Family lineages vs tulku system vs "meritocracy"

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Re: Family lineages vs tulku system vs "meritocracy"

Postby jiashengrox » Fri Feb 28, 2014 4:46 pm

Malcolm wrote:
theanarchist wrote:
Malcolm wrote:
To be a lineage holder in the Sakya lineage requires training from early childhood. .


Sure. But in the Tibetan monastic tradition a lot of young monks join a monastery at under 10 years of age.


Yes, and other Kagyu and Nyingma lineages, generally only tulkus are cultivated for lineage holder training, unless, in the case of Nyingma familiy lineages, you are trained in the terma ritual cycle specific to your family.

In Gelug, however, you have to study for years and years, then you have to study some more in tantric college, then you have to study some more. By the time you are a qualified lineage holder you have spent 30+ years as a scholar/practitioner and are at least in your early forties if not fifties, having only started serious Vajrayāna training in your early thirties or forties.

Even in Sakya however, even if you belong to the Khon or one of the Ngor palaces, you are not automatically selected for such training, you have to show aptitude and interest from a very young age. For this reason, none of HH Dagchen Rinpoche sons were selected for/chose to undergo such training, but his grandson is being trained to succeed HE Ratnavajra at some point. In Ngor, the abbotship traditionally shifted every few years between Khenpos from that family. However, circumstances have lead to the Abbacy of Ngor being defacto in the hands of the Luding family at this point, the senior Luding Khenpo being the uncle of the junior Luding (who is the son of HE Jetsun Kusho). The Tshar lineage however has, as far as I know, been more of a meritocracy since it is based out of Nalendra Phenpo, which was the toughest academic school in Pre-modern Tibet. It still has family connections, but also some important Tullkus, like the Zimog Tulkus. In Derge, the Sakya school depends mostly on tulkus for succession, as that is the eastern Tibetan preference or so it seems. But they send them to Ngor for their education, for the most part.


I guess it comes to the point of quality assurance. To look upon it as a mainstream buddhist, a person who held his monk vows without any major vices for more than 30 or 40 years would have more credibility then someone who has held less than 20 years of monastic vows. Furthermore, the gelugpa monastic curriculum is not as rigid to the extent that you must follow the structure without any exceptions. As i personally visited the three great seats and talked to the monks before, there are many tulkus or even normal monks who can actually advance a year or 2 in their studies if they are qualified. Hence there will be monks graduating from the tantric colleges at around an early age of 30+. Although personally i m not a monk (and hence in no right to give a detailed description of how this can happen, maybe Venerable JKhedrup would be in a better position to answer these questions), but the idea of having started studying tantra only at the age of around 50+ is not necessarily true.

Then, one might wonder, "Wouldn't it be a little too old for most of the monks to uphold the lineage only after they have completed the studies?" And there is what is an advantage of this system: it ensures quality. If you are unable to even grasp sutric concepts at the very fundamental level, then u are probably not suited to do tantra. I know Sakya has a unique POV of combining sutra and tantra and practicing them concurrently, we realise that even so, sakya is also setting up monastic colleges, which in some sense (i might be wrong again!) following the style of the gelugpas. Also, the idea of the five major subjects and all the monastic curriculum are not the innovations of Je Tsongkhapa; if we trace this, we will see that it traces to Sakya Pandita, and even the old Indian Nalanda university. This further emphasizes the importance of study.

Of course, i m not discrediting the sakya system of family lineage; in fact, i respect the lineage and have received teachings from this lineage. However, a concerning question in mind should not just be ensuring the survival of the lineage alone (I used the word alone to further emphasise that i concur that it is important to ensure the continuity of the teachings), but the quality of the teachings that are preserved. I m sure that for us who have read the history of Lam Dre lineage from "Taking Result As the Path" by Cyrus Stearns, we note that some did not continue (as in the case of Segom Jangye, the disciple of Se Kharchungwa, page 212-213 of the book) because of not being able to "sustain the practice, develop wisdom, and so forth". Hence, the idea becomes whether we have qualified masters to preserve these teachings. I am not sure about how the lineage holders are trained (perhaps Namdrol-la would be in the position to answer this questions) but up to cureent moment, i have faith in the lineage holders (HHST, HE Luding Khenpo, HE Ratna Vajra Rinpoche) as their teachings are really down-to-earth and amazing. However, what i think should be the concern is whether a succession of such qualified teachers will still continue within the tradition, and what are the structure implemented to ensure that (i would think Namdrol-la would be also in a better position to answer this than me). It would be a logical fallacy to assume that if the past and the present works, then the future will work as well.

In conclusion, we as buddhist practice buddhist teachings; these lineage teachings are buddhist teachings, and they are not outside of buddhist teachings. We should not view it as something more special than a Buddhist teaching (which should be the most sacred for us buddhists). Of course, what i m suggesting is not change, but rather to be informed, and to have healthy skepticism.

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Re: Family lineages vs tulku system vs "meritocracy"

Postby kirtu » Fri Feb 28, 2014 4:51 pm

Malcolm wrote:
theanarchist wrote:
Malcolm wrote:
To be a lineage holder in the Sakya lineage requires training from early childhood. .


Sure. But in the Tibetan monastic tradition a lot of young monks join a monastery at under 10 years of age.


[qquote='Malcolm"]Even in Sakya however, even if you belong to the Khon or one of the Ngor palaces, you are not automatically selected for such training, you have to show aptitude and interest from a very young age.


But one beloved Khenpo (who was also a tulku) by his own admission did not quit acting like a silly teenager until he was 15. Of course him acting as a silly teenager was certainly not like most other people acting like a silly teenager. Still, he was indistinguishable from most ordinary people until one day.

[quot="Malcolm"]Yes, and other Kagyu and Nyingma lineages, generally only tulkus are cultivated for lineage holder training, unless, in the case of Nyingma familiy lineages, you are trained in the terma ritual cycle specific to your family.
[/quote]

Chagdud Tulku was basically forced into training although he did have aptitude but it wasn't apparent until later in his life that this was the correct path for him.

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Re: Family lineages vs tulku system vs "meritocracy"

Postby Malcolm » Fri Feb 28, 2014 5:20 pm

jiashengrox wrote:
Then, one might wonder, "Wouldn't it be a little too old for most of the monks to uphold the lineage only after they have completed the studies?" And there is what is an advantage of this system: it ensures quality. If you are unable to even grasp sutric concepts at the very fundamental level, then u are probably not suited to do tantra. I know Sakya has a unique POV of combining sutra and tantra and practicing them concurrently, we realise that even so, sakya is also setting up monastic colleges, which in some sense (i might be wrong again!) following the style of the gelugpas.


You are totally wrong considering that Sakya predates Gelug by a number of centuries and that the latter school arose out of the former.


However, a concerning question in mind should not just be ensuring the survival of the lineage alone (I used the word alone to further emphasise that i concur that it is important to ensure the continuity of the teachings), but the quality of the teachings that are preserved. I m sure that for us who have read the history of Lam Dre lineage from "Taking Result As the Path" by Cyrus Stearns, we note that some did not continue (as in the case of Segom Jangye, the disciple of Se Kharchungwa, page 212-213 of the book) because of not being able to "sustain the practice, develop wisdom, and so forth".


The structure to implement the continuation of the Sakya lineage is in the hands of the 'Khon family, the Ngorpas and the Tsharpas (and the Dzongpas too).
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Re: Family lineages vs tulku system vs "meritocracy"

Postby jiashengrox » Fri Feb 28, 2014 5:53 pm

Malcolm wrote:
jiashengrox wrote:
Then, one might wonder, "Wouldn't it be a little too old for most of the monks to uphold the lineage only after they have completed the studies?" And there is what is an advantage of this system: it ensures quality. If you are unable to even grasp sutric concepts at the very fundamental level, then u are probably not suited to do tantra. I know Sakya has a unique POV of combining sutra and tantra and practicing them concurrently, we realise that even so, sakya is also setting up monastic colleges, which in some sense (i might be wrong again!) following the style of the gelugpas.


You are totally wrong considering that Sakya predates Gelug by a number of centuries and that the latter school arose out of the former.


However, a concerning question in mind should not just be ensuring the survival of the lineage alone (I used the word alone to further emphasise that i concur that it is important to ensure the continuity of the teachings), but the quality of the teachings that are preserved. I m sure that for us who have read the history of Lam Dre lineage from "Taking Result As the Path" by Cyrus Stearns, we note that some did not continue (as in the case of Segom Jangye, the disciple of Se Kharchungwa, page 212-213 of the book) because of not being able to "sustain the practice, develop wisdom, and so forth".


The structure to implement the continuation of the Sakya lineage is in the hands of the 'Khon family, the Ngorpas and the Tsharpas (and the Dzongpas too).


Yes, i don't deny that Sakya predates Gelug by a number of centuries, but the monastic tradition somehow was not as rigorous until the recent years (again i hope i m not wrong). in fact, i acknowledge that je tsongkhapa somehow inherited this system from the sakya (i would presume through his sakya teacher rendawa), which can pre date to the era of sakya pandita. But this monastic training in sakya is not as prevalent as the past, hence coining the phrase "in some sense following the footsteps of the gelugpas". it is the tradition of the gelugpas that has continually maintained this rigorous monastic training.

Also, as what i have mentioned in my earlier post, my idea is not to change, but rather to understand, to be well informed. I know it is in the hands of the K'hon family, and in some sense we have no position or authority to control. What i think is important is having at least some basic knowledge of how it will continue, so that we can be assured that the tradition will continue to thrive with qualified buddhist teachers.
Homage to the Mother of Buddhas as well as of the groups of Hearers and Bodhisattvas
which through knowledge of all leads Hearers seeking pacification to thorough peace
And which through knowledge of paths causes those helping transmigrators to achieve the welfare of the world,
And through possession of which the Subduers set forth these varieties endowed with all aspects.

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Re: Family lineages vs tulku system vs "meritocracy"

Postby Malcolm » Fri Feb 28, 2014 7:45 pm

jiashengrox wrote:
Yes, i don't deny that Sakya predates Gelug by a number of centuries, but the monastic tradition somehow was not as rigorous until the recent years (again i hope i m not wrong).


Of course you are wrong. Ngorpas are just as strict as Gelugpas.

in fact, i acknowledge that je tsongkhapa somehow inherited this system from the sakya (i would presume through his sakya teacher rendawa), which can pre date to the era of sakya pandita. But this monastic training in sakya is not as prevalent as the past, hence coining the phrase "in some sense following the footsteps of the gelugpas". it is the tradition of the gelugpas that has continually maintained this rigorous monastic training.


You really need to revise this perspective. Ngorchen (1382-1456) established a very strict monastic order. Also Nalendra was strict. And Sangphu. Perhaps in Sakya itself monks were not as strict.

What is lacking for lay people is a decent education in the basics of Buddhadharma. As I get older I can see that there is limited benefit to Varjayāna practice without some grounding, either prior too or simultaneously, in Sutrayāna teachings. There is any number of very good Sakya Khenpos. Basically in Sakya, you are either a scholar or a ritualist.
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Re: Family lineages vs tulku system vs "meritocracy"

Postby jiashengrox » Fri Feb 28, 2014 8:03 pm

Pardon me for being ignorant, but what is the monastic curriculum like in ngor? Because the statement that u made that ngorpas are as strict as the gelugpas would sound contradictory, as in one moment u objected, stating that the time it takes to groom a gelug monk to a lineage holder is too long (which again is not necessarily true), while on other hand u are saying that the ngorpas are as strict as the gelugpas. Does that mean that it takes as long as the gelug monastic curriculum to groom a lineage holder in ngor? If so, then what is the difference between sending them through a monastic curriculum and training them to be lineage holders? If not, then it what ways are they as strict as the gelugpas?


Sorry if i sounded rude, was trying to find the right words to phrase things properly and objectively! :/
Homage to the Mother of Buddhas as well as of the groups of Hearers and Bodhisattvas
which through knowledge of all leads Hearers seeking pacification to thorough peace
And which through knowledge of paths causes those helping transmigrators to achieve the welfare of the world,
And through possession of which the Subduers set forth these varieties endowed with all aspects.

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Re: Family lineages vs tulku system vs "meritocracy"

Postby ngodrup » Fri Feb 28, 2014 8:10 pm

kirtu wrote:
But originally in the mid/late 1600's the Repkong ngakpa dratsang was started when a recognized yogi (who was apparently a former monk) empowered a large group of ngakpas by passing out 1900 phurbas. So it didn't start as a family lineage. And in this case also, don't the tulkus come from many different families related now historically and not by blood lineage?

Kirt
[/quote][/quote]

Seems more complicated than that, as you might imagine.
The community of ngakpas date from the 9th Century, but
were organized by Tashi Palden (1688-1743) who was a native
of Repkong and did in fact study at Depung. But he gave back
his monastic robes and received ngakpa ordination at Mindrolling.
So returning to Repkong he invigorated the existing community
of ngakpas in which he grew up.

Other significant figures include Changlung Palchen Jigme
(1757-1821) who established the tradition of the annual
Shitro druchen and is the source of the so-called 1900
Phurbas. He also set down rules for practice, structure, etc.

There are basically two groups there: three monastaries
on the shady side follow mindrolling (Kagye Desheg Dupa, etc.)
and the three on the sunny side follow Longchen Nyingtik.
The tulkus tend to be born into the same families-- nephew,
grandson, etc.

The groups are closely related and intertwined -- something like
a confederacy by practice lineage, blood and tulku lines.
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Re: Family lineages vs tulku system vs "meritocracy"

Postby Clarence » Fri Feb 28, 2014 8:30 pm

Malcolm wrote:What is lacking for lay people is a decent education in the basics of Buddhadharma. As I get older I can see that there is limited benefit to Varjayāna practice without some grounding, either prior too or simultaneously, in Sutrayāna teachings. There is any number of very good Sakya Khenpos. Basically in Sakya, you are either a scholar or a ritualist.


Apologies for taking this off-topic, but how do you see that in regards of Dzogchen practice? Is it easier to practice Dzogchen vs Vajrayana without those basics in Buddhadharma?
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Re: Family lineages vs tulku system vs "meritocracy"

Postby Malcolm » Fri Feb 28, 2014 8:51 pm

Clarence wrote:
Malcolm wrote:What is lacking for lay people is a decent education in the basics of Buddhadharma. As I get older I can see that there is limited benefit to Varjayāna practice without some grounding, either prior too or simultaneously, in Sutrayāna teachings. There is any number of very good Sakya Khenpos. Basically in Sakya, you are either a scholar or a ritualist.


Apologies for taking this off-topic, but how do you see that in regards of Dzogchen practice? Is it easier to practice Dzogchen vs Vajrayana without those basics in Buddhadharma?


I have wavered on this over the years, as I have in so many other things, but my present thinking is that all Vajrayāna practitioners of whatever stripe need a solid grounding in Hinayāna and Mahāyāna paths.
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Re: Family lineages vs tulku system vs "meritocracy"

Postby kirtu » Fri Feb 28, 2014 10:59 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Clarence wrote:
Malcolm wrote:What is lacking for lay people is a decent education in the basics of Buddhadharma. As I get older I can see that there is limited benefit to Varjayāna practice without some grounding, either prior too or simultaneously, in Sutrayāna teachings. There is any number of very good Sakya Khenpos. Basically in Sakya, you are either a scholar or a ritualist.


Apologies for taking this off-topic, but how do you see that in regards of Dzogchen practice? Is it easier to practice Dzogchen vs Vajrayana without those basics in Buddhadharma?


I have wavered on this over the years, as I have in so many other things, but my present thinking is that all Vajrayāna practitioners of whatever stripe need a solid grounding in Hinayāna and Mahāyāna paths.


I don't know why you wavered on this, but no matter. It's clear that for Dharma in the West to progress and for most people to attain realization that they need a solid grounding in Sravakayana and Mahayana.

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Re: Family lineages vs tulku system vs "meritocracy"

Postby Sherlock » Fri Feb 28, 2014 11:14 pm

It is best to follow one's guru. I think for ChNN, the outline of sutrayana he gives in the Precious Vase is what he expects his students to know if they want to learn in a more organized way.
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Re: Family lineages vs tulku system vs "meritocracy"

Postby Malcolm » Sat Mar 01, 2014 12:06 pm

Sherlock wrote:It is best to follow one's guru. I think for ChNN, the outline of sutrayana he gives in the Precious Vase is what he expects his students to know if they want to learn in a more organized way.



ChNN only sets a minimum bar on what he expects people to know, but he expects _everyone_ to learn the base. Sadly, most people ignore him on this point, but it is partially because the translation is difficult to read.
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Re: Family lineages vs tulku system vs "meritocracy"

Postby Sherlock » Sat Mar 01, 2014 12:16 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Sherlock wrote:It is best to follow one's guru. I think for ChNN, the outline of sutrayana he gives in the Precious Vase is what he expects his students to know if they want to learn in a more organized way.



ChNN only sets a minimum bar on what he expects people to know, but he expects _everyone_ to learn the base. Sadly, most people ignore him on this point, but it is partially because the translation is difficult to read.


I think it's because it starts from a fairly hard to understand and somewhat arcane position: contrasting the different schools in India. The first time I read it, I had problems getting past the first chapter and stopped. Later, I just read the later chapters, which were much clearer.
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Re: Family lineages vs tulku system vs "meritocracy"

Postby Malcolm » Sat Mar 01, 2014 12:53 pm

Sherlock wrote:
Malcolm wrote:
Sherlock wrote:It is best to follow one's guru. I think for ChNN, the outline of sutrayana he gives in the Precious Vase is what he expects his students to know if they want to learn in a more organized way.



ChNN only sets a minimum bar on what he expects people to know, but he expects _everyone_ to learn the base. Sadly, most people ignore him on this point, but it is partially because the translation is difficult to read.


I think it's because it starts from a fairly hard to understand and somewhat arcane position: contrasting the different schools in India. The first time I read it, I had problems getting past the first chapter and stopped. Later, I just read the later chapters, which were much clearer.



It's is principally a commentary on the man ngag lta phreng ba attributed to Padmasambhava.

The reason why we need to acquaint ourselves with these tenet systems is so that we avoid falling into the same errors, thinking our view accords with Buddhadharma, when it really doesn't.
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Re: Family lineages vs tulku system vs "meritocracy"

Postby dzogchungpa » Sat Mar 01, 2014 3:15 pm

kirtu wrote:Chagdud Tulku was basically forced into training although he did have aptitude but it wasn't apparent until later in his life that this was the correct path for him.

Why do you say that?
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Re: Family lineages vs tulku system vs "meritocracy"

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat Mar 01, 2014 8:17 pm

Malcolm wrote:What is lacking for lay people is a decent education in the basics of Buddhadharma. As I get older I can see that there is limited benefit to Varjayāna practice without some grounding, either prior too or simultaneously, in Sutrayāna teachings.
I think that this is probably the most important point that has been made in this thread. You also see this phenomenon quite clearly in people that have finished three year retreats in the Karma Kagyu. I used to be astounded that they would come out of retreat and not know the Four Noble Truths etc... I thought that they would have to have learned this stuff by rote from the first day in. Maybe it is assumed that you know this stuff before heading in for retreat?
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Re: Family lineages vs tulku system vs "meritocracy"

Postby smcj » Sat Mar 01, 2014 8:35 pm

Sherab Dorje wrote:
Malcolm wrote:What is lacking for lay people is a decent education in the basics of Buddhadharma. As I get older I can see that there is limited benefit to Varjayāna practice without some grounding, either prior too or simultaneously, in Sutrayāna teachings.
I think that this is probably the most important point that has been made in this thread. You also see this phenomenon quite clearly in people that have finished three year retreats in the Karma Kagyu. I used to be astounded that they would come out of retreat and not know the Four Noble Truths etc... I thought that they would have to have learned this stuff by rote from the first day in. Maybe it is assumed that you know this stuff before heading in for retreat?

I agree with both Malcolm and Sherab Dorje.

But I think that it is more than just information that is needed to have a proper foundation. I am of the belief that a certain sensitivity to the basics of spirituality are necessary, such as Refuge, renunciation and such. Oddly I find that kind of sensitivity in people that have successfully mastered 12 step programs. I'm betting that in the future that is the gene pool that mahasiddhas will come out of. But then of course my predictions for the future of almost anything are usually 99% wrong. I thought wristwatches and pay phone companies were safe investments, and that computers would never be useful in anything other than science labs. So take that prediction with a grain of salt.
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Re: Family lineages vs tulku system vs "meritocracy"

Postby kirtu » Sat Mar 01, 2014 8:54 pm

dzogchungpa wrote:
kirtu wrote:Chagdud Tulku was basically forced into training although he did have aptitude but it wasn't apparent until later in his life that this was the correct path for him.

Why do you say that?


He said himself in "Lord of the Dance" that he had difficult training as a child and basically didn't want to do it. He also had poor perception of some of his fellow students at one point beginning a ritual against one (which his clairvoyant guru stopped). However he also had visions reported to be typical of some tulkus and was very good at meditation and ritual ("a natural"). He also displayed clairvoyance at times. But had he been left to decide as a child whether he were to continue training of not, then he might have chosen otherwise. To me, an alternative course of education is implied when it turns out that his step-father was an unrecognized terton (more or less, so hey, if the monastic training gets to be too much, I can guide you on another path).

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Re: Family lineages vs tulku system vs "meritocracy"

Postby kirtu » Sat Mar 01, 2014 9:06 pm

Sherab Dorje wrote:I used to be astounded that they would come out of retreat and not know the Four Noble Truths etc.


It is quite unacceptable for people who *might* become teachers at some level to have such a shockingly low understanding of Buddhism (tenants and history).

Malcolm wrote:The reason why we need to acquaint ourselves with these tenet systems is so that we avoid falling into the same errors, thinking our view accords with Buddhadharma, when it really doesn't.


Sherlock wrote:I think it's because it starts from a fairly hard to understand and somewhat arcane position: contrasting the different schools in India.


Tenants and views can appear to be arcane; from our perspective they are certainly written in what tends to be an arcane and irrelevant way. We probably need a kind of commentary on major texts to make them accessible to the average educated Buddhist reader.

However as Malcolm notes, we ignore tenant systems at the risk of falling into specific, already established errors or of getting stuck in correct views but being unable to further refine them or completely actualize the view to realization.

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Re: Family lineages vs tulku system vs "meritocracy"

Postby ConradTree » Sat Mar 01, 2014 10:21 pm

1. Tulku and hereditary systems are often inseperable.

For example, Dilgo Khyentse's grandson is the primary teacher of Dilgo Khyentse Yangsi (who himself is the grandson of Tulku Urygen).

2. Tulku systems have specialization:

Dudjom tulkus specialize in Dudjom terma
Chokling tulkus specialize in Chokgyur lingpa's termas
Dodrupchen tulkus specialize in Longchen Nyinthig
etc.


If I have to pick one, the tulku system is the best in preserving Buddhadharma...due to the specialization aspect and not being dependent on having biological kids.
ConradTree
 
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