Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby michaelb » Fri May 02, 2014 5:29 pm

Jikan wrote:That's not what I'm doing (bolded bit). I'm asking why this or that articulation of Madhyamika has more value than more straightforward presentations of Madhyamika.
Why does it have to be polemical? I'm asking the same question, but I'm not an author of any of the polemics under discussion.
I'm increasingly convinced that Tibetan Madhyamika has a tendency to specify and spin out many more concepts than one might see in Indian or Chinese Madhyamika. If you read the post I wrote in full, the one quoted partially above, you will see that I'm asking how this marks an improvement over Indian Madhyamika, particularly in the light of practice.
Oh yes. I think I may have confused the points you and Greg were making. Well, I'm not sure there is a totally straightforward presentation and each tradition may see their presentation as the most straightforward. But, as people here subscribe to Tibetan versions, I don't think it's a bad idea to get some idea of what the Tibetan teachers meant. This is the Gelug forum, afterall. That's not to say that going back to the original Indian texts without the Tibetan commentaries is a bad idea. I understand Khenpo Shenga did that, but I have not read anything by him, so I cannot judge. Seems a good idea though, I agree.
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby michaelb » Fri May 02, 2014 6:00 pm

jiashengrox wrote:I would think that that (non-conceptual) will only be the case only after one has produced discerning awareness, i.e. After the analysis and to a decisive conclusion of the voidness of phenomena, with shamatha being the basis of that development.
Tom wrote:This is not true. For example, on the path of preparation there is a union of shamata and special insight, however the realization of emptiness is conceptual until you reach the path of seeing. It is then that there is no appearance of a distinction between subject and object within the meditation.
Thanks both. I see. I think I may have been taking the Pabongkha quote too literally. So the non-conceptual realisation of emptiness is quite a way off after being very clear in one's understanding of emptiness and one's meditation on it.

I don't mean to keep on about non-conceptual methods and realisation, but this seems to be one of the differences between Tsongkhapa and Gorampa's positions. I suppose this isn't a good place to ask what Gorampa thought of nonconceptual meditation after the four extremes are refuted. He too had a conceptual nominal ultimate, apparently, so maybe this was also his object of meditation.
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby Jikan » Fri May 02, 2014 6:13 pm

michaelb wrote: Well, I'm not sure there is a totally straightforward presentation and each tradition may see their presentation as the most straightforward. But, as people here subscribe to Tibetan versions, I don't think it's a bad idea to get some idea of what the Tibetan teachers meant.


I think that's fair enough. Mostly what I'm interested in learning in this thread--the reason why I spoke up in the first place--is how learning the nuances of these philosophical debates informs practice in a way that is both meaningful and distinctive. Which is to say, I posed a question that was intended as a question, not as a rhetorical question. I'm asking for knowledge from those who seem most likely to know a thing or two about the matter (as you point out, here we are in the Gelugpa sub-forum...).

On an ancillary point: it's true that Chinese Madhyamika is quite well developed, but well-developed is not necessarily synonymous with baroquely elaborated. That is to say, a great profusion of concepts or fine distinctions is not necessarily identical to a high degree of development or refinement or precision. In some instances, introducing distinction 1 may seem to solve problem A, but at the cost of introducing problems B and C which must be resolved by distinctions 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, and so on. I would like to be convinced that later Tibetan Madhyamika does not do this. Can anyone here help me out?
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby jiashengrox » Fri May 02, 2014 6:57 pm

Jikan wrote: I would like to be convinced that later Tibetan Madhyamika does not do this. Can anyone here help me out?


Hmmm, that is going to be obviously quite a task. Because majority of the fundamental understanding, especially within the gelug and sakya tradition, is done through the process of debate. This tradition of debate is not created by the Tibetans; it has been inherited from ancient nalanda traditions. If we examine some of the biographies of the mahasiddhas, such as naropa, u can see that they are actually gatekeepers of the certain gates of the monasteries (i.e. Debaters placed to protect the philosophical traditions of the Buddha, to put it very very loosely). As a result, these ideas and subtle differences are refined again and again through debates, which may take place face to face, or letters. It is through this refining process that one gains an understanding of madhyamika through logical reasoning. Hence, as the subtle differences arise from the ways people refine things, to undo all these refinements will not be an easy thing to do.

That being said, I wouldn't think of it as useless elaborations, but points of consideration to clear away doubts whenever such doubt arises. U can think of it as the great debate btw pureland schools and the humanistic buddhism movement. Till now, i still have my reservations towards humanistic buddhism (nevertheless, my respect for Reverend Yin Shun and his works are definite), and u will notice that under the heat of criticisms from reverend yin shun (refer to his works such as those on pureland (净土与禅, for instance), there has been an increase in the emphasis of study in pureland buddhism as well. AFAIK, reverend Jin Kung has pioneered many translations, and many transcripts have been published dealing with topics on pureland. Though the main method of reciting the names if Amitabha Buddha is still the heart, but now it is supplemented with more instructions, such as the 48 ways of meditating on Buddha's name, etc. with a lot of explicit details, and it is necessarily a good thing, because it informs practitioners, putting them in a better position to understand buddha dharma. It also presents a clear distinction of what pureland practice is like in contrast to the narrations of Venerable Yin Shun and his camp.

In all, i wouldn't think this is convincing enough to convince u that tibetan madhyamika is simple, but what i would hope to achieve is to shed (a little i hope?) light that in any tradition, be it Chinese, Tibetan, or even Thai, Burmese, etc. there will definitely be more specifications and refinements to make the standpoint clearer. These refinements are necessary to refute any possible doubts on the doctrine. I wouldn't think it's easy to adapt to it, but ultimately, rely on the teacher who teaches the right path, and discern whatever he teaches carefully. I think this is the most important of all.

Hope this helps! :namaste:
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby Tom » Fri May 02, 2014 7:54 pm

Jikan wrote:I think that's fair enough. Mostly what I'm interested in learning in this thread--the reason why I spoke up in the first place--is how learning the nuances of these philosophical debates informs practice in a way that is both meaningful and distinctive.


Certainly, these different philosophical perspectives have a meaningful impact on the way people practice. One striking example is the different emphasis placed on analytical meditation དཔྱད་སྒོམ and settling meditation འཇོག་སྒོ. Tsongkhapa instructs even advanced practitioners to continually return to analysis rather than settling the mind for long periods because he is worried that otherwise that the development towards union of shamatha and insight will degenerate to mere shamatha on emptiness. This particular instruction is called out for criticism from other Tibetan masters who says there is no need for repeated analysis to maintain the attained view since the goal is not to maintain some conceptual understanding.
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby Lotus_Bitch » Fri May 02, 2014 10:36 pm

Tom wrote:Certainly, these different philosophical perspectives have a meaningful impact on the way people practice. One striking example is the different emphasis placed on analytical meditation དཔྱད་སྒོམ and settling meditation འཇོག་སྒོ. Tsongkhapa instructs even advanced practitioners to continually return to analysis rather than settling the mind for long periods because he is worried that otherwise that the development towards union of shamatha and insight will degenerate to mere shamatha on emptiness. This particular instruction is called out for criticism from other Tibetan masters who says there is no need for repeated analysis to maintain the attained view since the goal is not to maintain some conceptual understanding.


Returning momentarily to my prior inquiry, while keeping your explanation in account, does this imply that Tsongkhapa's formulation of the two truths were a means to an end, an opposition to a normative he felt needed to be remedied?
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby Tom » Sat May 03, 2014 2:08 am

Lotus_Bitch wrote: Returning momentarily to my prior inquiry, while keeping your explanation in account, does this imply that Tsongkhapa's formulation of the two truths were a means to an end, an opposition to a normative he felt needed to be remedied?


It does seem Tsongkhapa had concerns about a declining lack of emphasis on ethical practice. However, I think his unique presentation of the two truths comes about because he was unsatisfied with the explanations of his day, and having thought about the original material he believes he realized the correct interpretation.

This type of search for the real meaning of texts and the intellectual analysis and debates that come with it, was not uncommon during this time. For example, Tsongkhapa would have spent quite a bit of time following Rendawa around and attended debates as Rendawa waged what was quite a personal crusade to set what he believed to be the mistaken view of the Janangpas straight. I don't think we need to be automatically suspicious of these types of new interpretations and I have no problem approaching them as honest intellectual enquiries.
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby Lotus_Bitch » Sun May 04, 2014 10:28 pm

Tom wrote:
Lotus_Bitch wrote: Returning momentarily to my prior inquiry, while keeping your explanation in account, does this imply that Tsongkhapa's formulation of the two truths were a means to an end, an opposition to a normative he felt needed to be remedied?


It does seem Tsongkhapa had concerns about a declining lack of emphasis on ethical practice. However, I think his unique presentation of the two truths comes about because he was unsatisfied with the explanations of his day, and having thought about the original material he believes he realized the correct interpretation.


It's clear he had a particular agenda by formulating the two truths the way he did, otherwise his critics wouldn't have rallied against his interpretations as a deviation from the source material. This agenda may have been multifaceted in its focus, but determining any prime motivations may prove elusive.
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby kunle » Tue May 06, 2014 3:13 pm

Sherab Dorje wrote:So...

My question is: what does all this mean at the level of practice? Does it have some profound effect? Or is it all just an Indo-Tibetan pissing contest (to put it crudely)?


a teacher once told me that from the practitioners point of view, the point of such discussions mustn't be criticism of individuals (no matter what we read in texts). they must help us identify the view we hold, and how we can let go of it.
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby jiashengrox » Tue May 06, 2014 7:13 pm

Lotus_Bitch wrote:It's clear he had a particular agenda by formulating the two truths the way he did, otherwise his critics wouldn't have rallied against his interpretations as a deviation from the source material. This agenda may have been multifaceted in its focus, but determining any prime motivations may prove elusive.


While I probably agree that part of the attribution comes from the decline of the Vinaya traditions within Tibet during that era, I certainly will not rest the entire issue upon this. I still believe that the adding of the qualification is to ensure the precision of the object of refutation.

I would rather attribute it though, to the difference in their fundamental definitions between inherent existence and existence.
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby 5heaps » Wed May 07, 2014 7:33 am

Lotus_Bitch wrote:
Tom wrote:
Lotus_Bitch wrote: Returning momentarily to my prior inquiry, while keeping your explanation in account, does this imply that Tsongkhapa's formulation of the two truths were a means to an end, an opposition to a normative he felt needed to be remedied?


It does seem Tsongkhapa had concerns about a declining lack of emphasis on ethical practice. However, I think his unique presentation of the two truths comes about because he was unsatisfied with the explanations of his day, and having thought about the original material he believes he realized the correct interpretation.


It's clear he had a particular agenda by formulating the two truths the way he did, otherwise his critics wouldn't have rallied against his interpretations as a deviation from the source material. This agenda may have been multifaceted in its focus, but determining any prime motivations may prove elusive.


a clear agenda...no...his formulation of the two truths started even way back at drawing differing distinctions on how to understand sautrantika correctly

even in sautrantika the non-gelug do not accept functioning wholes..for them wholes are imputedly knowable categories. this simple difference illustrates some of the boundaries on how each can formulate the two truths
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby WeiHan » Fri Mar 27, 2015 4:25 pm

jiashengrox wrote:
Elaborate and explain the differences between their views? It seems like u are just quoting direct w/o explaining or referring to je rinpoche's works that i do not even know what are the differences between the views.


I am not able to, not sure about you,swallow Lama Tsong Khapa's (from here on I'll use the abrrevation LTKP) interpretation of Madhyamika once you understand it.

One of the point that stands out, which I think is at odd (and thus not able to swallow) with the entire established Buddhist doctrine according to traditional Indian sources. It is regarding the point that not all concepts have to be discarded in order to attain enlightenment (aka direct experience of emptiness). In LTKP's view, his particular method of negating truth (negating truth or mental concepts such as existence, non existence, both or not both is the main subject of treatment of Madhyamika) is the Ultimate truth (though it is still a mental concept) is not to be negated. To LTKP, that very methodology deployed to negate all other truths IS the ultimate truth and is not to be negated. However, the traditional ( which traditional Indian sources such as Sutras, texts of Nargajuna, Chandrakirti etc..) view which Gorampa was defending holds that ALL concepts including those method delineated by Madhyamika need also to be discarded or negated in order to attain the true Ultimate view. In other word, LTKP held that the logical reasoning in Madhyamika and particularly his unique interpretation is the Ultimate truth and should not be negated wheareas Gorampa held that the logical reasoning presented in Madhyamika is merely a nominal truth which ordinary beings can use to negate mental concepts (or proliferation is also the word used or "negate the four extremes") but ultimately has to be also discarded in order to experience the ultimate truth.

Another point is that LTKP adhered to the logic (familiar in western philosophy and has a name which I can't remember) that negative of a negative should be affirmative. For example, proving that something is not nonexistence amount to affirming that something is existing. Thus he sees the Madhyamika logical framework of refuting all four extremes (i.e. existing, non existing, both or not both) to be illogical without further qualification. On the other hand, to Gorampa, the four extremes (existing, non existing, both or not both) are all possible concepts that a ordinary beings can possibly construe on any object. Thus negating all four extremes is not self contradictory in logic but simply means that the ultimate truth is beyond all conceptualisation.

Of course there are many more differences and they are not trivial because it will influence how one practices and has other implications. maybe, these can be written in another post.

For a concise study of Gorampa interpretation of Madhyamika and polemics against LTKP, and if you do not wish to read the entire book "Freedom from extremes: Gorampa's "Distinguishing the views" and the polemics of emptiness", you may read

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/gorampa/
Last edited by WeiHan on Fri Mar 27, 2015 4:53 pm, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby Sherlock » Fri Mar 27, 2015 4:28 pm

TSK's reasoning sounds very convoluted compared to freedom from extremes.
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby Malcolm » Fri Mar 27, 2015 4:46 pm

Jikan wrote: I would like to be convinced that later Tibetan Madhyamika does not do this. Can anyone here help me out?


Later Tibetan Madhyamaka introduces a whole set of concerns never imagined by Indians. The school that that most closely adheres to the traditional Indian tradition in Madhyamaka studies is Sakya following Rongton and Gorampa.
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby WeiHan » Fri Mar 27, 2015 5:51 pm

michaelb wrote:
Tom wrote:Tsongkhapa simply thought the refutation of the four extremes without qualification to be illogical.The non-conceptual mind is not the issue for Tsongkhapa here. The position Tsongkhapa is forwarding is that the conceptual mind using logical reasoning can conceptually realize emptiness and that this then acts as a bridge to non-conceptual wisdom.
Thanks. But, for Tsongkhapa, did the illogicality of an unqualified refutation of the tetralemma mean that those that took it as ultimate truth had to meditate on something non-conceptual? I understand that for others, refuting the tetralemma was a way, by using concepts refuting each extreme one by one, of showing the limits of the conceptual and maybe resting in that at the end (?). Tsongkhapa criticised them for being like HvaShang and rejecting all concepts as binding us to samsara. So, he thought concept based meditation was a totally necessary bridge, but how did the conceptual meditation become non-conceptual?




IN LTKP system, the conceptual DID NOT become non-conceptual. As I wrote, in that system, the "Correct" conceptual understanding of emptiness IS the ultimate truth and can never be discarded. How so one attains enligntenment then? One may ask. According to that system, Buddhahood is attained when in every instance of consciouness, both concepts of conventional truth and the emptiness (ultimate truth) simultaneously exist.

Base on the above, that LTKP do not believe that enlightenment is without any conceptualisation, he had retorted Gorampa that Buddha definetely appeared to have concepts so how can the experience enlightenment be beyond all concepts? For which Gorampa has answered that Buddha only appeared to have concepts to ordinary unenlightened beings.
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby Malcolm » Fri Mar 27, 2015 6:03 pm

WeiHan wrote:
Base on the above, that LTKP do not believe that enlightenment is without any conceptualisation...


Tsongkhapa never issues a retort to Gorampa since the latter was born ten years after the former passed away.

In that respect, Tsongkhapa must have found this hard to understand — The Buddhāvatamska Sūtra states:

    The buddhas do not engage in thought;
    though they have no concept about teaching,
    through blessings they appear to teach.

Or the Śraddhā-balādhānāvatāra-mudrā Sūtra:


    Mañjuśrī, likewise, in order for the Tathāgata, Arhat, Samyaksambuddha to fully ripen sentient beings, he produces infinite deeds at the same time in all the infinite worlds in the ten directions, but while the tathāgata indeed is without thoughts and is without concepts, nevertheless, because he possesses such unmixed qualities there is no impediment to displaying such effortless deeds
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby Tenzin Dorje » Fri Mar 27, 2015 6:18 pm

WeiHan wrote:Base on the above, that LTKP do not believe that enlightenment is without any conceptualisation, he had retorted Gorampa that Buddha definetely appeared to have concepts so how can the experience enlightenment be beyond all concepts? For which Gorampa has answered that Buddha only appeared to have concepts to ordinary unenlightened beings.

As a matter of fact, Je Tsongkhapa does state that the omniscient mind of a Buddha is free from conceptualization.

The path of vision is entered when there is a first moment of direct realization of emptiness.
Such direct realization is free from all three types of dualistic appearances.
In subsequent attainment, although phenomena appear along with the appearance of true existence, they are inferentially realized as empty of existing as such. (That's what I heard Geshe Jamphel Gyaltsen, from Sera, say)

Buddahood is attained when one is free from knowledge obscuration. Knowledge obscuration was the cause for the appearance of true existence. Therefore, it was also the reason why one could not directly realize conventional and ultimate truth similtaneously. Being free from knowledge obscuration, a Buddha apprehends both simultaneously (and continuously).
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby WeiHan » Fri Mar 27, 2015 6:25 pm

Malcolm wrote:
WeiHan wrote:
Base on the above, that LTKP do not believe that enlightenment is without any conceptualisation...


Tsongkhapa never issues a retort to Gorampa since the latter was born ten years after the former passed away.

In that respect, Tsongkhapa must have found this hard to understand — The Buddhāvatamska Sūtra states:

    The buddhas do not engage in thought;
    though they have no concept about teaching,
    through blessings they appear to teach.

Or the Śraddhā-balādhānāvatāra-mudrā Sūtra:


    Mañjuśrī, likewise, in order for the Tathāgata, Arhat, Samyaksambuddha to fully ripen sentient beings, he produces infinite deeds at the same time in all the infinite worlds in the ten directions, but while the tathāgata indeed is without thoughts and is without concepts, nevertheless, because he possesses such unmixed qualities there is no impediment to displaying such effortless deeds


OMG, my bad......rather it was LTKP proponent asked that question.

Of course, Gorampa has an encyclopedic memory has also quoted passages in texts to support his view. That is why I said Gorampa was defending the traditional Indian tenet while LTKP interpretation is the one that should be considered controversial. Naturally, most later Nyingma and Kagyu scholars affiliated more with the Gorampa's interpretation of madhyamika. or if not then the Dolpopa's interpretation but never LTKP's.
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby WeiHan » Fri Mar 27, 2015 7:05 pm

Tenzin Dorje wrote:
WeiHan wrote:Base on the above, that LTKP do not believe that enlightenment is without any conceptualisation, he had retorted Gorampa that Buddha definetely appeared to have concepts so how can the experience enlightenment be beyond all concepts? For which Gorampa has answered that Buddha only appeared to have concepts to ordinary unenlightened beings.

As a matter of fact, Je Tsongkhapa does state that the omniscient mind of a Buddha is free from conceptualization.

The path of vision is entered when there is a first moment of direct realization of emptiness.
Such direct realization is free from all three types of dualistic appearances.
In subsequent attainment, although phenomena appear along with the appearance of true existence, they are inferentially realized as empty of existing as such. (That's what I heard Geshe Jamphel Gyaltsen, from Sera, say)

Buddahood is attained when one is free from knowledge obscuration. Knowledge obscuration was the cause for the appearance of true existence. Therefore, it was also the reason why one could not directly realize conventional and ultimate truth similtaneously. Being free from knowledge obscuration, a Buddha apprehends both simultaneously (and continuously).


I read from two sources about LTKP proponents asking Gorampa "Buddha appeared to have concepts since he is omniscient, so how can full enlightenment be completely free of ALL concepts (as Gorampa and traditional Indian sources come to the conclusion)?" If LTKP proponents did not think that a Buddha still retain some correct concepts then why do they asked that question?

read section "the Role of Logic" http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/gorampa/

And also Cabezon book "Freedom from extremes:...."

Also the passage that you quoted did not show that LTKP theorized that omniscient mind of a Buddha is free from conceptualization. In fact, the word "inferential" which I bold faced may suggest the opposite (i.e Buddha still retain some correct concepts such as emptiness).
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Re: Gorampa & Tsongkhapa

Postby WeiHan » Fri Mar 27, 2015 8:53 pm

michaelb wrote:
To answer the original question, I think Tsongkhapa rejected the Gorampa's type of madhyamaka (freedom from four extremes) as it wasn't rational and meditation on something not rational was like Hva Shang's meditation.

PS. I would like anyone well versed in Tsongkhapa's position to reject any misunderstandings and just simply set his position out, if it can be done simply.


I think I have already explained why LTKP considered Gorampa's interpretation to be like Hva Shang's meditation but the reason wasn't because refuting the tetralemma is irrational. I'll take this opportunity to try articulate their difference in interpretation better.

It was because the tetralemma (existing, non existing, both and not both) represents four possible conceptual ways and that is ALL possible mental fabrications that an ordinary unenligtened being can construe on an object. Refuting all four extremes then forced a being into a non-conceptual state which LTKP or his proponents questioned will be like Hva Shang's meditation.

LTKP upheld the law of double negation elimination. That means, for example, if one negates existence, one is affirming nonexistence. Or conversely, if one negates non existence, then one is affirming existence. Therefore it makes no sense to negate both existence and non existence in the same time as in the case of the tetralemma. Therefore, LTKP interprepration of Madhyamika then has to invloved a convoluted qualifications to explain the tetralemma. However, for Gorampa, refuting all four extremes is perfectly alright because that just force one into a position of not grasping in any concept which is the original intent of the Indian sages.
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