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Thread: MN 9: Sammaditthi Sutta: Dependent Origination

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    MN 9: Sammaditthi Sutta: Dependent Origination

    Dear forum

    The suttas report the Buddha said his teachings of dhamma, including Dependent Origination, were straightforward & directly visible:

    Bhikkhus, the Dhamma well proclaimed by me thus is clear, open, evident and free of patchwork.

    MN 22 : Alagadd?pamasutta
    The Dhamma is well expounded by the Blessed One, directly visible, immediate, inviting one to come and see, applicable, to be personally experienced by the wise.

    SN 16.3 : Cand?pam?sutta
    I have set forth the Dhamma without making any distinction of esoteric and exoteric doctrine; there is nothing, Ananda, with regard to the teachings that the Tathagata holds to the last with the closed fist of a teacher who keeps some things back.

    DN 16 : Maha-parinibbana Sutta
    In this thread, I will offer a meditative analysis of Dependent Origination from MN 9, for the purpose of meditative investigation.

    The analysis will essentially be the same as offered in Bhikkhu Thanissaro's 'Shape of Suffering':

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/a...fsuffering.pdf


  2. #2
    Forums Member Element's Avatar
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    Ignorance & Taints

    There are three taints: the taint of sensual desire, the taint of becoming and the taint of ignorance. With the arising of ignorance there is the arising of the taints.

    Not knowing about suffering, not knowing about the origin of suffering, not knowing about the cessation of suffering, not knowing about the way leading to the cessation of suffering — this is called ignorance. With the arising of the taints there is the arising of ignorance.

    MN 9
    In MN 9, the 1st condition of dependent origination, namely, ignorance, includes within it the 'asava'.

    The 'asava' are defilements of: (i) sensual desire; (ii) passion for & past becoming; and (iii) ignorance; which spontaneously or habitually flow out of the mind.

    The 'asava', which are translated as 'taints', 'fermentations', 'effluents', 'cankers', 'outflows', etc, are essentially instinctual drives & mechanisms.

    Therefore, the 1st condition of ignorance not only refers to 'not-knowing'. It also refers to the fact that when ignorance exists, the instinctual drives of the mind will not be subdued and therefore will spontaneously & habitually flow out as 'asava'.

    Meditation: In meditation, when moods or drives spontaneously arise in the mind (such as the five hindrances), these are part of the condition of ignorance. This is to be known with clear-comprehension.


  3. #3
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    Sankhara: fabricators

    Katame ca bhikkhave saṅkhārā? Tayome bhikkhave, saṅkhārā: kāyasaṅkhāro vacīsaṅkhāro cittasaṅkhāro. Ime vuccanti bhikkhave, saṅkhārā.

    And what are fabricators? These three are fabricators: the body fabricator, the verbal fabricator & the mind fabricator. These are called fabricators.

    MN 9
    Katamo panayye kāyasaṅkhāro, katamo vacīsaṅkhāro, katamo cittasaṅkhāroti? Assāsapassāsā kho āvuso visākha kāyasaṅkhāro. Vitakkavicārā vacīsaṅkhāro. Saññā ca vedanā ca cittasaṅkhāroti.

    But what is the body fabricator? What is the verbal fabricator? What is the mind fabricator? In-&-out breathing is the body fabricator. Initial thought & sustained thought are the verbal fabricator. Perceptions & feelings are the mind fabricator.

    MN 44
    With the arising of ignorance there is the arising of fabricators.

    MN 9
    The 2nd condition of dependent origination is called 'sankhara', which is often mistranslated as 'volitional formations'. Not only does the word 'volitional' not exist in the Pali, but these 'sankhara' are non-volitional, in that, the same as 'ignorance', they arise spontaneously or habitually.

    Thus, Ajahn Sumedho, for example, has called the sankhara 'habitual formations' rather than 'volitional formations'.

    Contrary to mainstream Buddhism, many Buddhist teachers such as Bhikkhu Buddhadasa, Nanavira Thera, Katukurunde Nyanananda and even Thanissaro Bhikkhu (in ‘Shape of Suffering’) have correctly identified the ‘sankhara’ in dependent origination as: (i) the in-&-out breathing; (ii) initial & sustained thought; and (iii) perceptions & feelings.

    Explicitly, these 'sankhara' or 'fabricators' are exclusively 'internal'. In other words, they do not arise directly from sense experiences of external objects but arise from within the body & mind.

    These 'sankhara' are called 'fabricators' because the breathing conditions/affects/fabricates the body (rupa) and the feelings, perceptions & thoughts can condition/affect/fabricate the mind (nama) at the 4th condition of dependent origination (nama-rupa) & also further along in dependent origination.

    Therefore, in meditation, these 'sankhara' manifest as 'distracting thoughts' and disturbances of the in & out breathing.

    It is important to distinguish between: (a) the moods or energetic drives of the 'asava' (which are connected to 'ignorance') and; (b) the 'sankhara' of inner feelings, perceptions & thoughts and disturbances of breathing (that are conditioned by the prior 'asava').

    For example, a mood, drive or urge (such as sensual desire) may arise in meditation however the associated thoughts (sankhara) may be stopped; even though it may take a longer time to calm the mood or propulsion of sensual desire, which may still remain.

    Meditation:

    1. 'Sankhara' are the most basic or primal level of distracting thoughts, memories or images.

    2. 'Sankhara', namely, the 'kaya sankhara', is also the breathing.

    3. When the mind is aware of breathing but the breathing is agitated or disturbed, the agitation is conditioned/caused by ignorance & asava.

    4. Or when distracting thoughts arise, this arising is also conditioned/caused by ignorance & asava.

    5. If the breathing is calmed, this is called 'calming the kaya sankhara', as explained in step 4 of the Anapanasati Sutta.

    6. When hindrances arise in meditation, the meditator should try to distinguish between: (a) the mood, drive or asava; and (b) the distracting thoughts ('sankhara'). The mood or drive is 'ignorance-asava' and the thoughts is 'sankhara'.


  4. #4
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    Consciousness

    There are these six classes of consciousness: eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body-consciousness, mind-consciousness. With the arising of formations there is the arising of consciousness.

    MN 9
    'Consciousness, consciousness': Thus is it said. To what extent, friend, is it said to be 'consciousness'?

    'It cognizes, it cognizes': Thus, friend, it is said to be 'consciousness.' And what does it cognize? It cognizes 'pleasant.' It cognizes 'painful.' It cognizes 'neither painful nor pleasant.' 'It cognizes, it cognizes': Thus it is said to be 'consciousness.'

    MN 43
    The 3rd condition of dependent origination is 'consciousness', which is 'cognition', 'experiencing' or 'knowing'.

    When ignorant-sankhara arise internally, they become the objects of consciousness or experience.

    Further, if the mind (nama) becomes pre-occupied with the ignorant-sankhara, consciousness will also remain pre-occupied with those sankhara, including pursuing related external experiences.

    For example, if the sankhara thought & feelings spontaneously arises: "I feel like ice-cream" (which is caused by an asava of sensuality & past becoming), mind-consciousness knows this sankhara & mind-consciousness is also captured or used by this sankhara. If dependent origination continues towards craving & kammic activity (becoming), eye-consciousness continues to serve the sankhara by looking for ice-cream via the eyes in the refrigerator.

    Therefore, ignorance causes sankharas to arise and sankharas cause consciousness to arise, i.e., to activate, as described below:

    Should consciousness, when standing, stand attached to fabrications, supported by fabrications (as its object), landing on fabrications, watered with delight, it would exhibit growth, increase & proliferation.

    SN 22.53
    Kamma is the field, consciousness the seed and craving the moisture. The consciousness of living beings hindered by ignorance & fettered by craving is established in/tuned to a lower property.

    AN 3.76
    Meditation:

    1. If the mind knows the breathing (kaya-sankhara) in meditation, this knowing is body-consciousness.

    2. If a distracting thought (vaci-sankhara) arises in meditation, mind-consciousness knows or is captured by that distracting thought and the body-consciousness that previously experienced the breathing ceases to function.

    3. If the internal sankhara then cause external seeking activity, consciousness will also operate with the eyes, ears, nose & tongue.


  5. #5
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    Mentality-Materiality

    And what is mentality-materiality (nama-rupa)?

    Feeling, perception, volition, contact and attention — these are called mentality (nama).

    The four great elements and the material form derived from the four great elements — these are called materiality (rupa).

    With the arising of consciousness there is the arising of mentality-materiality.

    With the cessation of consciousness there is the cessation of mentality-materiality.

    MN 9
    'Mentality-materiality' or 'nama-rupa' is the 4th condition of dependent origination & possibly the most misunderstood & debated.

    Misunderstanding occurs because: (i) 'nama-rupa' was a key tenet of pre-Buddhist Brahmanism, namely, 'naming-forms'; (ii) in Pali suttas delivered to/composed for Brahmans (e.g. SN 7.6; DN 11; DN 15), the term 'nama-rupa' retains its Brahmanistic meaning as 'name-form'; and (iii) therefore Buddhists overlook the fact that for Buddhist purposes 'nama-rupa' means 'mentality-materiality', as defined in MN 9 & SN 12.2.

    This interpretation & translation discrepancy is easily resolved & confirmed by the fact that in the suttas for Buddhists (eg. MN 9; SN 12.2; SN 12.67), consciousness & nama-rupa are said to be interrelated, i.e., they cannot exist without eachother. Whereas in the suttas for Brahmans (e.g. SN 7.6; DN 11; DN 15), it is said there is a luminous or discerning consciousness that exists when nama-rupa stops/ends/is destroyed. This shows 'nama-rupa' for Buddhist practitioners does not mean 'naming-forms' but 'mentality-materiality'.



    Returning to dependent origination, 'rupa' or 'materiality' refers to the physical body. When ignorance/asava flow out, the kaya-sankhara (breathing) is disturbed/agitated, which in turn makes the physical body ('rupa') stressed/agitated. This dependent conditioning is easily verified in meditation.

    More important to comprehend, 'mentality' or 'nama' refers to the various mental faculties of feeling, perception, volition, (internal) contact & attention. 'Mentality' also includes other mental faculties, such as faith, mindfulness, effort, etc (refer to MN 111).

    For example, when a meditator generates the volition/intention to meditate & establishes attention, this is a function of 'nama'. Or when a meditator feels the breathing (kaya-sankhara) is agitated, this feeling is a function of 'nama'. Or when a meditator perceives an ignorant perception (citta-sankhara) is unbeneficial, this wise perception (nama) of an unwise perception (citta-sankhara) is a function of 'nama'. When the meditator decides (nama) to abandon the unwise perception (citta-sankhara) & unwise distracting thoughts (vaci-sankhara) and return to the breathing, this decision or volition is a function of 'nama'.

    In terms of practising meditation (which is not dependent origination), 'nama-rupa' is the meditator or 'gatekeeper'. In meditation, nama-rupa together with consciousness experience, manage & calm the sankhara that are generated by ignorance. These are the 1st, 2nd, 3rd & 4th conditions of dependent origination.

    However, it terms of dependent origination, which refers to the origination of suffering, the 'nama-rupa' condition is included to describe how mentality-materiality is overcome by ignorance. When mentality-materiality is overcome by ignorance, there will be no mindfulness & no wisdom and nama-rupa will create volitions/intentions that side with the drives & persuasions of the ignorant sankhara. Instead of perceiving the ignorant sankharas as unbeneficial, the nama-rupa will perceive those ignorant sankharas as worthy of time & energy. Thus consciousness & mentality-materiality will be overcome by ignorance, as described below:

    Well, Brahman, when a man dwells with his heart possessed and overwhelmed by sense-desires, and does not know, as it really is, the way of escape from sense-desires that have arisen, then he cannot know or see, as it really is, what is to his own profit, nor can he know and see what is to the profit of others, or of both himself and others. Then even sacred words he has long studied are not clear to him, not to mention those he has not studied.

    Imagine, Brahman, a bowl of water mixed with lac, turmeric, dark green or crimson dye. If a man with good eyesight were to look at the reflection of his own face in it, he would not know or see it as it really was. In the same way, Brahman, when a man dwells with his heart possessed and overwhelmed by sense-desires... then he cannot know or see, as it really is, what is to his own profit, to the profit of others, to the profit of both. Then even sacred words he has long studied are not clear to him, not to mention those he has not studied.

    SN 46.55
    Meditation:

    1. It is important to discern 'nama-rupa' is the meditator, which feels, engages in wise perception, wise intentions & applies mindfulness & attention.

    2. It is important to discern how 'nama' can feel, perceive, contact, attend to & create intentions towards the ignorant thoughts, perceptions, feelings and disturbances of breathing that are the 'sankhara'.

    3. In terms of dependent origination, the arising of 'nama-rupa' means when 'nama-rupa' is overcome by ignorance & thus mindfulness & wisdom are lost.

    4. When 'nama-rupa' is overcome by ignorance, it will generate unwise perceptions, give unwise attention and particularly generate unwise intentions.

    5. In short, 'intention' or 'volition' first begins to operate in dependent origination at 'nama-rupa' (as specifically described in MN 9).


  6. #6
    Forums Member Element's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Element View Post
    When mentality-materiality is overcome by ignorance, there will be no mindfulness & no wisdom and nama-rupa will create volitions/intentions that side with the drives & persuasions of the ignorant sankhara. Instead of perceiving the ignorant sankharas as unbeneficial, the nama-rupa will perceive those ignorant sankharas as worthy of time & energy.
    The above is also well-described in MN 19:

    1. Nama wisely perceiving & reflecting upon distracting thoughts (vaci sankhara) as unbeneficial:

    As I abided thus, diligent, ardent, and resolute, a thought [vaci sankhara] of sensual desire arose in me. I understood thus: ‘This thought of sensual desire has arisen in me. This leads to my own affliction, to others’ affliction, and to the affliction of both; it obstructs wisdom, causes difficulties, and leads away from Nibbāna.’ When I considered: ‘This leads to my own affliction,’ it subsided in me; when I considered: ‘This leads to others’ affliction,’ it subsided in me; when I considered: ‘This leads to the affliction of both,’ it subsided in me; when I considered: ‘This obstructs wisdom, causes difficulties, and leads away from Nibbāna,’ it subsided in me. Whenever a thought of sensual desire arose in me, I abandoned it, removed it, did away with it.
    2. Nama ignorantly giving time & energy to unbeneficial thoughts (vaci sankhara), which feeds the cycle of dependent origination towards suffering:

    Bhikkhus, whatever a bhikkhu frequently thinks and ponders upon, that will become the inclination (nati) of his mind. If he frequently thinks and ponders upon thoughts of sensual desire, he has abandoned the thought of renunciation to cultivate the thought of sensual desire, and then his mind inclines (namati) to thoughts of sensual desire. If he frequently thinks and ponders upon thoughts of ill will…upon thoughts of cruelty, he has abandoned the thought of non-cruelty to cultivate the thought of cruelty, and then his mind inclines to thoughts of cruelty.
    3. Nama wisely not giving time & energy to unbeneficial thoughts (vaci sankhara), which reverses & stops the cycle of dependent origination:

    Bhikkhus, whatever a bhikkhu frequently thinks and ponders upon, that will become the inclination (nati) of his mind. If he frequently thinks and ponders upon thoughts of renunciation, he has abandoned the thought of sensual desire to cultivate the thought of renunciation, and then his mind inclines (namati) to thoughts of renunciation. If he frequently thinks and ponders upon thoughts of non-ill will…upon thoughts of non-cruelty, he has abandoned the thought of cruelty to cultivate the thought of non-cruelty, and then his mind inclines to thoughts of non-cruelty.
    Note: the Pali word 'namati' used above as 'inclination' of mind.

    Thus, the first four conditions of dependent origination might possibly be summarised as: 'ignorance' condition 'sankhara' which condition 'consciousness' which condition 'mental (& bodily) inclination'.


  7. #7
    Forums Member Element's Avatar
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    Before moving on to the 5th (sense spheres) & 6th (sense contact) conditions of dependent origination, a feature of the 4th condition should be reiterated, namely, 'sense contact' is also one of the constituents of 'nama' ('mentality'), the 4th condition.

    'Contact' as a constituent of 'nama-rupa' means everything wholesome that can be experienced in formal meditation, such as calming the sankhara (sabba-sankara-samatho) & ending ignorance, is included within the first four conditions.

    While wholesome meditation is not dependent origination itself (since dependent origination is about the arising of suffering), having 'contact' within the 4th condition allows the first four conditions to be known & examined clearly.

    The breathing that is calmed is the 'kaya sankhara'; vitakka & vicara that are calmed in the 2nd jhana is 'vaci sankhara'; the feelings & perceptions that are calmed in the higher jhanas are 'citta sankhara'; and the greed, hatred & delusion that are calmed are 'ignorance'.

    Thus, the suttas say:

    There are, bhikkhu, these six kinds of tranquillization. For one who has attained the first jhana, speech has been tranquillized. For one who has attained the second jhana, thought (vitakka) & examination (vicara) have been tranquillized. For one who has attained the third jhana, rapture has been tranquillized. For one who has attained the fourth jhana, in-breathing and out-breathing have been tranquillized. For one who has attained the cessation of perception and feeling, perception and feeling have been tranquillized. For a bhikkhu whose taints are destroyed, lust has been tranquillized, hatred has been tranquillized, delusion (ignorance) has been tranquillized.

    SN 36.11
    Meditation:

    1. Know clearly 'nama-rupa' is the 'meditator' or 'gatekeeper'.

    2. Know clearly 'sankhara' is the meditation objects, such as distracting thoughts, breathing, rapture, etc.

    3. Know clearly 'consciousness' is the knowing of the 'sankhara'.

    4. Know clearly any outflows (asava) of habitual or spontaneous defilements are ignorance.


  8. #8
    Forums Member Element's Avatar
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    The 5th & 6th conditions of dependent origination are the six sense spheres & the six sense contacts.

    There are these six bases: the eye-base, the ear-base, the nose-base, the tongue-base, the body-base, the mind-base. With the arising of mentality-materiality there is the arising of the sixfold base.

    There are these six classes of contact: eye-contact, ear-contact, nose-contact, tongue-contact, body-contact, mind-contact. With the arising of the sixfold base there is the arising of contact.

    MN 9
    The essential matter of dependent origination is it describes how the sense spheres & sense contact are tainted or clouded by ignorance.

    Thus the very important phrase: "ignorant contact" is found in SN 22.81, MN 38, etc.

    To an uninstructed, run-of-the-mill person, touched by that which is felt born of contact with ignorance (avijjāsamphassa), craving arises. That fabrication is born of that. And that fabrication is inconstant, fabricated, dependently co-arisen. SN 22.81
    On seeing a form with the eye, he lusts after it if it is pleasing; he dislikes it if it is unpleasing. He abides with mindfulness of the body unestablished, with a limited mind, and he does not understand as it actually is the deliverance of mind and deliverance by wisdom wherein those evil unwholesome states cease without remainder. MN 38
    The sense spheres & sense contacts will 'arise' ('samudhaya') or become activated & disturbed when the nama-rupa has been overwhelmed by ignorance. Thus, what the phrase: "With the arising of mentality-materiality there is the arising of the sixfold base" means is: "With the arising of ignorant-mentality-materiality there is the arising of an ignorant sixfold base".



    One should not be concerned or confused with sutta passages (such as from MN 38 above) that begin/start the dependent origination sequence at sense contact. The important matter is ignorance remains dormant as an underlying tendency in the mind and external sense contacts, such as seeing & hearing, can activate this underlying tendency of ignorance. Thus, ignorance is always the 1st condition of dependent origination, even though sense contacts may activate the underlying ignorance.

    Thus MN 148 states:

    Dependent on the eye and forms, eye-consciousness arises; the meeting of the three is contact; with contact as condition there arises a feeling felt as pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant. When one is touched by a pleasant feeling, if one delights in it, welcomes it and remains holding to it, then the underlying tendency to lust lies within one. When one is touched by a painful feeling, if one sorrows, grieves and laments, weeps beating one’s breast and becomes distraught, then the underlying tendency to aversion lies within one. When one is touched by a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, if one does not understand as it actually is the origination, the disappearance, the gratification, the danger, and the escape in regard to that feeling, then the underlying tendency to ignorance lies within one.

    Bhikkhus, that one shall here and now make an end of suffering without abandoning the underlying tendency to lust for pleasant feeling, without abolishing the underlying tendency to aversion towards painful feeling, without extirpating the underlying tendency to ignorance in regard to neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, without abandoning ignorance and arousing true knowledge — this is impossible.

    MN 148
    Meditation:

    Investigate in actual sense experience how there is sense contact with ignorance & how there is sense contact without ignorance.


  9. #9
    Forums Member Element's Avatar
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    There are these six classes of feeling: feeling born of eye-contact, feeling born of ear-contact, feeling born of nose-contact, feeling born of tongue-contact, feeling born of body-contact, feeling born of mind-contact. With the arising of contact there is the arising of feeling.

    MN 9
    With contact as condition there arises a feeling felt as pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant.

    MN 148
    The 7th condition of dependent origination is 'feeling' ('vedana'), which refers to feelings of pleasantness, unpleasantness or neither at sense contact.

    For example, the sense contact of the warm sun upon the physical body in the morning feels pleasant; or a clear smooth invigorating breath in meditation feels pleasant; or the sight of the body of an animal killed on a road feels unpleasant; or the sight of a strange object never seen before elicits a feeling (mental sensation-reaction) that is neither-pleasant-nor-unpleasant.

    Feelings are only feelings or 'sensations'. For example, in SN 22.95, feelings are compare to a bubbles that appear & disappear on the water when it is raining.

    In other words, feelings do not include the idea of "I", such as "I feel pleasant; I like this; I dislike that; I feel happy; I am in pain". The idea of "I" is something added onto the feeling later at the 10th condition of dependent origination called 'attachment'.

    SN 22.79 states:

    And why, bhikkhus, do you call it feeling? ‘It feels,’ bhikkhus, therefore it is called feeling. And what does it feel? It feels pleasure, it feels pain, it feels neither-pain-nor-pleasure. ‘It feels,’ bhikkhus, therefore it is called feeling
    MN 38 states:

    Delight in feelings is attachment.
    When feeling arises in dependent origination, it refers to the arising of feeling together with ignorance.

    If feelings are experienced without ignorance, this is not dependent origination but, instead, the practise of the noble eightfold.

    Feelings are the most primal 'impact' of sense contacts or sense impressions.

    Even the fully enlightened Buddhas experience feelings, as stated in many suttas, such as Iti 44, MN 37 & MN 38:

    Here a bhikkhu is an arahant, one whose taints are destroyed, the holy life fulfilled, who has done what had to be done, laid down the burden, attained the goal, destroyed the fetters of being, completely released through final knowledge. However, his five sense faculties remain unimpaired, by which he still experiences what is agreeable and disagreeable and feels pleasure and pain. It is the extinction of attachment, hate, and delusion in him that is called the Nibbāna-element. Iti 44
    On seeing a form with the eye, he does not lust after it if it is pleasing; he does not dislike it if it is unpleasing. He abides with mindfulness of the body established, with an immeasurable mind, and he understands as it actually is the deliverance of mind and deliverance by wisdom wherein those evil unwholesome states cease without remainder. Having thus abandoned favouring and opposing, whatever feeling he feels, whether pleasant or painful or neither-painful-nor-pleasant, he does not delight in that feeling, welcome it, or remain holding to it. MN 38
    Meditation:

    To know feelings & only feelings, the mind must be calm and feel how various sense contacts impact or impress upon the sensitivity of the mind.


  10. #10
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    Thanks for that very detailed analysis on Dependent Origination, Element.

    I think that my understanding is improving.

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