Dependent Origination and Emptiness, new (free) book by Leigh Brasington

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4 months 3 days ago #115397 by Kacchapa
I found out about it on this recent youtube 
Guru Viking

Jhana teacher Leigh Brasington decided to offer the book free when working with a publisher tied his hands and slowed release.

I ordered a print copy for about $16 planning to save it for next time my practice seems at a pause point and I'm ready for a new direction. 
But it's a fairly thin book with lots of white space and big print and, 40 pages in, it doesn't seem to be too intellectually demanding for me to follow him so far.

"Sariputa quotes the Buddha as having said, 'One who sees dependent origination sees the Dhamma; one who sees the Dhamma sees dependent origination.'  Dependent origination is the richest vein to mine in the whole of the teachings." - LB, p24

Statements like that have made me want to get some understanding of DO for a long time. 50 years ago LSD pointed out convincingly to me that my self experience and persona were composed of fabricated aggregates, but breaking the chain between vedana and craving has seemed formidable because I've never been clear on how to work with vedana. This looks like the extremely rare book that I might finish. 

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4 months 3 days ago #115402 by Dusko
Hm ... DO sure shows how the mind works. Noting vipassana can show this aspect very well. I still could not see the DO barrage formation in action as a "one after the other" co-arising as One Block of action, but first after that cessation in 2019. And even here first after about a year or longer of sitting and then walking practice. 

It was a simple spider web in the forest touching my face and the hand moving towards it to remove it and the mind image having an image of some web and hand removing it :D All this played out very fast in the mind and was seen as a formation. And this was not intellectualising but seen as stuff was arise-passing. 

However, lets say there was a Spider on the skin and all this played out itself very fast and I managed to slap my face and KILL the spider. I did see the DO as a formation but I ended up killing that creature. 

Ok lets move it to a more domestic picture; my partner goes on and on about how Im this or that and I say get off my back I'm tired I can't stand anyone talking to me now but she goes on and on and there is this DO formation unfolding of hand going up and slapping my partner (this of course never happed and is fiction for this example) seeing that fast formation unfolding into action. 

She cries and I feel sorry for doing it, even worse as I have seen it and yet failed to stop it. 

So, the DO to me is good to see but alone its not that effective to see the unfolding stuff in a more clear way. Here is where I think the 6 Realms and 5 Elements as Reactive Patterns can come in very handy. It still is based on DO of course but the framework is much more colorful and easer to paint with (once you get used to it I guess)

I might be wrong and this is only my understanding so far. Which might be wrong :D 

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4 months 3 days ago #115405 by Shargrol
Well said Dusko.

It's one of those things that are so basic that it is very easy to overlook. I agree one way to say it is that basic unmindfulness in a situation creates the conditions for an instinctual reaction in a form of one of the 5 elements and unmindfulness of that then becomes a "birth" in one of the 6 realms. 

Another way to look at it is there are positive, negative, and neutral feeling tones (vendana) which become instinctually personalized into attraction, aversion, and indifference (tanha)... and from there the reaction proceeds to an orientation of self-versus-other identity and then a "birth, life, and death" of some kind of survival/identity based action. 

I have to admit, however, that I feel -- just a feeling -- that scholars have fossilized the steps pf DO into something dogmatic, which makes a lot of people feel like "I don't see this". So I think the simplified version are good enough for teaching/explaining and the real work is simply seeing how flavors of unmindfulness and closed-interpretations create the seeds for fixed reactive trances, as opposed to how mindfulness and open-hypotheses creates the possibility of conscious and adjustable responses.

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4 months 2 days ago #115406 by Tom Otvos

Shargrol wrote: I have to admit, however, that I feel -- just a feeling -- that scholars have fossilized the steps pf DO into something dogmatic, which makes a lot of people feel like "I don't see this". So I think the simplified version are good enough for teaching/explaining and the real work is simply seeing how flavors of unmindfulness and closed-interpretations create the seeds for fixed reactive trances, as opposed to how mindfulness and open-hypotheses creates the possibility of conscious and adjustable responses.


It is great that you say this, Shargrol, because it rings true for me too. I listened to a great series of talks by John Peacock a long time ago on DO, describing in detail the steps. It made sense, intellectually, but was it *really* so linear? Reminds me of nanas, and the same feeling I have about those.

-- tomo

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4 months 2 days ago - 4 months 2 days ago #115407 by Chris Marti

So, the DO to me is good to see but alone its not that effective to see the unfolding stuff in a more clear way. Here is where I think the 6 Realms and 5 Elements as Reactive Patterns can come in very handy. It still is based on DO of course but the framework is much more colorful and easer to paint with (once you get used to it I guess)

I'm with Leigh Brasington on this. In my experience, these are two different things. Dependent origination explains the process, the raw mechanism, of the workings of our experience. It isn't much concerned with meaning or tone. For that, we look to 6 realms practices and other ways of effectively dealing with meaning. Knowing/seeing - grokking - dependent origination is critically important because through that we come to understand the process of experience, how it is entirely constructed by the mind. To truly grok DO we need to observe it in action. I agree completely that cataloging the steps into some kind of brittle formula isn't required, or even helpful. I can remember very clearly the first time DO became apparent to me while meditating on sound, and that was a truly seminal moment in my practice.

EDIT - I feel the need to add here that grokking DO is what Buddhists would call "seeing through ignorance." It's literally the basis upon which awakening occurs. It's what the Buddha taught. It's what MCTB is about at its core. It's Rob Burbea's theme. It's the first and primary objective of practice. From there, all else can follow. Without it, all else is a mish-mash, possibly effective but without a solid foundation.
Last edit: 4 months 2 days ago by Chris Marti.

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4 months 2 days ago #115410 by Dusko
"fixed reactive trances" :D 

I like this description!

I keep using the word "absorption" for such as its in a way similar to getting absorbed into a Jhana state, you buy into the story/feel and ride it until you wake up and look around to see what's going on, but now I see "trance" being a much better word as "absorption" is best used for concentration states. 

These words matter little in one's own practice but can be helpful or in some cases misleading when communicating such stuff to other folks.

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1 month 4 weeks ago #116015 by gnat
Hi!  I just got referred here from DharmaOverground ( www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/me...rds/message/23678680 ) and, I confess, I don't yet know a lot about Buddhism.  My shamatha is pretty strong, as I have decades of experience with self-hypnosis, and I've done a reasonable number of retreats where nobody really explained anything too well.  On the other hand, I don't understand vipassina, hardly at all, because nobody really explained anything too well.

But I now suspect there may be another reason vipassana doesn't make too much sense to me:  My self-hypnosis work made clear to me that almost everything "I" do comes down to "parts", working in collaboration, or at odds, doing almost everything outside conscious awareness, and following “their” own logic and causal chains.

When I came here I did a search for jhanas.  I saw "Dependent Origination" and that took me here.


So "dependent origination" is a causal chain?  I agree, and a lot of things really do seem to be almost, if not entirely, conditioned responses if not programmed via biology.  That isn't nearly as rich as my NLP/parts models, but I'm hoping there is a lot more to it?  Else, why is it such a revelation in this day and age?  (Admittedly the Buddha was a genius to have figured it out 2500 years ago).

My biggest question is this, though:   how do I directly use that to change my "reflexive" or more complicated stimulus-response behaviors and "grasping"?

Just knowing that I am reacting, or even why I am reacting, doesn't seem nearly effective enough vs other modalities of change.  Let me give a couple specific things I am working on:   (1) I want to be much more fully conscious when communicating.   (2) I want to stop my intense aversion to paperwork and, especially, taxes.


With more complicated problems, my usual method of negotiating with parts (usually while I am in trance and using ideomotor signals) is usually pretty effective.  Typically, I don't even need to understand the full, low level, causal chain when I am working with parts or submodalities.

But these two changes I desire in myself have not, so far, proven amenable to my usual methods of negotiating change.

Is there a D.O. technique from Buddhism which might work here?

By the way, I appreciate the link to the Leigh Brasington book and interview.  One of the questions from the interview was how he overcame his strong aversion to writing.   Since the topic was "DO" I -- and I expect the interviewer -- expected Leigh to say he used "insight" to resolve the problem. But, instead, he says he needed Covid isolation and a near-death experience to get the job done. THAT does not sound very ... sophisticated?  It sounds like my difficulty with getting my taxes done.  Eventually, I suffer enough, and waste enough time, that I run out of time -- and then I panic or beat myself up until I get something "good enough" done. 

I sure would like to be able to use "insight" to change my behavior, instead???  That way I'd both stop my suffering AND learn the value of insight meditation.

Any suggestions?  By the way, I am thinking that if I can just get good enough at 1st & 2nd jhanas, I might be able to just associate PLEASURE and JOY with getting my taxes down as soon as possible?   Is that likely to work?  Should I be able to just edit the DO/causal chain and have my behaviors and "grasping" change????   Is that a stock Buddhist practice in a case like this?

Thanks for any helpful comments!

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1 month 4 weeks ago - 1 month 4 weeks ago #116017 by Dusko
Welcome Steve! 

Jhanas will but avoid the issue you are trying figure out. Jhana can be like a drug. Feels great while it lasts. Then Dukkha (agony with paying taxes) comes back with vengeance. 

What I would suggest is to look at your “reactive patterns” and try to understand them a bit more. 
Also work on your Noting Vipassana so to awaken to that aspect of the mind. Having rational understanding of the dependent origination action ain’t good enough. Mind must see this unfold in actuality. Work towards stream entry. 

Best book on reactive patterns and how to work with them is Wake Up To Your Life by Ken McLeod. Shargrol here is the best member to ask about it and get tips from. 

Probably best to start a practice log on this forum as you will get more practical advice there. 

Best wishes and welcome to AN! 
Last edit: 1 month 4 weeks ago by Dusko.

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1 month 4 weeks ago - 1 month 4 weeks ago #116023 by Shargrol

Steve Rudx wrote:
Any suggestions?  By the way, I am thinking that if I can just get good enough at 1st & 2nd jhanas, I might be able to just associate PLEASURE and JOY with getting my taxes down as soon as possible?   Is that likely to work?  Should I be able to just edit the DO/causal chain and have my behaviors and "grasping" change????   Is that a stock Buddhist practice in a case like this?


Everyone wants a technique that allows us to avoid the hard stuff and get to the good stuff, but that will ultimately turn out to be a dead end. The secret is to go >into< the hard stuff with awareness and notice how we create unnecessary suffering. A zen master would beat us with a stick and say "straight ahead" -- and she would be right.

There is nothing that challenging about most things in life, including taxes, beyond a bit of discomfort. Yet, we avoid discomfort as if it was a kind of death. We have avoidance habits and it feels like we would die if we did something differently. Pretty strange, eh? So rather than trying to avoid discomfort, it is better to use the activity as an experiment and to figure out the reason why we self-sabotage in this way...

There is no way to figure this out just in our head. (In the same way, we can't just "think about meditation" we have to actually do it.) So we have to go into and through situations that we would avoid --- and pay very close attention. Eventually, over time, we'll notice that right at the moment of discomfort there seems to be the co-occurrence of aversion. Discomfort is fundamentally different than aversion, but because of a lack of perceptual clarity we see it as the same thing. And then a whole series of actions occur. We develop a self-identity around aversion. And then we develop all sorts of clever strategies and methods and plans for getting the thing we want while still avoiding the thing we want to avoid... and eventually that fails because some things in life require a bit of discomfort to get things done. And we are back to where we started, nothing accomplished, wasted time, what a loss! I mean think about it: there was just the tiny feeling of discomfort and instead of simply experiencing it, we went on this long trip that resulted in failure!

This is samsara. A distorted sense of compassion (a confused sense of self wanting to prevent an experience of discomfort) that becomes a big drama quest and ultimately a failure. In the example above, there is a fundamental ignorance (lack of perceptual clarity), a sensation/feeling, an emotional reaction to that sensation/feeling, a birth of a self and a death of a self. That's the essence of DO, but it's actually much more subtle than that... but that's roughly how it would apply to bigger life events like doing taxes.

But DO is very technical and subtle because even space and time are a product of DO, so "causation" isn't quite the same thing as DO. "Cause and effect" DO is sort of the kindergarden version of that is taught in basic Buddhism 101. Sort of like how "karma" is taught as very simplistic cause and effect. It's easy to understand by most people so it is a good starting point, but to see space or time (for example) as dependent on conditions requires a lot of meditative practice. DO is about dependency, about the conditions that are required for something to arise. Sort of like subject and object require each other to arise and without either, neither can arise. This dependency is also why needless dukka can be ultimately resolved, because needless dukka is dependent conditions which are required for it to arise.

Well, I doubt I solved your taxes question or your DO question -- but thanks for putting up with my attempt!

Short story: don't use buddhism to avoid difficulty, use buddhism to figure out why difficulty arises in the first place. 
Last edit: 1 month 4 weeks ago by Shargrol.

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1 month 4 weeks ago #116027 by gnat
Thank you for the welcome and taking the time to educate me.  Your answer sort of makes sense, especially in your bringing up how space and time perception are also a causal chain.  Most of my problem with taxes, specifically, has to do with my perception that even an hour of working to organize information feels like days...or weeks...and, therefore, literally turns into days or weeks as I procrastinate.

So what happens with something like a phobia when it is approached through strong Buddhist meditation/ insight?  And at what level of practice does something like a phobia become tractable?  Or is Buddhist meditation NOT intended nor useful for helping with such pedestrian suffering?

Hopefully my question seems pertinent.  I can usually remove a phobia from someone in a matter of minutes, because a real phobia is a very rigid, "one trial learning" where the person experiencing the phobia is triggered into a vivid memory ASSOCIATED in a very tightly coupled state.  If you can get them to replay the movie in a very dissociated state (sort of like watching a film from the fourth jhana), even one time, their conditioned memory-response is changed.  With the memory chain altered, their conditioned phobia (causal chain) is immediately and permanently gone.  

I've been fortunate enough in my life to have three people have their phobia triggered in my presence, and 5-10 minutes later -- thank God -- their lifelong suffering was gone.   The three cases involved:   (i) a night terror in a 12 year old.   (ii) a friend who had a severe needle/syringe phobia and gave me a full display when he walked in on me giving myself a medical injection.  (iii) a woman who sat down next to me on an airplane who had a lifelong terror of taking off and landing.  When you see a phobia triggered, just in case you have no personal experience with a phobia, the triggered person goes immediately into full-blown panic, commonly turning white, sweating profusely, shaking, perhaps vomiting, etc.  In other words, there is no gap between the stimulus and response for “mindfulness” to be of any help, I don't think. And the physiologic hit is NOT something the person has any control over.  Until their causal chain is rewritten. At which point the physiologic response cannot be reproduced with the same trigger, no matter how hard they 'try'.

Is relief from something like a phobia only possible under Buddhist meditation by using DO after decades of intense meditative practice and on stream entry?  Or perhaps not even then?  Certainly, removing a phobia quickly and painlessly helps end a good bit of needless suffering.  I thought vipassana was, perhaps, a similarly generally useful tool available to the masses?  Or do I totally misunderstand the nature and benefits of vipassana/insight? 

As I said, I don't yet "grok" vipassana, as my attempts to apply it to myself haven't yet produced any noteworthy results.  I do, however, accept that it is a useful, and likely necessary, skill in order to walk the Buddha's path.

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1 month 4 weeks ago #116028 by gnat
Actually, I want to modify my statement that "my attempts to apply it to myself haven't yet produced any noteworthy results."  If metta is vipassana (is it?) then applying metta to myself does increase my joy, at least when I am meditating.  So it makes sense if I do metta a lot, some of that should eventually spill into my waking world?

But how can metta be vipassana?   I thought vipassana was observing, only?   Verbalizing "I forgive myself for not understanding...I forgive myself for making a mistake" certainly makes me feel better, and it is useful in liberating joy, but  it also reduces access concentration and 1st jhana.  Although, NOTICING the effect of forgiving myself on myself is clearly enough observing....  Is that why this is vipassana.  If so, why wouldn't rewriting DO (causal chains of suffering) in my imagination, as I am in 2nd jhana (joy+pleasure) or 4th jhana (dissociation) be a valid part of Buddhist practice?

Again, I apologize if my questions seem over direct.  I am not trying to rewrite the jhanas to fit psychtherapy models, but it is hard not to notice the overlap and attempt to use that to further my understanding and progress.  It's hard to not read words on a page once you have been conditioned to reflexively translate letters and words.

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1 month 4 weeks ago #116034 by Philip Stone

Steve Rudx wrote: Although, NOTICING the effect of forgiving myself on myself is clearly enough observing....  Is that why this is vipassana. 

Yes! Seeing with insight :-)
You might notice other things - resistance to do metta to oneself - am I creating an identity of being not worthy, resistance to metta to 'enemies', but you discover that 'enemy' is a projection and they're just another being flailing around in samsara...

Steve Rudx wrote: If so, why wouldn't rewriting DO (causal chains of suffering) in my imagination, as I am in 2nd jhana (joy+pleasure) or 4th jhana (dissociation) be a valid part of Buddhist practice?.

It might not be Buddhist practice but this is Awakenetwork, so if it leads to awakening it might be another tool in the box.

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1 month 4 weeks ago #116035 by Chris Marti
Hello, Steve. Welcome to AwakeNetwork.

I'll challenge you to actually try vipassana in 30-minute increments once a day for a month. All your questions can more easily be addressed after that. Right now, your questions are coming from inexperience and conjecture. If you can just try the practice for a period of time a lot of your questions might be answered by... you.

;)

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1 month 3 weeks ago - 1 month 3 weeks ago #116060 by Chris Marti
I created a new topic called "Steve's Vipassana Practice Topic" and moved the last few posts by Steve and me there - this will put the conversation we're having about Steve's practice in a more appropriate place:

https://www.awakenetwork.org/forum/forum-members/13826-steve-s-vipassana-practice-topic
Last edit: 1 month 3 weeks ago by Chris Marti.

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1 month 3 weeks ago #116061 by gnat

Shargrol wrote:

Steve Rudx wrote:
Any suggestions?  By the way, I am thinking that if I can just get good enough at 1st & 2nd jhanas, I might be able to just associate PLEASURE and JOY with getting my taxes down as soon as possible?   Is that likely to work?  Should I be able to just edit the DO/causal chain and have my behaviors and "grasping" change????   Is that a stock Buddhist practice in a case like this?


Everyone wants a technique that allows us to avoid the hard stuff and get to the good stuff, but that will ultimately turn out to be a dead end. The secret is to go >into< the hard stuff with awareness and notice how we create unnecessary suffering. A zen master would beat us with a stick and say "straight ahead" -- and she would be right.

...
Well, I doubt I solved your taxes question or your DO question -- but thanks for putting up with my attempt!

Short story: don't use buddhism to avoid difficulty, use buddhism to figure out why difficulty arises in the first place. 


I was watching the Leigh Brasington interview yesterday and, unless I seriously misunderstand, he specifically mentions (beginning 11:30) using DO to CHANGE the causal chain.  So, what I am proposing IS more or less standard practice and, presumably, in alignment with the Buddha's standard practice. Please listen and let me know if you disagree.

This is a bit rhetorical, perhaps, but if we start with the Buddha's avowed desire to teach how to end suffering, it seems nonsensical to argue that the Buddha just wanted people to suffer through life the hard way, or even 'watch' the horror movie until they 'somehow' figured it out on their own.   I should think he would have been first on board to begin teaching how to end a phobia in five minutes or, in my case, teaching how to navigate past my taxes with the least suffering.    Come to think of it, didn't he ADVISE “right occupation” with that sort of side-stepping in mind?

One thing we should know from the history of psychology is that Sigmund Freud's “psychoanalysis” looked an awful lot like basic “insight”.  "Uncover the causal chain," he taught, "and the behavior will 'automatically' improve."

It worked better than nothing, in some cases, but the truth is it commonly didn't work very well at all.    There were plenty of people who could attest to spending 5-10 years on a couch, “understanding” how their relationship with their mother “caused” them to suffer in life -- who NEVER got relief from got relief from the suffering.

Buddha was a genius.  And he was a lot more practical than Sigmund Freud.   I seriously doubt he advocated for leaving the causal chain of suffering intact.  In fact, his dedicating his life to teaching WAS an attack on the causal chain at a massive scale.  It makes no sense that Buddha didn't also teach his followers to actively edit causal chains whenever they could.  That IS “skillful means”.  Simply observing is NOT skillful means when there is a more direct alternative.

All that said, perhaps I am missing your point in some way?  To answer your other question, though, 'yes' our written exchange yesterday DID make my tax suffering go away. At least for now. You brought up time and space.  I thought about it and decided if I just prepay some extra money and take care of a couple of other relatively less intimidating issues which were waiting until the taxes were done, I can get an extension.   And all the neuromuscular lock goes away (at least for now). And who knows, I may die before next Oct 15.   In which case I may never have to face King Kong, ever, after all! ;->

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1 month 3 weeks ago - 1 month 3 weeks ago #116069 by Chris Marti

One thing we should know from the history of psychology is that Sigmund Freud's “psychoanalysis” looked an awful lot like basic “insight”.  "Uncover the causal chain," he taught, "and the behavior will 'automatically' improve."


This is conflating the nature of the causes in play. Freud played in the realm of psychology - the content of thoughts. The Buddha played in the realm of perception - the nature of ongoing, second by second experience as it plays out (no content, just process).
Last edit: 1 month 3 weeks ago by Chris Marti.

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1 month 3 weeks ago #116191 by Jackson

gnat wrote:
I was watching the Leigh Brasington interview yesterday and, unless I seriously misunderstand, he specifically mentions (beginning 11:30) using DO to CHANGE the causal chain.  So, what I am proposing IS more or less standard practice and, presumably, in alignment with the Buddha's standard practice. Please listen and let me know if you disagree...


I really like where you're going with this. Yes, DO isn't just about noticing that this process is happening. A lot more is gained by actually participating in the process directly, to see what the results are. Every Buddhist practice participates in DO in an intentional way, so as to counteract the issues that are caused by participation in DO in a deluded or ignorant way. Hence the oft cited metaphor of the thorn that's used to remove a thorn. 

Ajahn Thanissaro has a lot to say about this in his writings. He (and his Thai teachers before him) saw jhana practices as a way to actively participate in fabrication, as a way to create conditions of heightened perception, which could then be used to further the process, to the point that one drops fabrication all together. And I think he's right about this. Even the practice of just observing and label is a way to shape your experience, so as to related to phenomena differently, and notice things you wouldn't normally see. 

An example of this from my pre-stream entry practice (which was many years ago)... I remember having difficulty moving through the dukkha ñanas (dark night), and I was doing everything I could to passively observe what was arising. But as I was looking into the meaning of equanimity, I kept coming across the idea that it was not the same as indifference. So I changed my approach. Whatever arose in my awareness, I would mentally acknowledge the arising and think, "Hello, welcome. Please stay as long as you like." This welcoming attitude seemed to neutralize grasping, aversion, and delusion, which is what helped me first access the equanimity ñana. It wasn't long after that when the first cessation moment occurred. 

The point being that an impermanent, imperfect practice helped me let go of an unhelpful process and move into a deeper level of insight and well-being. Letting go of that next stage is what led to the mind letting go of clinging entirely (if only momentarily). 

Anyway, I think that's why DO can be useful. Noticing how this tends to flow to that, and what to do to reverse it. Kind of cool. 

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