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HOW RENUNCIATION ENNOBLES SERVICE

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What does renunciation mean and why is it important?

One aspect of renunciation is to be free from desires. We may have a good income and be able to afford anything we want, but yet if we live a simple life, that is renunciation. There are many people who live simply yet give generously for social causes. They fulfil their responsibilities towards their family, friends, and their work, and because they have a broad mind, they keep everyone content, but they know that true fulfilment is to be found in serving society. Such souls choose to use even their spare time for service, not rest or entertainment.

Then there are those who do very little by way of service but project themselves as Good Samaritans. In reality they use their resources more for their own comfort and pleasure than for others – effectively living off their fortune rather than accumulating a fortune. They even live off the ‘income’ of others, claiming credit and rewards for what others have done. It is best to steer clear of this path, which leads to spiritual bankruptcy.

If we do something good and then bask in the acclaim that follows, we do not develop the humility and maturity that is the mark of a great soul. We may be very charitable, but if we make it a point to let everyone know that, our good deeds will be seen as ego trips. We end up depriving ourselves of the quiet satisfaction that comes from unostentatious charity. This stops us from developing spiritually.

The best way to serve others is to do so discreetly. A great donor is one who renounces even the feeling of having donated something. The immediate reward of a charitable act is praise. Those who serve others get appreciation, respect, and a certain status. However, all these are just steps along the path, not the final goal of one who serves. Renouncing these is what makes one truly great.

B.K. Atam Prakash is a Rajyoga teacher at the Brahma Kumaris headquarters in Mount Abu, Rajasthan.

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Spiritually Speaking

DOES HUMANITY NEED A NEW RELIGION?

Arun Malhotra

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Humanity has been wrought many times over during the course of history. Humanity has been refashioned, reshaped, embellished and course-corrected. From being animals to being humans, humanity has achieved the ultimate attainment Sahastrar—the thousand-petalled lotus. That is what humanity ought to be. 

What is humanity? How humanity is different from animality? It is not an abstractism denoting crowds of humans. In fact, when someone thinks beyond one’s nature. To be able to do something beyond one’s own personal nature is empathy. It is said that one becomes human when one learns empathy and empathy becomes one’s nature. Empathy enters into the wounds of others and heals them. Buddha calls it compassion. Empathy and compassion are to be human, that is, the humble beginning of humanity. Humanity is a flowering of consciousness. Humanity carries the seed within. The seed of awakening.

When someone is awakened. Awakening brings course correction to humanity. History is replete of those who attained Godhood who showed the path to humanity. When humanity starts stinking, existence corrects the course and someone who is on the verge of awakening awakens. New love is born a new religion is born a new culture is born. When humanity is replete with Gods, religions, cultures, doctrines, rituals to cloud one’s vision leading to dogmatism, the need for a new contemporary religion arises. Humanity coins Gods for all purposes all seasons to make religion a burdensome dead affair. When Gods emanate out of the sermons of priests, religion becomes dead. Some 2500 years ago, a young prince Siddhartha left his young wife Yasodhara and his newly born son Rahula and declared that there was no God. Not in the sense that Siddhartha felt that there was no God. But Siddhartha felt that if there was a God, surely it was unlike the one which he has gotten by observing ritual practices spelt out by priests. Surely the God cannot be that mundane and unexciting routine affair. 

The young prince became an ascetic. He fell to the feet of all Masters who were available then who had been practising religion and Godhood. All proved a sham. To be one with That-Which-Is Siddhartha abandoned all dependences that he had then, the religion, the society, the culture, the God, the Master, the Dharma, the body, the spirit. Siddhartha Gautama became Gautama the Buddha—which means Gautama the Awakened. The flowering of awakening flowered in Siddhartha Gautama who has become the Buddha. The fragrance of Buddhahood circulated in all directions. Buddha said there is Dukkha and there is a way to go out of Dukkha and told humanity the path to go out of Dukkha. 

Religion is a personal flowering. It happens to humans. Religion does not happen to humanity. When the fragrance of religious flowering is sensed by those who are searching That-Which-Is it becomes milestones for them. But otherwise, it becomes mere words, rituals, ideas, thoughts, society, culture and dogmas. Humanity becomes conditioned by such rituals, words, thoughts, societal dogmas and follows robot-like existence. Religion is the experience of the experiencer who has experienced but those following robotic rituals, religion never becomes an experience to them. The true religion that is Dharma flowers in the experience. Dharma is something that we are born with. We are born Sat-Chitt-Anand (Truth-Consciousness-Bliss). Sat-Chitt-Anand(Truth-Consciousness-Bliss) is our Dharma. 

In dogma in culture, there is security. In robot-like existence there is security. Going to the temple to perform what the priest asks you to perform has the psychological security of being religious. It may not make you religious. It may make you irreligious. You may become a member of the organised religion which is not a religion but an organization of religion. Because religion is personal. It is a very personal affair. It has nothing to do with the crowds performing rituals. Crowds performing rituals have a society in them because humanity breeds a society, that is, dependence. But individual lives in individuality. A truly religious man says no to a dogmatic religious organisation that becomes his religion.

When Siddhartha Gautama left his kingdom he kept looking for dependences. In the end, he realised that what he is looking for in security is in fact dependence. Because society is conditioned by the past. You have to let go of society. It so happened that after a decade of awakening, Buddha went to his father’s house and met Yashodhara his estranged wife. Yashodhara asked him, ‘I don’t know what you got but whatever that you had gotten, whether you could not have attained that by being here being with us in this house. Buddha replied in the affirmation that ‘yes’ it could have been attained without leaving his wife and son also.

Dogma is status quo. Dogma and rituals are like you are getting God at the cost of enslaving your soul. Asking God look we are doing something. Priests go on preaching ancient languages as if God understood just those languages and not the ones in modern use. 

Buddha is a revolution. Buddha is a revolution against the dead religion. Buddha is moving beyond dogmas. Buddha is one man on earth who said that there was no God and finally attained Godhood. That was the ultimate that one can get. Like a scientist who doubts everything and begins his thesis assuming an anti-thesis to bring home the point that is exactly the opposite of what he perceived in the beginning.

The flowering of Buddha in the presence of Buddha is a contagion. It infects you. It infects all those infected by dogmas rituals scriptures. Dogmas and rituals are to make you copies of what man has been doing primitively. 

But you live today. You need a new religion of your own. Buddha births the new religion. He does not birth the new religion for others. But he births the new religion for himself so that dogmatic religions melt in the sheen of what Buddha births. 

It happened to Jesus when he overthrew the tables of moneychangers and few rebels saw in him the rebellion. Thus Jesus was crucified by the organised religion. But the presence of Jesus was infectious. Jesus was a contagion. Even long after Jesus had gone, Jesus lives. His presence lives among us. Buddha is as much alive today as he was 2500 years ago. It is a matter of understanding and be contagious. But those mired in dogmas of Buddhism or Christianity will never be able to know the Buddha or the Christ.

Whenever humanity is deep under slumber someone is awakened and the awakened one tends to awaken humanity. Those who are on the verge of awakening awaken. Those who are moving towards awakening get their feet reinforced. When someone awakens the seed sprouts without any reason. That which is lying in us as the seed of awakening sprouts. 

It happened to Nanak. When Nanak found Godhood, Nanak said Ek Omkar Sat Nam (There is One God and Thy name is the Truth). In those times belligerence between Islam and Hinduism was growing. Nanak would trash dogmas of both Hinduism and Islam to tell the world that dogmas are not religion. Don’t live in the status quo. Live in the real religion. Thy Name is the Truth. The real religion that was contemporary then is not contemporary now. The Truth that needs to be redefined. Awakened ones discard what that was once the truth to re-establish the truth to renew the truth. All religions are thus manifestations of renewal of the truth. New religion brings new consciousness. New flowers of consciousness flower and the man of religion are born who value the truth and freedom.

The author is a spiritual teacher.

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Spiritually Speaking

Healthiest foods for each season

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Autumn ends with the Diwali festival. Pitta gets calmer, less excited. People have cleansed their bodies by celebrating Diwali in the month of Ashvin in traditional ways. The earth is as if full of joy by the production of nutritious and tasty cereals and pulses and green vegetables. The season known as Hemant  begins after Diwali.

Hemant brings in cold. This cold excites the kapha (cough) in the body, which in unison with the outside cold contracts the limbs and makes the skin dry; and in the absence of proper nutrition, even the flesh and the glands dry up and deplete. The nutrition and heat, which a person needs for the sustenance of his or her physical strength, are to be obtained and stored up in Hemant. This has to be put to use in the ensuing three seasons, that is, six months. Our elders say that winter is the best season for acquiring and storing the energy needed to sustain the body. In the winter cold, the skin contracts. The pores get closed, preventing the necessary heat required for nourishment from being wasted. With the internal heat being preserved, the digestion process gets quicker and more intense. The body demands more food and nutrition. New Year day is the first day of Hemant. Our scriptures have ordered that this auspicious day should be begun by a body massage with oil.

In the winter, a sweet diet is crucial for replenishing deficiency and providing nourishment. A sweet diet produces kapha  which  nourishes the seven body constituents and increases strength. Kapha also calms down the Pitta excited during the Sharad as also the Vata disturbance created in the cold season. We know that the rich, as well as the poor, eat as many sweets as they can afford, Hemant being the season of accumulation of energy.

The Doorva grass is especially worshipped in Hemant as there are many nutritious elements in it, which give strength. It purifies the blood and nourishes the foetus. Women who often miscarry are advised to take the juice of this grass.

The use of gourd is recommended in this season. From the point of view of Ayurveda, gourd destroys Vata and normalises Pitta. It also quickens the digestive process and removes intestinal congestion. It strengthens the nervous tissues of the brain and cures mental disease. Its use cures hysteria, insanity, and nervous diseases dominated by Vata. Gourd has been included in our diet to curb diseases engendered by the excitement of Vayu.

Great importance has been given to tulsi in worship and religious rites. Just as, in the month of Ashvin, dry sticks of the Pipla tree are used as fuel in yajnas for creating and maintaining a healthy atmosphere. Tulsi is recommended in Karthik. Tulsi removes Kapha and Vayu and being hot (like chillies) and bitter (like quinine) gives energy. The seeds of tulsi are also used to a considerable extent as nutritive. The use of tulsi is suitable in winter promoting digestion. Tulsi destroys worms and germs. If in this season there has been an overdose of sweet dishes, these foods are likely to remain undigested and decayed providing a ground for worms. Tulsi is recommended in balancing these bad effects.

When we are discussing nutrition and health, we can’t forget fruits and vegetables available in winter: Jujubes, amlas, sugarcanes, tomatoes, carrots etc. Nature provides iron in all these in large proportions as the body is in need of new blood and maximum nourishment. These are rich in iron, Vitamins B and C, and help purify blood and strengthen bowels. Just as sour things are given a dominant place in the monsoon and salt in autumn, so also sweet is dominant in winter. If there is an excessive intake of sweets in Hemant, instead of quieting  pitta and getting heat and nourishment, it causes more harm. To be saved from this trouble, sour and salty diets are recommended as subsidiary flavours. Sourness helps in the digestion of sweets and salt prevents kapha from being produced and accumulated by the intake of sweets. Thus, sweet followed by sour and sour followed by salt in this season maintains good health.

CARROT HALWA

Ingredients: Carrots 500 g, Rock Sugar 200 g, Cardamom powder 1/2 tsp, Milk cream 11/2 tbsp, Raisins 5-6 pieces, Almonds 2-3 pieces, and Cow ghee 1 tsp

Procedure: Wash and peel carrots, grate them. Mix rock sugar powder and stem it for 8-10 minutes. Heat a pan add 1 tsp ghee and steamed carrot. Add milk cream, cardamom powder, and mix well cook it for 2 minutes.Garnish it with almonds and raisins and serve it.

SALAD

Ingredients: Tomatoes 4, Carrot 1, Tulsi leaves 1 1/2 tbsp, Crushed Black pepper 1/2 tsp, Black Salt 1 tsp, and Rock Salt 1/2 tsp

Procedure: Wash tomatoes and chop them into small pieces. Wash and peel carrot, grate it. Finely chop tulsi leaves. Mix tomatoes, carrot, tulsi leaves, black pepper, black salt and rock salt. Stir it well and serve it. One can add 1/2 tsp lemon juice if required.

AMLA SUBJI

Ingredients: Amla (Indian Gooseberry) 250 g, Ginger 5 g, Coriander seeds 1/4 tsp, Onion seeds (Kalounji) 1 tsp, Fennel seeds(Saunf) 1/2 tsp, Rock salt 1/2 tsp or as per taste, and Oil 1 tsp

Procedure: Cut into pieces, mix salt and steam it, grate ginger into thin slices. Heat oil add coriander seeds, onion seeds, fennel seeds and ginger. Add steamed amla stir it well turn off the gas and serve it.

With inputs from Art of Living’s Sri Sri Tattva Panchakarma experts.

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Spiritually Speaking

HOW TO RISE ABOVE NEGATIVITY

Negativity is such that you get sucked into it without being conscious of it. That is why we need to develop our awareness.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

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“When your intellect becomes sharper and more soaked in knowledge, you will immediately be able to rise above negativity.”

When you have judgement or labels against people, your behaviour starts getting disturbed. You become stiff because of the seeds of negativity you are carrying against others, and your vibration becomes negative. You don’t even realise that you are carrying negativity within you.

Negativity is such that you get sucked into it without being conscious of it.

That is why we need to develop our awareness. To begin, ask yourself these four questions:

#1 Are you wasting mental energy paying attention to things that don’t matter?

When the mind expands and recognises its vastness, then trivial matters don’t bother you. Otherwise, you tend to get so stuck in the small things. Every now and then you think: He said so and so to me, she said that to me, that person did not even look at me, that person spoke so harshly to me, and so on. You waste so much of your mental energy paying attention to these useless things. This happens because you have not broadened your vision. My dear, life is so temporary and fleeting. Your life is short. Where in this short life do you have the time to bother about who said what and why? Why then get stuck in this mess?

I tell you, even if God Himself comes and says a few harsh words to you, you should remain smiling and be centred. Think of that as a gift, as a Prasad (blessing or sacred offering).

You should make your mind highly centred and unshakeable within yourself, like a pillar. Do not get carried away or troubled by trivial occurrences around you. Otherwise, you get so troubled by trivial and temporary things. Not only do you get troubled, you also trouble others around you. In fact, we end up disturbing others twice or thrice as much.

Again and again, you must remind yourself to wake up. Come back to awareness and realise that “I am full and content in every way. God is with me at all times, and whatever is required for me will happen at the right time.”

#2 Are you blaming or criticising the people around you? Do you harbour any hate?

You are not going to gain anything by blaming or criticising others. And to whatever extent possible, see that you do not create enmity or hatred with anyone.

Think deeply and go within your own mind; ask yourself whom you have hatred for. When you realise that, then strive to drop that hatred from within. In fact, I would say that not only strive, but you should also completely do away with hatred and cleanse yourself. Otherwise, there can be no real progress in life. See, whatever you are to receive, you will surely get it, through someone or the other. When your Karma is such that you are to receive something in life, I tell you, even Lord Brahma or Ravana cannot come in the way of that. But if your Karma is to receive hurt or discomfort, then whether it is your enemy or your close friends and family, it will come to you and you will have to go through it. Having aversion towards something or someone and avoiding them is a sign of an ignorant person. It is not the quality of a true Seeker. A true Seeker is happy at all times.

#3 Do people feel a sense of peace and calm in your presence?

Once, when I was in college, a person came and stood before me and started yelling at the top of his voice. He was yelling so loudly and angrily that every vein of this throat could be seen visibly. There was so much hatred and anger in his eyes. Why so? It so happened that I became popular with the students and many of them held me in high regard. This person did not like that and became very uncomfortable with all the attention I was getting. He was around 50 or 60 years in age, and the thought of an 18- to 20-year-old boy getting so much attention and following troubled him a lot. He shouted so much and even used very harsh words at me. I did not pay attention or listen to all that. Instead, I felt concerned that something should not happen to him because of all this anger welling up in him. So, I quickly stepped inside and brought some water for him. Seeing the glass of water in front of him, he suddenly became quiet. I asked him to relax and sit down.

See, our presence should be such that no matter who comes to us, they should feel a sense of peace and calm. No matter what kind of person they may be, whatever kind of outward behaviour they may have–remember that is their problem and they would have to pay the price for that. You should pay attention to how you are behaving with others. You should ask yourself this question again and again—is my behaviour loving and cordial with everyone? When I am loving and cordial with everyone, then the entire World is with me and will support me—you should remember this.

#4 Do you feel that you need to be treated properly?

You should think, “I do not need any special treatment; I do not expect anything from anyone. I am seeped in love and I will be loving and peaceful with everyone.” When you establish yourself strongly in this belief, then you will see that everyone in the world will be your friend. But if you think, “Oh! This person was so rude and disrespectful to me. Why should I be good and respectful to him?”, tell me, who is really at loss here? Then there has not been much real progress in your life. It would mean you are still stuck in the old patterns of your mind; you are still swimming in the small and dirty pool of your narrow mind. You end up thinking that this is all there is to the world. My dear, just come out of all this. There is sweet nectar flowing all around you. Imbibe and fill your life with that sweetness instead. What great enmity can you have with someone else? Why do you keep your mind so strained and troubled with such negativity? This causes a lot of stress and damage to your brain.

Yes, one should definitely take the right action at the right time as is required. I am not saying that you do something foolish like handing over your purse to your enemy. But what you can surely do is look at everyone with a smile. You can at least cleanse your own mind and get rid of whatever garbage and negativity are present in the mind.

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a humanitarian leader, spiritual teacher and an ambassador of peace.

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Spiritually Speaking

EXERCISE AND DIET CONTROL FOR THE MIND

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Almost all over the world, physical ailments related to poor lifestyles are ravaging the health of a large section of the population. These diseases including diabetes, coronary artery disease, and hypertension, are prevalent in the young and old alike.

Recognising the root cause of these ailments, doctors are advising lesser dependence on medicines and stressing on exercise and diet control for maintaining physical health.

A wrong lifestyle can lead to several ailments, and such a lifestyle is rooted in the mind and seeded in the soul. Medical research has found that 85% of all diseases are psychosomatic: They are caused or aggravated by a mental factor such as internal conflict or stress.

To nip the problem in the bud, it is necessary to address it at the root level. This involves checking and changing the pattern of our thoughts.

This is what meditation is all about. If we sit down quietly for a while and observe the thoughts that arise in our mind, we will get an idea of where our mind is going. We will also recognise what kind of thoughts give us joy and which ones give us pain. Invariably, thoughts associated with positive qualities such as love, compassion, happiness, and knowledge, help us feel better. On the other hand, thoughts linked to vices such as anger, ego, hatred, and jealousy, produce discomfort and agitation.

Thoughts also trigger biochemical changes in the body by influencing hormonal processes. Positive thoughts sustained over a long time have positive health effects, while negative thoughts ultimately lead to disease.

After observing the thoughts, the next step is to give them a positive direction so that we can remain happy and healthy.

Having control over our thoughts means having the ability to focus the mind where we want, keep it there for as long as we want, and withdraw it at will.

Practising this frequently, starting with even a few seconds at first, helps us gradually develop control over the mind. This also reduces waste thoughts, which consume a lot of our time and energy.

While that is a rudimentary exercise to improve our concentration, gaining mastery over the mind requires some spiritual knowledge and exercise.

It helps to know that we are souls, not bodies. The mind and intellect are faculties of the soul. The brain, which is part of the body, is the hardware that enables the soul to control the body.

Exercising the mind involves taking our attention away from the physical body and the physical world, and directing it to our spiritual self, the soul. This is me—a sentient point of light and energy, separate from the body but dwelling in it. I, the soul, am the one who feels, thinks, speaks, and acts through the medium of the body. Doing this exercise regularly strengthens our awareness of our true identity and control over our mental and physical faculties.

Diet control goes with this exercise. Pure thoughts are the healthy diet of the mind. Creative thoughts are like vitamins, as they maintain our zeal and enthusiasm.

Positive thoughts, like proteins, build willpower, while thoughts of serving others are like carbohydrates, and provide energy to the mind.

Waste thoughts deplete mental energy and leave us weak. Negative thoughts are toxic and wreck mental health, eroding our ability to make the right judgment, take correct decisions, tolerate negative situations or face adversity. Such thoughts arise from body-consciousness but are seeded in the soul in the form of vices such as lust, anger, greed, and ego.

The most elevated thoughts arise during the practice of Rajyoga meditation when the soul lovingly remembers God, the father of all souls, the ocean of virtues.

Through this link the mind fills with purity, peace, power, and contentment, making us healthy and whole.

B.K. Sheilu is a Rajyoga teacher at the Brahma Kumaris headquarters in Mount Abu, Rajasthan.

This is what meditation is all about. If we sit down quietly for a while and observe the thoughts that arise in our mind, we will get an idea of where our mind is going. We will also recognise what kind of thoughts give us joy and which ones give us pain.

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TRUE ENCOURAGEMENT

Judy Johnson

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One of the hardest experiences in life is to watch the suffering of someone we love. Our intense desire to help is frustrated by an equally intense feeling of helplessness. When faced with the discomfort of this inner intensity, I have often jumped inside the circle of sorrow to stand next to my loved one. Although I experienced a momentary relief from feeling helpless, I was not very useful to them. The energy of my own sorrow, pity and worry stole my strength, weakened my words of encouragement, and made my presence a bit wobbly.

In French, the word for heart is ‘coeur’. It is the root of the word ‘courage’ and the verb ‘to encourage’. To encourage someone is to give them heart. I have discovered that the only way I can encourage another person is if my heart is strong. When I detach from my inner struggle and their sorrow, I can reclaim the wholeness of my heart and bring its strength to my loved ones. Then my words of encouragement and my presence are more powerful.

Through the journey of meditation, I am learning to stand next to my loved ones without stepping inside their sorrow. I am learning to give respectful space for the other person’s heart to beat at its own rate. My focus is on keeping my heart steady, calm and strong by connecting with my eternal nature of peace and love. This slight separation between my heart and theirs allows God’s energy to enter for healing.

As I strengthen spiritually by absorbing God’s love and power in silence, my presence brings soothing comfort and strength to others who are suffering. I have learned in Rajyoga that it is possible, over time, to become spiritually strong enough to be able to stand next to someone without absorbing their pain at all. As my pain heals, I have more energy to offer others in the form of encouragement and strength. When they feel this strength, they find the resources inside themselves to do what is needed to move forward.

Judy Johnson coordinates the activities of the Brahma Kumaris meditation centre in Atlantic Canada.

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HONESTY CREATES PURE FEELINGS

Dadi Janki

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Love is connected to virtues. Virtues create love within the self and within others. When virtues reduce, the quality of love is also reduced. When all virtues are present, there is complete and pure love. Out of all the virtues, the main one is honesty. If we feel someone is not being honest with us, our love breaks. Whether it is our mother, father, husband, wife or friend, if we feel they are being dishonest, love breaks. In terms of our relationship with God, if we are honest with God, we will draw His love. If we are not, that love will break. Even if we have no virtue other than honesty, we will be able to draw God’s love.

The first kind of honesty is honesty with myself. If I am honest with myself, there need be no situation in which I am not honest with others. If someone distrusts my honesty, perhaps it is a sign that I need to become more honest.

Honesty means to be very clear about everything going on inside us. Where there is honesty, feelings become pure and clean. Such clarity is reflected in our words; they will be filled with the power of truth and spoken with ease and without hesitation. The genuine honesty cultivated within us is what will reach out and touch others.

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