhuangzi (c. 369-286 BCE). It is a type of naturalism that encourages human beings to live in harmony with the Dao, the natural world that is the basis of all existence. The Dao manifests itself as de, the particular things that we see in the world, which contain within them certain proportions of yin (negative or destructive forces) and yang (positive or creative forces). Everything contains some proportion of yin and yang: for example, we can see things only when there is both light and shadow, and music exists as a combination of notes and rests.

According to Daoism, everything contains some proportion of yin and yang If there is an overabundance of yin or yang, the Dao has a tendency to balance itself by reverting to the opposite extreme. Daoists therefore practice wu wei, or “non-interference”: rather than acting against nature, a person should instead follow the natural flow of events and turn them to their own advantage (like a surfer moving in harmony with a wave). Politically, this results in a minimalistic approach to government: a good ruler should educate the people so that harsh laws are unnecessary.

Daoism has had an enormous influence upon East Asia, particularly China and Taiwan. Like Confucianism, its core philosophical tenets are deeply ingrained in the culture. Daoist metaphysics influenced Mahayana Buddhism, which led to the creation of Chan (Zen) Buddhism. Core principles of Daoism have been a cornerstone of the martial arts (for example, Bruce Lee’s Tao of Jeet Kune Do).

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Zen Koan #7: Parable of Announcement – Buddhist Teaching on Hardening Our Hearts

Zen Koan #7: Parable of Announcement - Buddhist Teaching on Hardening Our Hearts As access to the unconscious is important in many psychological domains, our data are potentially highly relevant in a wide array of areas. When you are thwarted, it is your own attitude that is out of order. It is not that the Buddha wants to save sentient beings. Afterwards, they opiate to return to it in each cogitation.

Conversely, the capacity of the unconscious mind is, presumably, vast. Several different things can be accessible or temporarily primed at the same time. When the method and experiences are no longer necessary to you, you will have returned to the source. However, in the course of practice it is compulsory to first get to the one. Even before attaining the Buddhist Way, practitioners should train themselves in the proper attitudes of one who is already enlightened.

When you have mindfulness, when you have enough courage to go back to yourself and embrace the suffering in you, you learn a lot. The beauty of the object did not radiate out any more, for the reason that it was surrounded by so many other beautiful things. Following on from interdependence there is also the question of our perception of reality in terms of our feelings of being separated from everything else and our consequent clinging to desire and aversion.

Zen Koan: “Announcement” Parable

Tanzan wrote sixty postal cards on the last day of his life, and asked an attendent to mail them. Then he passed away.

The cards read:

I am departing from this world.
This is my last announcement.
Tanzan
July 27, 1892

Buddhist Insight on War Begins When We Harden Our Hearts

The innate state of the mind is neither happiness nor unhappiness. Those who sow the seed of unhappiness, of pain and suffering, will certainly have to reap a full-grown crop of the same in the future. War begins when we harden our hearts. That seems to be the basic point. Many raise fortifications because such a path seems easier. Begin to be aware of that and notice just what’s there. The American Tibetan Buddhist nun Pema Chodron writes in Practicing Peace in Times of War,

This is a familiar scenario in our homes, in our workplaces, in our communities, even when we’re just driving our cars. We’re just driving along and someone cuts in front of us and then what? Well, we don’t like it, so we roll down the window and scream at them.

War begins when we harden our hearts, and we harden them easily—in minor ways and then in quite serious, major ways, such as hatred and prejudice—whenever we feel uncomfortable. It’s so sad, really, because our motivation in hardening our hearts is to find some kind of ease, some kind of freedom from the distress that we’re feeling.

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Hasidic Judaism Quotes

Hasidic Judaism is a Jewish religious sect Hasidic Judaism or Hasidism is a Jewish religious sect that resulted from a spiritual revival movement in Western Ukraine during the 18th century and spread rapidly throughout Eastern Europe.

  • Rabbi Michel of Zlotchov once said to his children, “My life was always blessed in that I never needed anything until I had it.”
  • Rabbi Rami Shapiro writes: “Aren’t all religions equally true? No, all religions are equally false. The relationship of religion to truth is like that of a menu to a meal. The menu describes the meal as best it can. It points to something beyond itself. As long as we use the menu as a guide we do it honor. When we mistake the menu for the meal, we do it and ourselves a grave injustice.”
  • Soon after the death of Rabbi Moshe of Kobrin someone asked one of his disciples what was the most important thing to his teacher. The disciple thought and then replied, “Whatever he happened to be doing at the moment.”
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Get to Know the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ: Apostle #9: Simon, the Zealot

St. Simon from Rubens Twelve Apostles series

The holy apostle Simon is called “the Zealot,” (Luke 6:15; Acts of the Apostles 1:13) possibly to differentiate him from Simon/Peter. But there is a hypothesis that Simon, along with James the Younger, Jude Thaddaeus, and Judas Iscariot formerly belonged to the Zealots, a religious sect of “freedom fighters” severely opposed to Roman control over Judea. Some scholars maintain that Jesus made certain announcements recorded in the Bible of a groundbreaking nature that affiliated him with members of the Zealot movement. Still others presume that the word “zealot” when discussing to Simon only suggested that he was a zealous advocate of the faith.

According to the Gospel of the Twelve Apostles, a second-century Apocryphal work, Simon obtained his call from Jesus while with many of the other apostles at the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 4:18-22.) Yet a different account names Simon the husband-to-be at the Wedding in Cana, the juncture of Jesus’ first public miracle when he turned water into wine at the request of Mary, his mother. In this institution Simon was so stirred by the miracle that he exited the wedding merriments and his home to turn into one of Jesus’ apostles. The last reference of Simon is found in the Acts of the Apostles when, following the Ascension, he revisited to the city of Jerusalem with the other apostles and Jesus’ mother. (Acts of the Apostles 1:13–14)

The holy apostle is related with Thaddaeus in the Apocryphal Passion of Simon and Jude, which tells of their proselytization together in Persia. In the West the two are always combined in the ecclesiastic calendar and in the devotions of churches. An Armenian practice claims that he sermonized in Armenia along with Thaddaeus, Bartholomew, Andrew, and Matthias.

St. Simon the Zealot's (Simon Kananaios) cave in Abkhazia

Simon, the Zealot, Disciple of Jesus Christ

The New Testament tells us little of Simon, the Zealot, except that he was called by Jesus to be one of the Twelve Disciples. He is identified by Luke as “the Zealot,” referring to his membership in a Jewish sect which urged religious freedom in the face of Roman domination. Simon also is called the “Canaanite,” and this too refers not to his place of origin, but to his being zealous.

He must have been fervent in his beliefs, one who worked hard to hold high his ideas. Perhaps he hoped that Jesus would be a political Savior, who would overthrow the unjust rule of Rome.

But Simon did not try to make of Jesus a zealot; instead he changed himself into a humble disciple of the Christ.

His name is again mentioned as the apostles await the coming of the Holy Spirit, indicating his steadfast loyalty to Christ and his work with the early church.

  • Simon’s later life and the nature of his death are unknown.
  • The holy apostle Simon’s symbol is a book.
  • Holy days: in the East: May l0; in the West, with Jude Thaddaeus on October 28.
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Zen Koan #6: Parable of No Loving-Kindness – Buddhist Teaching on Awareness of Mortality

Zen Koan #6: Parable of No Loving-Kindness - Buddhist Teaching on Awareness of Mortality The reason we do not see truth is that we do not have enough courage. The more you meditate in the Zen tradition, the less likely you will step in it. When we say this, we do not mean that we depend on the Buddha. We mean that if we follow the Zen Buddhist Method taught by the Buddha we will develop the confidence to work out our own salvation. We certainly do not think that the Buddha will come one day and take us up to “heaven” in a glorious flight. When you reach this state, you will perceive everything as equal. The minute you stop pumping, the air starts to leak and the tire will eventually go flat.

However, beyond the desire realm, there are the form realm and the formless realm. To transcend them, you have to liberate yourself from the pabulum of consciousness. After they finish the work, they pave over it again and everything is just as it was before. Of course, if there were no sense of doubt in the commencement, you would not be incentivized to practice. After practicing diligently, you will gradually resolve the quandary of doubt. It all depends on your karmic roots. When those with deep karmic roots are exposed to the edifications of Zen, they expeditiously accept them. Such visions, good and bad, are generally manifestations of our own mental realms.

Zen Koan: “No Loving-Kindness” Parable

There was an old woman in China who had supported a monk for over twenty years. She had built a little hut for him and fed him while he was meditating. Finally she wondered just what progress he had made in all this time.

To find out, she obtained the help of a girl rich in desire. “Go and embrace him,” she told her, “and then ask him suddenly: ‘What now?'”

The girl called upon the monk and without much ado caressed him, asking him what he was going to do about it.

“An old tree grows on a cold rock in winter,” replied the monk somewhat poetically. “Nowhere is there any warmth.”

The girl returned and related what he had said.

“To think I fed that fellow for twenty years!” exclaimed the old woman in anger. “He showed no consideration for your needs, no disposition to explain your condition. He need not have responded to passion, but at least he should have evidenced some compassion.”

She at once went to the hut of the monk and burned it down.

Buddhist Insight on Awareness of Mortality

Buddha teaches that this moment is not dependent upon the prior moments or future moments. Within this, there are the contradictory reason of real dependency, and the contradictory reason of dependence from the vantage point of mind. True practice is one continuous mistake, one after another anyway. All who want happiness want to disregard suffering and raise their awareness of morality? They’re a little scary but they’re not so terrible. German Theravadin Buddhist nun Ayya Khema writes in When the Iron Eagle Flies,

The Buddha recommended that every person should remember every single day that we are not here for ever. It is a guest performance, which can be finished at any time. We don’t know when; we have no idea. We always think we may have seventy-five or eighty years, but who knows? If we remember our vulnerability every single day, our lives will be imbued with the understanding that each moment counts and we will not be so concerned with the future. Now is the time to grow on the spiritual path. If we remember that, we will also have a different relationship to the people around us. They too can die at any moment, and we certainly wouldn’t like that to happen at a time when we are not loving towards them. When we remember that, our practice connects to this moment and meditation improves because there is urgency behind it. We need to act now. We can only watch this one breath, not the next one.

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