Emptiness and the two truths

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Re: Emptiness and the two truths

Postby Wayfarer » Fri Oct 18, 2013 11:52 pm

ASunThatNeverSets wrote:Madhyamaka only results in nihilism in those who don't understand it, if it's understood what Madhyamaka is pointing to then nihilism is impossible


It still seems to me that Buddhism attracts many people with nihilist tendencies, whether they know that or not, and that it is very easy to rationalize that outlook in Zen and Madhyamika.

I don't agree that what Son of Buddha is advocating in this thread, is 'eternalism'. 'Eternalism' is the view that 'the self and the world will be reborn in perpetuity', as explained in Bikkhu Bodhi's commentary on the Brahmajala Sutta. But 'true nature' or 'Buddha nature' is not mere absence, nothingness, or non-being, and nirvana is not simply annihilation. However it is also inconceivable, beyond the samsaric mind, and beyond categories of existence and non-existence.

But I am not going to repeat multiple pages of argumentation about it.

The Nāgārjuna who wrote 'In Praise of the Dharmadhātu' is not the same as the original Indian Nāgārjuna.


Karl Brunnholzl does not agree and provides extensive citations in support. He also says '..as much as some people might like to do so, it is impossible to restrict [Nagarjuna's] approach to negative or deconstructive rhetoric' (p25}. As he is a senior teacher at Nitartha Institute, I think his arguments ought to be heeded.

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Re: Emptiness and the two truths

Postby asunthatneversets » Sat Oct 19, 2013 12:09 am

jeeprs wrote:
ASunThatNeverSets wrote:Madhyamaka only results in nihilism in those who don't understand it, if it's understood what Madhyamaka is pointing to then nihilism is impossible


It still seems to me that Buddhism attracts many people with nihilist tendencies, whether they know that or not, and that it is very easy to rationalize that outlook in Zen and Madhyamika.

I don't agree that what Son of Buddha is advocating in this thread, is 'eternalism'. 'Eternalism' is the view that 'the self and the world will be reborn in perpetuity', as explained in Bikkhu Bodhi's commentary on the Brahmajala Sutta. But 'true nature' or 'Buddha nature' is not mere absence, nothingness, or non-being, and nirvana is not simply annihilation. However it is also inconceivable, beyond the samsaric mind, and beyond categories of existence and non-existence.

But I am not going to repeat multiple pages of argumentation about it.

Eternalism means a view that there is something which is truly established or existent. Meaning it's unconditioned, such a quality, capacity or thing is impossible in the eyes of the buddhadharma.

No one has said that one's nature is absence, nothingness or non-being. Also no one has ever suggested that nirvana is annihilation. This is what I mean by not understanding emptiness.

When you say one's nature is inconceivable, free of samsaric mind and free of the categories of existence or non-existence (both and neither), then this is emptiness.

So you've disparaged (your misunderstanding of) emptiness, and then proceeded to advocate for emptiness (thinking you were advocating for a contrasting view).

jeeprs wrote:
asunthatneversets wrote:The Nāgārjuna who wrote 'In Praise of the Dharmadhātu' is not the same as the original Indian Nāgārjuna.


Karl Brunnholzl does not agree and provides extensive citations in support. He also says '..as much as some people might like to do so, it is impossible to restrict [Nagarjuna's] approach to negative or deconstructive rhetoric' (p25}. As he is a senior teacher at Nitartha Institute, I think his arguments ought to be heeded.

:anjali:

No one suggested Nāgārjuna's approach was negative or deconstructive. Only that those who grasp at their conditioning perceive it as such.

And unless Nāgārjuna lived for centuries, they aren't the same person.
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Re: Emptiness and the two truths

Postby Wayfarer » Sat Oct 19, 2013 2:41 am

Eternalism means a view that there is something which is truly established or existent.


I take it to mean that there is something that is eternal and existent, by virtue of which 'some ascetics' believe that they will be reborn in perpetuity.

The self and the world are eternal, barren, steadfast as a mountain peak, set firmly as a post. And though these beings rush around, circulate, pass away and re-arise, but this remains eternally.


Brahmajāla Sutta

Here, ‘this’ is that which ‘the eternalist’ believes is something durable, within which ‘beings rush around, circulate and re-arise’. This arises from the Vedic idea of sat as being ‘what really exists’, which is to be distinguished from asat, that which is illusory or unreal. Hence in this formulation, sat is what is ‘eternal, unchangeable, set firmly as a post’, and thus distinguishable from samsara or maya. It is conceived as ‘the essence of things’, both in general terms as Brahman and particular beings as ātman.

The Alagaddūpama Sutta criticizes those who think:
This is the self, this is the world; after death I shall be permanent, everlasting, not subject to change; I shall endure as long as eternity’ - this too he [i.e. ‘the eternalist’] regards thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self’


That is an accurate view of what is criticized as 'eternalism', is it not?

Contrast that with the udanna which says:

There is, monks, an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated. If there were not that unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, there would not be the case that escape from the born — become — made — fabricated would be discerned. But precisely because there is an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, escape from the born — become — made — fabricated is discerned.


"Nibbāna Sutta: Unbinding (3)" (Ud 8.3),

I take it that this 'unborn' is not something which is permanent, in the sense of existing continuously, in the way that 'the barren mountain peak' is conceived. It is not, properly, an object of thought or perception. But it is also not something non-existent. And I think that is because, what is 'eternal' is a different idea to 'something that exists by itself forever'.

Is that how you understand it?
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Re: Emptiness and the two truths

Postby invisiblediamond » Sat Oct 19, 2013 2:43 am

How many buddhists does it take to define a word?
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Re: Emptiness and the two truths

Postby Wayfarer » Sat Oct 19, 2013 2:50 am

Three.

One to define it.

One not to define it.

And one to neither define, nor not define it. :rolling:

On the question of the authorship of In Praise of Dharmadhatu, see here.
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Re: Emptiness and the two truths

Postby futerko » Sat Oct 19, 2013 3:48 am

jeeprs wrote:I take it to mean that there is something that is eternal and existent...


For me, the issue here is not about whether there is some truly existing eternal or not. It is about what happens to the individual's engagement with the issues and their failure to develop any kind of interpretive understanding precisely because they have deferred to the "transcendent beyond".

As a result we get a string of posts which simply quote scripture on the basis that they claim to be "definitive", and absolutely no explanation of the reasoning behind this.

I think this is very clearly explained in this essay by Dan Lusthaus, where he addresses the "western bias" towards placing ontology as prior to epistemology in contradistinction to the original intent of the authors, thereby distorting Buddhism into a theory of metaphysical entities.

http://www.acmuller.net/yogacara/articles/intro-uni.htm
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Re: Emptiness and the two truths

Postby Wayfarer » Sat Oct 19, 2013 3:58 am

Yes I know that article, I quote it often myself.

The post of Son of Buddha which I was in agreement with in particular was this one:

Son of Buddha wrote:Similarly, liberation is not empty in all respects; it is called "empty" because of being devoid of all defects.
A Buddha, a supermundane victor, is not empty but is called "empty" because of being devoid of defects and due to the absence of humanness and godhood that have ten of millions of afflictive emotions.


This reminds me of a passage from D T Suzuki:

The term “emptiness” is apt to be misunderstood for various reasons. The hare or rabbit has no horns, the turtle has no hair growing on its back. This is one form of emptiness. The Buddhist sunyata does not mean absence.

A fire has been burning until now and there is no more of it. This is another kind of emptiness. Buddhist sunyata does not mean extinction.

The wall screens the room: on this side there is a table, and on the other side there is nothing, space is unocccupied. Buddhist sunyata does not mean vacancy.

Absence, extinction and unoccupancy—these are not the Buddhist conception of emptiness. Buddhists’ Emptiness is not on the plane of relativity. It is Absolute Emptiness transcending all forms of mutual relationship, of subject and object, birth and death, God and the world, something and nothing, yes and no, affirmation and negation. In no Buddhist Emptiness there is time, no space, no becoming, no-thing-ness; it is what makes these things possible; it is zero full of infinite possibilities, it is a void of inexhaustible contents.


D.T. Suzuki, Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist pp. 27-28.

I have posted this quote here before, and the response was that Suzuki is also 'eternalist', that he is positing some 'eternal substance' (and his interpretations are out-dated, just for good measure.) I don't agree that he is either. What is being referred to is, properly speaking, beyond thought, speech and designation. It is not the same as 'Brahman' or for that matter 'God', as it belongs to a different realm of discourse, and besides refers to something incomparable, something 'beyond comparison' - not even 'something' except for here we are using words. But not mere emptiness, so to speak.

Xabir wrote:Mahayana means different things to different people, simply because it is not one particular teaching taught by one person.


I agree! I don't expect this kind of debate is something that can be settled. From early stages there are different kinds or layers of teaching, including pragmatic teachings, early forms of 'mind-only' teachings, and early forms of 'sunnata' teachings. They don't all mean the same thing or appeal to the same audience. There are, I am sure, mystics among Buddhists, but not all Buddhists are mystics, and Buddhism is not necessarily mystical.

Anyway, ultimately I hope we are all, shall we say, party to the same cause here. I think I will go back to Philosophy Forum and debate materialists, at least with them I have very clear lines of difference. :smile:
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Re: Emptiness and the two truths

Postby futerko » Sat Oct 19, 2013 4:08 am

If emptiness were absence then we wouldn't be here discussing it.

Alternatively, here's a hairy turtle. :tongue:



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Re: Emptiness and the two truths

Postby asunthatneversets » Sat Oct 19, 2013 4:09 am

jeeprs wrote:
Eternalism means a view that there is something which is truly established or existent.


I take it to mean that there is something that is eternal and existent, by virtue of which 'some ascetics' believe that they will be reborn in perpetuity.

The self and the world are eternal, barren, steadfast as a mountain peak, set firmly as a post. And though these beings rush around, circulate, pass away and re-arise, but this remains eternally.


Brahmajāla Sutta

Here, ‘this’ is that which ‘the eternalist’ believes is something durable, within which ‘beings rush around, circulate and re-arise’. This arises from the Vedic idea of sat as being ‘what really exists’, which is to be distinguished from asat, that which is illusory or unreal. Hence in this formulation, sat is what is ‘eternal, unchangeable, set firmly as a post’, and thus distinguishable from samsara or maya. It is conceived as ‘the essence of things’, both in general terms as Brahman and particular beings as ātman.

The Alagaddūpama Sutta criticizes those who think:
This is the self, this is the world; after death I shall be permanent, everlasting, not subject to change; I shall endure as long as eternity’ - this too he [i.e. ‘the eternalist’] regards thus: ‘This is mine, this I am, this is my self’


That is an accurate view of what is criticized as 'eternalism', is it not?

Contrast that with the udanna which says:

There is, monks, an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated. If there were not that unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, there would not be the case that escape from the born — become — made — fabricated would be discerned. But precisely because there is an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, escape from the born — become — made — fabricated is discerned.


"Nibbāna Sutta: Unbinding (3)" (Ud 8.3),

I take it that this 'unborn' is not something which is permanent, in the sense of existing continuously, in the way that 'the barren mountain peak' is conceived. It is not, properly, an object of thought or perception. But it is also not something non-existent. And I think that is because, what is 'eternal' is a different idea to 'something that exists by itself forever'.

Is that how you understand it?

A view of 'existence' is eternalism. For something to truly exist (inherently) it must exist outright, independent of causes and conditions. Since there is nothing that exists unconditionally there is nothing that inherently exists. Dependent existence is not existence.

There is no 'unborn' as a separate entity. The unborn is the non-arising (emptiness) of the imputed projections of mind mistaken as inherent reality. Unborn means non-arisen i.e. emptiness. Non-existence isn't a possibility because existence hasn't been posited in the first place. Only the deluded mind perceives extremes of existence, non-existence, both and/or neither. Emptiness is free of these. The unborn is dharmakāya.
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Re: Emptiness and the two truths

Postby futerko » Sat Oct 19, 2013 4:22 am

asunthatneversets wrote:A view of 'existence' is eternalism. For something to truly exist (inherently) it must exist outright, independent of causes and conditions. Since there is nothing that exists unconditionally there is nothing that inherently exists. Dependent existence is not existence.

There is no 'unborn' as a separate entity. The unborn is the non-arising (emptiness) of the imputed projections of mind mistaken as inherent reality. Unborn means non-arisen i.e. emptiness. Non-existence isn't a possibility because existence hasn't been posited in the first place. Only the deluded mind perceives extremes of existence, non-existence, both and/or neither. Emptiness is free of these. The unborn is dharmakāya.


In other words, the two truths only really become truly Buddhist when one views them as two aspects of the same "thing". Otherwise we simply have a dualistic theory no different to other religions.
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Re: Emptiness and the two truths

Postby Wayfarer » Sat Oct 19, 2013 4:27 am

asunthatneversets wrote:Since there is nothing that exists unconditionally there is nothing that inherently exists. Dependent existence is not existence.


And, as I say, it tends directly towards nihilism, because the logical implication is, nothing whatever exists.

@futerko - I love the turtle. :smile:
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Re: Emptiness and the two truths

Postby hop.pala » Sat Oct 19, 2013 4:35 am

futerko wrote:
asunthatneversets wrote:
In other words, the two truths only really become truly Buddhist when one views them as two aspects of the same "thing". Otherwise we simply have a dualistic theory no different to other religions.

Right.This can be an explanation,why can i accept the true self and the view of Nagarjuna in the same time.The understanding is nonconceptual.
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Re: Emptiness and the two truths

Postby asunthatneversets » Sat Oct 19, 2013 4:45 am

jeeprs wrote:
asunthatneversets wrote:Since there is nothing that exists unconditionally there is nothing that inherently exists. Dependent existence is not existence.


And, as I say, it tends directly towards nihilism, because the logical implication is, nothing whatever exists.

@futerko - I love the turtle. :smile:

Nothing exists inherently. But that also means that there is nothing that is inherently non-existent either, so nihilism is impossible. This is like seeing a rope as a snake, when you recognize that it's actually a rope, the snake is realized to be non-arisen. However in this case the rope represents the non-arising nature of the snake; its emptiness.

Things have a conventional nature, we can relatively say that they're existent conventionally, but that doesn't leave the realm of conventionality. The conventional designation is only inferred, the convention doesn't refer, there's nothing findable for it to refer to. This is the joyful irony.

A truly existent thing is unintelligible. Doesn't even make sense, and so non-existence doesn't make sense either. Therefore there is freedom from both eternalism and nihilism.

The only way you can perceive it as nihilistic, is if you believe that things exist inherently. Then yes this will appear as if your inherent things are being negated, because they are. Truly though, this reveals that there was nothing to negate in the first place. Inherent things are the delusion of the grasping mind, and do this is simply freedom from ignorance. Freedom from taking mirages, illusions, dream images, etc. as truly real.
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Re: Emptiness and the two truths

Postby asunthatneversets » Sat Oct 19, 2013 4:55 am

hop.pala wrote:
futerko wrote:
asunthatneversets wrote:
In other words, the two truths only really become truly Buddhist when one views them as two aspects of the same "thing". Otherwise we simply have a dualistic theory no different to other religions.

Right.This can be an explanation,why can i accept the true self and the view of Nagarjuna in the same time.The understanding is nonconceptual.

There's no way... Nāgārjuna adamately negates a true self, such a thing is impossible.

"Svabhāva is by definition the subject of contradictory ascriptions. If it exists, it must belong to an existent entity, which means that it must be conditioned, dependent on other entities, and possessed of causes. But a svabhāva is by definition unconditioned, not dependent on other entities, and not caused. Thus the existence of a svabhāva is impossible."
- Nāgārjuna
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Re: Emptiness and the two truths

Postby asunthatneversets » Sat Oct 19, 2013 5:09 am

hop.pala wrote:
futerko wrote:
asunthatneversets wrote:
In other words, the two truths only really become truly Buddhist when one views them as two aspects of the same "thing". Otherwise we simply have a dualistic theory no different to other religions.

Right.This can be an explanation,why can i accept the true self and the view of Nagarjuna in the same time.The understanding is nonconceptual.

And futerko is right, even though you have me accidentally cited instead, the two truths are like two aspects.

"The two truths are not different like two horns; in the conventionally real phase, when one sees the reflection of the moon in the water, insofar as there is the reflection, this is the conventionally real; insofar as this reflection is not the moon, this is the absolutely real. The fact that both represent one fact insofar as there is the presence of the moon in the water of the well without existing there, is the indivisibility of the two truths. About the intellect that understands it in this way, it is said that it understands the two truths."
- Longchenpa


and

"Like mistakenly seeing a rope as a snake,
with these varied appearances
we perceive them as what they are not,
giving rise to the duality of externality and internality,
i.e. the material environments and life forms therein.
However, upon scrutiny only the rope itself is found -
These environments and life forms are primordially empty,
as the ultimate only seems to have such concrete form
within the dissimulating process of the conventional.
The perception of a snake is phenomenologically true in terms of our seeing it as so,
but seeing the rope instead is authentically true;
analogically, it is like the appearance of a bird on a promontory:
The nature of these two truths is that
this transitory world is merely conventional dissimulation,
which the authentic reality has no relationship to -
In the expanse of emptiness
everything is free within it's essence."
- Garland of Precious Pearls Tantra
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Re: Emptiness and the two truths

Postby hop.pala » Sat Oct 19, 2013 5:14 am

hop.pala wrote:
futerko wrote:
asunthatneversets wrote:
In other words, the two truths only really become truly Buddhist when one views them as two aspects of the same "thing". Otherwise we simply have a dualistic theory no different to other religions.

Right.This can be an explanation,why can i accept the true self and the view of Nagarjuna in the same time.The understanding is nonconceptual.

There's no way... Nāgārjuna adamately negates a true self, such a thing is impossible.

When you read Nagarjuna and feel yourself good then probably are is you on the right understanding,when feel yourself bad or feel nothing then probably not understand because only use the analytic side of your mind.The negation is always only for the analytic.The diverse buddhist logic is not for debate,it is only for the nonconceptual understanding.Attachment to "exist" or not exist" is not middle way.Middle way is nonconceptual,so is the attachment to emptiness is the same problem or to true self.
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Re: Emptiness and the two truths

Postby Wayfarer » Sat Oct 19, 2013 5:17 am

asunthatneversets wrote:A truly existent thing is unintelligible. Doesn't even make sense, and so non-existence doesn't make sense either. This is freedom from eternalism and nihilism.


I'm almost on board with you. No individual thing is truly existent - it doesn't exist in and of itself. But it doesn't therefore follow that nothing is real. But 'what is real' is also beyond designation as this or that thing.

Nirvana, in the positive sense, I understand as waking up to reality, seeing the way things truly are. But in addition to the negative descriptions of Nirvana, there are also positive descriptions. That is why I am interested in studying 'In Praise of Dharmadhatu'. You might say that is not 'the same Nagarjuna', but according to the chapter I have been reading it is ascribed to Nagarjuna. In that, the Dharmadhatu is described in positive terms . Brunnholzl notes in his commentary, that there are quite a few expressions in such texts which are at variance with what the strictly Madhyamika interpretation is supposed to be.

But a svabhāva is by definition unconditioned, not dependent on other entities, and not caused. Thus the existence of a svabhāva is impossible.


The way I interpret this is that, 'existence' is phenomenal realm, the manifest realm, the realm of existing things, you and I, self and other. Svabhāva, as it says, is not in this realm, being unconditioned. There is not also some other realm 'over there', because ultimately there is only one reality, but from the point of view of 'the wayfarer', they are different realms.

But I don't think I have any issue with any of those texts you have quoted.
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Re: Emptiness and the two truths

Postby futerko » Sat Oct 19, 2013 5:28 am

jeeprs wrote:But it doesn't therefore follow that nothing is real. But 'what is real' is also beyond designation as this or that thing.

...because ultimately there is only one reality, but from the point of view of 'the wayfarer', they are different realms.


You are right, because it only when one designates what is real and what is unreal that such a view becomes valid, and as you rightly say, it is ultimately "beyond designation".

To quote Mipham, "Thus, although our ultimate is not empty of being the ultimate, since it is empty of deceptive reality, it goes without saying that it is empty of true existence, [which is a] false, deluded appearance."
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Re: Emptiness and the two truths

Postby asunthatneversets » Sat Oct 19, 2013 5:32 am

hop.pala wrote:
When you read Nagarjuna and feel yourself good then probably are is on you on the right understanding,when feel yourself bad or feel nothing then probably not understand because only use the analytic side of your mind.The negation is always only for the analytic.The diverse buddhist logic is not for debate,it is only for the nonconceptual understanding.Attachment to "exist" or not exist" is not middle way.Middle way is nonconceptual,so is the attachment to emptiness is the same problem or to true self.

The point isn't an understanding in the mind which makes you feel good, nor an understanding which doesn't make you feel good. If either is the case, then the understanding is merely intellectual. The point is to experientially actualize the truth he is pointing to in your own condition, beyond the intellect.

The negation is not always for the analytic. If you have seen emptiness, then it is plain as day that whatever it is you think exists, has never ever ever inherently (truly) existed.

There is no attachment to exist or non-existence going on in this discussion. Inherent existence is always negated, conventional existence (while a product of ignorance) is a useful tool and so it is tolerated because we of course have no other choice. That doesn't mean the conventional has any true reality, conventional things are merely conventions.

Emptiness is the middle way, a freedom from extremes.

Attachment to emptiness is only an issue when emptiness is turned into a view. Since emptiness is the pacification of views, turning emptiness into a view itself negates the entire premise of emptiness. The point is, as you said; non-conceptual realization.

Only the mind clings, clinging to emptiness means the deluded mind hasn't been pacified, and the understanding is only intellectual. Of course interacting here on a forum online, we have to use language to communicate and function within the conventional, these discussions don't constitute 'clinging to emptiness' though.
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Re: Emptiness and the two truths

Postby Sherab » Sat Oct 19, 2013 5:33 am

Nothing exists inherently.

Nothing exists inherently. Nothing exists in and of itself. Nothing exists by its own power. (They all have the same meaning.)

Therefore:

Any thing that exists must exist in dependence on something other than itself.

What does liberation means than?

If liberation means to be free from existence, then liberation = non-existence.

If liberation does not mean to be free from existence, then the state of liberation will always be a state that depends on something else. Therefore if that something else change, then the state of liberation will change. This means that there is no guarantee that the state of liberation is stable. If there can be no guarantee that the state of liberation is stable, how can that state be called a state of liberation?

This is just to illustrate my point that all debates issue using mutually exclusive terms such as existent and non-existent, whether directly or indirectly, can never come to a resolution because when you push the argument to its logical conclusion, you will end up with one extreme or another. To come to a resolution intellectually, you will need to think using an approach that does not need to use such mutually exclusive terms. The other approach for resolution is to have direct realization.
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