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Spiritually Speaking


B.K. Atam Prakash



Conviction is the mirror of faith. If faith simply exists as an occasional awareness, it does not provide much power, nor is it visible in our life. However, when it takes the form of a firm conviction, it is reflected in our words and deeds, and others can clearly see it.

Faith remains merely an intellectual quality if it is confined to rumination and discussion; when it is translated into action, it adds value to life. An elevated awareness bears fruit when it becomes the basis of our thoughts, words, actions and relationships.

A strong conviction is revealed by our face and behaviour. The proof of conviction is confidence and happiness. Conviction can be of many kinds. On the spiritual path, when we work on the self to improve the quality of our thoughts, feelings and actions, conviction based on recognition of our true identity – that I am a pure, peaceful soul – helps a great deal.

The conviction that I am naturally virtuous – not ‘I wish to be’, or ‘I will become’ virtuous – awakens the soul’s intrinsic qualities of purity, peace, love, truth, and power. When we live by these virtues and they inform our thinking and activity, they are strengthened, much the same way as muscles develop with use. This spiritual growth, in turn, raises our confidence in the success of our efforts.

If we have faith but no happiness, the reason is lack of conviction. Conviction easily makes us forget old weaknesses and grow out of them. On the path of self-improvement, old habits often become hurdles. Bad company can be given up, but it is not so easy to get rid of bad habits.

The method to change one’s habits is to develop a strong conviction about the new path one has chosen. When we have such conviction in the practical form, and not just in the mind, old ways of thinking will not crop up repeatedly and distract us.

Why do old thought patterns not change? We tell ourselves, “I understand everything”, and we recognise the need to change. However it all remains at the level of awareness and is not put into action. To be real, self-improvement has to be visible in our life and not just remain an idea. Our attitude, vision and bearing reflect our state of mind and generate the vibrations that people experience from us.

Some people claim that they wish to keep a low profile and not show off their spiritual attainments. But it is said that no one can hide the sun; no matter how thick the clouds, the sun still gives some light. Similarly, those with strong spiritual convictions cannot remain hidden. The sparkle on their face, their vibrations automatically attract others. These vibrations shield them and those around them from all kinds of negativity.

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

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Spiritually Speaking

Existence is the full view of God

Arun Malhotra



It is said that man is living in a bottle and wants to come out of it. But he has to come out of the bottle without breaking it. It’s the truth of life but very few reach out to it. Humanity thinks they are the bottle and identify with the label attached to the bottle. Identity becomes a dilemma. People are in a hopeless situation including the speaker as he doesn’t get what he hopes for. Every day one creates a new hope and runs after it to be hopeless.  

 That which is existence does not change and has never changed as it exists as existence. What we call existence is only a word to denote it. We can’t define existence as the opposite of non-existence but that-which-is. We have to use the meaning of the opposite to define the definition as to say, we have to use time and language can only be said in time. You are either that or this. But that-which-is is both this that and also not this that. It is a limitation of language. Existence has not changed from the day it was imagined to have come into existence. It does not begin nor end. It simply exists. Man exists like existence. Then why does he live in dilemma? What is this becoming something? What is this hopelessness? 

The dilemma is of the time. Man thinks his life is changing. This change is a circle, man goes around and comes back to the point where he had begun. Change never happens in existence. If you are a student of existence, you would understand through existence change does not happen, change happens outside of it. Nothing changes.  But if you are a student of time, you would understand change happens. Time is created by change. Time is changing, it changes as per mind. Mind is evolved due to comprehension of change. Time has evolved as a measurement of change. Mind is a physical entity and artificiality of mind is meant for measuring the unit of change that we have adopted as part of the artificiality of life. What we call second, minute, hour, day, and year are units of measurement of time that the mind thinks is happening as change.

In existence, we exist. Whatever happens as part of the body and environment, our mind takes note and measures it in terms of time. If you are walking, mind calculates the walk, say you walked for one hour. Mind is just to keep an account and can also tell you that you have a meeting after one hour but the mind is not being in existence. You walk and if you walk fully conscious of your existence, only the walking remains, you become the walking. That makes you meet to be one with existence consciously. At best time can be described as a tool. I could turn my being into a period of time or the distance travelled into words of knowledge to note down on my memory, it is not being in the being—it is utility. We hope to get something. Man is running after hope, his senses, and God that is also hope.

Existence is simple, straight, and gullible. The mind of the man is most critical and it fancies criticality and complexity. It is born to communicate. Communication bred competence. It has evolved complexities. The mind lives in complexities and doesn’t fancy simplicity. Thus, the mind has evolved into an ego. Ego wants to go to the moon, to Everest, to deep waters. Ego builds fancy houses to compete. Ego wants to do everything to look distinguished and to do all that, you need time. All those things happen in time. If you want to be what you are, then you can be right here and now. You want to be what you hope to be that won’t happen as you can be right now and not in future as existence exists. It doesn’t exist in hope of tomorrow to be.  You don’t change a bit. What you were in childhood, you remain the same in youth and in old age but your body changes. Change is time so change passes you by. Time passes you by, you don’t pass time. Time simply pass by in the watch that tells chronological time or your mind that tells psychological time. Your mind is changing.

All religions teach goodness. Goodness becomes morality which is societal. If you are good, society will continue forever. All religions are divided between whether God is formless or distinct, whether God is of some virtues but existence is both good and bad. Religions are belligerent. Existence is the God. Existence is both birth and death, darkness and light, good and bad, formless and distinct. Such words that seem opposite are two points of the same thing. Existence is the sum total of all the opposites. Time is duality. Existence is one. God is as much in a good person as much in a bad person. Goodness is followed by badness, and vice-versa. Existence doesn’t follow morality preached by religion. Religion understands God in the limitation of language. Language is half-truth. ‘No’ can be defined as the opposite of ‘Yes’. If there was no ‘Yes’, ‘No’ would not have survived. If both are said together, they will have no meaning. Existence views them together. To say something to the existence, language is not needed. All religious scriptures are languages that man has accepted as maps to tread upon in the event of no hope. But hope is there. Thus, hopelessness disturbs him but doesn’t make him hopeless. To go out of the bottle: break the bottle or don’t. To come out of the bottle without breaking it, see the bottle from the side of existence and not by the side of the bottle. The choice is yours.

The author is a spiritual teacher.

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Spiritually Speaking

The pleasures of dispassion

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar



Dispassion or vairagya is one of the pillars of the highest knowledge. Dispassion is not apathy. Often, we think of dispassion as being totally unenthusiastic, depressed or not interested in anything. This is not . Dispassion is a lack of feverishness. 

Dispassion does not take the joy away from you. Dispassion gives you joy that nothing else can give you. There is a verse in Shankaracharya’s composition Bhaja Govindam, “Kasya sukham na karoti viragaha?” which means “What pleasure cannot be given by dispassion? It gives all the pleasures because you are so totally in the moment.”

Dispassion does not divide you. In fact, it connects you to the present moment totally. When you are not dispassionate, you are linked to the past or future. So, you are not connected to the present. Therefore you are more divided. 

When your mind is expecting something in the future or regretting the past, you are not in the moment. But when you are centred, you are totally in the moment. So when you are eating, you can enjoy every bite. Every look, every sight is fresh and new. Your love is like the first love. You look at everything like it is the first time.

The term ‘dispassion’ can also be misunderstood and appear so dry. People who are melancholic or sad think that they are being dispassionate. They run away from the world and say that they have renounced it. That is not renunciation. 

Dispassion is something more precious, refined and more valuable in life. There are several types of dispassion. You are dispassionate because you realize the misery in the world. The events in life — the pain, the suffering one experience’s or sees — brings dispassion.

The second type of dispassion is born out of the desire to reach something higher. Some consider dispassion as a path to enlightenment. If you renounce something here you gain something out there. Those who are seeking enlightenment practice austerities and take vows for a better place in heaven.

 The third type of dispassion comes out of wisdom or knowledge. A broader understanding of the transient nature of things brings a state of non-attachment to any events, objects, people or situations, that lets you remain calm and unperturbed.

Here is a story. When Alexander the Great left for India, people had told him, “If you find sanyasis there, just catch hold of them and bring them back here. They are very precious in India.” So Alexander sent word but nobody would come forward. He then sent a message threatening them: “If you don’t come, I am going chop off your heads.”

They still did not come. He threatened them further: “I am going to take away your books, the four Vedas. I’ll take all you have and your scriptures.”

The people said they would give him all the books the next evening. The pundits then called their children and made them memorise the script all night. They then took the manuscripts to Alexander and said, “You can take them, we do not need them.”

When Alexander finally came face to face with the ‘sanyasis’, he threatened to cut off their heads. The sanyasis told him he was free to do as he pleased. Alexander could not look into their eyes. He could not tolerate the power of dispassion. For the first time, he had met someone who did not care for the emperor. 

When Alexander came to India, some people presented him with a plate of gold bread. He told them he was hungry but they had told him since he was an emperor he could not eat wheat bread. He told them he was starving and wanted bread. To which the people said: “Don’t you get bread in your country? Are you going all over and trying to conquer the world just to eat the same bread we are eating?” The statement shook Alexander’s world. It made him realise that what they were saying was the truth. He thought to himself: “What is the point of conquering the world? When all you want is happiness and peace.” Legend has it, Alexander then proclaimed: “When I die, leave my hands open. Let people know that Alexander, who thought he had taken everything is leaving the world with nothing.”

Dispassion is the strength in you. When you are centred and calm, you can understand that everyone who has come to this world has come to give something to this world. We have nothing to take from here.

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

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Spiritually Speaking


Swami Chandrasekharendra Saraswati, the 68th Shankaracharya of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, championed change with continuity. He worked for a society that is firmly rooted in the past while working with confidence for a secure and prosperous future.

G.V. Anshuman Rao



Few legends are able to physically guide people for nearly nine decades touching all aspects of all their lives. Fewer still can do this during the challenging phase of the freedom movement and the post-Independence transformation of a country. Swami Chandrasekharendra Saraswati did all this and more in India’s rise as a modern nation as he strove for spiritual awakening, social cohesion, national integration, cultural revival while also encouraging excellence in various fields including science, music, and architecture. As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of India’s independence, it is vital to recall the contribution of a spiritual master who left a lasting impact on India’s journey in perhaps the most critical, tumultuous, and crucial periods of its history.

Swami Chandrasekharendra Saraswati, the 68th Shankaracharya of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, championed change with continuity. He worked for a society that is firmly rooted in the past while working with confidence for a secure and prosperous future. He wanted people to draw strength and inspiration from India’s enormous past achievements in all domains of human endeavour to attain solid achievements in the future. If humanity was to follow his advice and teachings, problems like climate change would not have taken the dangerous turn they have taken now. He worked for tackling the raging problems of society. 

Yearning for freedom from British rule, Periyava did not directly take part in politics as the spiritual head of a revered religious seat but kept abreast of the developments. A significant meeting took place between Periyava and Mahatma Gandhi in 1927 in a cowshed at Nellichery in Palakkad in present-day Kerala. 

Periyava did away with the practice in the mutt of wearing silk clothes and shifted to Khadi robes. He had also requested his devotees to do away with foreign clothes. He composed Maithreem Bajathag, a benediction which was rendered by MS Subbulakshmi in October 1966 at the United Nations. The benediction is an anthem for universal friendship and world peace and ends with the words “Srey o bhooyat sakala jananam”–Let grace and happiness abound for all mankind.

Born on 20 May 1894, Swami Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi was Shankaracharya of Kanchi Mutt from 1907 to 1994. He physically guided people for 40 years before Independence and 47 years after it as he helped shape the country’s progress with his deep knowledge, well-meaning advice to political leaders who met him and his ability to connect with people and events.   

His message on the day India attained Independence on 15 August 1947, is soul-stirring, visionary and all-encompassing as it enunciates the significance of the national flag, dharma chakra, role of individual and significance of our spiritual legacy. 

“On this happy occasion when our country Bharat has attained Independence, the people of this ancient country must pray wholeheartedly and with one mind to Sri Bhagavan. Let us all pray to God to vouchsafe to us the strength of mind and energy to engage ourselves more and more in attaining spiritual knowledge. It is only by the grace of Almighty that we can safeguard the freedom that we have achieved and also help all the living beings on earth to lead a happy life,” Periyava said. He said, “chakra of Bhagavan, who is the embodiment of Dharma, has its place in the centre of our National Flag”.

Periyava’s words of attaining aram (dharma or righteousness), porul (wealth), inbam

(happiness) and Veedu (moksha or deliverance) spell out the vision and goals for an individual.

“This chakra reminds us of the moral values enjoined by Emperor Ashoka, who is historically famous as Devanampriyaha. Further, the chakra makes us contemplate the spiritual discipline imparted by Bhagavan Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. That Dharma which shines in the form of a Chakra is clear from Lord Krishna’s reference to the Chakra as “Evam pravartitam chakram” in Verse 16 of the III chapter of the Bhagavad Gita.”

Periyava explained the significance of three stripes–dark green, white and orange–in the national flag and talked of attaining military strength. “These colours seem to indicate to us, that military strength for protection from enemies and evil, wealth for welfare and prosperity, and knowledge for the sake of proper administration are essential for the nation. It may be remembered that dark green is the colour of Durga–the Parasakti who is the mother protector, Mahalakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity is of orange colour(golden hue) and Saraswathi the source divine of all knowledge is white in colour. It is a happy coincidence that the colour of the three Shaktis (Goddesses of Power) are seen in the three stripes of the National Flag,” he said.

Periyava noted that freedom has been attained by the grace of God, by the blessings of great men, and by the unique sacrifice of the people. “Let us all pray to the Omnipresent God to shower his grace so that with the hard-won freedom, our country becomes prosperous, is rid of famine, and there are no social skirmishes and the entire nation lives in an atmosphere of amity and kindness.”

The seer also talked about the individual responsibility of people, their spiritual connection with the past and the need to attain complete freedom. “Now that freedom has been attained by the nation, all of us must also try to develop Independence. If we understand ourselves fully, we may consider ourselves independent. We are not capable of controlling the senses. We are unable to suppress desire and control anger, which always troubles us. Whichever thing in whatever measure we obtain does not lead us to contentment. Worldly sufferings cause worry to us. The mind gets confused on noticing these sufferings. What is the way out of all these? 

We must try to control, albeit gradually the mind which has been functioning vigorously for such a long time. Once the mind is set at rest, we will not need anything. That state of mind which ensures complete freedom is what we must attempt to achieve,” he said. “Only those who attain true spiritual knowledge can truly be independent citizens,” he added. He talked of the path which rooted out social evils. Periyava ended his Independence Day message with the golden words ‘Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitaha.’

Kanchi Paramacharya’s meeting with Mahatma Gandhi on 15 October 1927 was also very significant. It is quite a coincidence that the two masters met in a shed for cows, an animal revered in Hinduism and adored by the two leaders. The meeting came about at a time when several ills within the Hindu religion as well as the exploitative foreign rule had made the society more orthodox, rigid, and hierarchical. The atmosphere during the meeting of two great souls was surcharged with spiritual silence. Mahatma Gandhi offered his obeisance and sat near the Paramacharya. He noted that he was not used to speaking in Sanskrit and would use Hindi if permitted.

Mahatma Gandhi also said that he could understand what was spoken in Sanskrit. Periyava spoke in Sanskrit and Mahatma Gandhi in Hindi and the conversation lasted almost for an hour.

There were no interpreters and only one or two attendants of the Mutt were present. As the meeting ended, Gandhiji gave an expression that he had derived immense benefit from this unique meeting. At around 5.30 pm, C. Rajagopalachari who had accompanied Gandhiji and was waiting outside, went inside the cattle shed and reminded the Father of the Nation about his evening meal. Mahatma Gandhi would not take any food after 6 pm and made a significant observation to Rajagopalachari. “The conversation I am having now with the Acharya is itself my evening meal for the day,” he said. Later in the evening, Mahatma Gandhi addressed a public meeting in Coimbatore. With people in the audience eager to know about the meeting, he said they discussed points of mutual interest and also noted that it was a private meeting.

A request was made to Periyava in November 1968 for a message of the seminar on the relevance of Mahatma Gandhi to the world of thought held at the University of Madras.

He sent a message in which he recalled the 1927 meeting with Mahatma Gandhi. “We wish to place before this seminar one of the many things which Gandhi and I discussed when we met at Palghat, Kerala in the last Prashava year.” 

Before Gandhiji arrived at Palghat there came the news of the assassination of Sraddhananda of the Arya Samaj. Referring to this incident Gandhiji remarked as follows: ‘I have an apprehension in my mind that assassination of this kind would occur more often than now (in the coming years). Let not there arise in me hatred even in a small measure against the present assassin. There arises a desire in me that I should be able to embrace with love even so cruel a man who commits a heinous crime, as this one, an atatayin. But it is extremely difficult to cultivate such heartfelt affection. Yet I shall make an honest attempt in this direction.’

“All that we wish to point out that in this world it is very rare even to hear about such a feeling expressed,” Periyava said. Late scholar S. Sambamurthi Sastrigal has in his biography of the Kanchi Paramacharya in Tamil, titled, Sri Jagathguru Divya Sarithram written about the meeting and said that Periyava was very appreciative of Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘satyagraha’. Periyava combined knowledge with humility and prowess with forbearance. He was born at a crucial phase in India’s history and played a role in strengthening a society that was bedevilled with problems related to caste, religion, social and economic backwardness caused by foreign rule. There was also a lack of education and constricted thinking. The Paramacharya showed India the path to its future greatness and its role as a harbinger of peace. To people, he showed the path to living a content and fulfilling life. 

Anshuman Rao is a political analyst, former chairman, Andhra Pradesh Electronics Development Corporation, and close follower of Periyava.

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Spiritually Speaking


B.K. Surya



When we see the external form of religion that people practice, such as rituals, prayer, reading scriptures and going on pilgrimage, we often comment that ‘this person is very religious.’ This usually means that we consider them to be humble, polite and kind. But religion without spirituality is like the skin of a fruit, with nothing inside — it lacks power.

Spirituality is that which enriches and strengthens the soul, makes it virtuous. Religion and rules governing its practice can make one fearful — people are afraid of committing sin by doing this or that, or they worry about divine retribution for something they have done in the past. Understanding spiritual principles, on the other hand, makes one wise, strong, and fearless.

But people take more easily to religious rather than spiritual practices. The former, with their ceremony, colour, and — in some religions — song and dance, seem more appealing. Moreover, spiritual knowledge has not been propagated as widely as religion.

Religious figures preach compassion, ethics, and charity, but it is all regarded as part of recommended behaviour, and little thought is given to the spiritual truths that lend them value. Even reading the Gita, a book that contains deep spiritual truths, has become a ritual. Reading a chapter of the book every day is considered a virtuous act. People are content to just read the book, and give no thought to living by its teachings.

Religious teachings benefit us and add value to our life only when we live by them. Once we recognise the fact that we are souls, children of the Supreme Soul, and relate to God with that awareness, we no longer feel the need to seek solace in religious rituals. The fulfilment the soul experiences through a direct and heartfelt connection with God ends the search for truth.

But the plurality of faiths in the world confuses many people as to which one to follow. The proof of the right path is that it is simple, purifies and strengthens the soul, and makes life easy and happy. It puts a stop to all our doubts.

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

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Spiritually Speaking


B.K. Usha



What does it mean to be holy? Do vestments, ochre robes, or ash smeared over the body make one holy? What are the qualities of a holy person?

Being holy means to be pure, which in turn means to have elevated thoughts – always and for everyone. Someone with a pure mind has clarity, due to which they can tell the difference between good and bad. A clean and clear intellect enables them to discern the intentions of others and act accordingly. Yet they are not cynical or apathetic, and instead have benevolent feelings.

When we know other people’s intentions, we are not influenced by their nature or behaviour, because we know where it is coming from. Moreover, when we have a pure attitude, we see others compassionately, through the prism of their good qualities. Even when we see a not very impressive side of someone, with our benevolence we are able to show the other person a better way to be. This is purity in action. It is not just a quality to be cherished; it is of greatest value when it serves others.

There are many ways in which purity is manifested and it touches and inspires others. We have a kind vision — no matter what the other person is like, we accept and respect them, and have good wishes for them. Purity in speech means to speak gently, politely, and to the point — no gossip or idle talk. When these qualities are visible in someone, they appear special — they stand out with their friendly and reassuring vibrations and demeanour.

But to be like that we need to watch our thoughts, words and behaviour, to avoid what is ordinary or wasteful. When the intellect is pure, we hold ourselves to the highest standards and do not reason that it is alright to be a little slack as many others are so.

Our time and thoughts are wasted when we do not recognise whether something is right or wrong. We consider unnecessary or wrong activity to be right, and deceive the self by thinking that we are intelligent or strong and our judgement is correct.

A clean intellect, which is the basis of holiness, saves us from these pitfalls. Another sign of such an intellect is that it does not condemn people for their flaws. One who is truly holy, when they see a defect in someone, does not think, “This one is like that anyway”. Instead, they inspire the other person to overcome their shortcomings.

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

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Spiritually Speaking


Dr Judith Kocken



When a young child grows up in unsafe circumstances and is not fully welcome, then insecurity is normal and a child gets used to it. A young child always attaches to (a) parent(s), even when circumstances are unsafe. Then ‘unsafety’ is the comfort zone and normal for a child. An impactful event during childhood has a direct relationship with chronic diseases at a later age.

Rejection gives the greatest pain. As a result, the child is unable to access real feelings. When pain is too big to handle in an unsafe situation; when a child is unseen, unheard, not supported in their needs, this impactful situation is transferred to the subconscious mind and survival mechanisms are needed. There is a big difference between survival and living a healthy life. Human beings have three survival mechanisms: fight, flight or freeze. To prevent being rejected, the child often rejects others, becomes angry, bossy, and anxious, is fearful and feels powerless.

Chronic diseases are psychosomatic, which means that the body asks for attention to a deeper cause in the self. The body has a 24-hour relationship and communication with the soul (thinking, memory and emotions). Body and soul are the best friends when in balance, or the worst enemies when there is chronic stress or unresolved pain.

The body grows and exists in relationship with the environment: circumstances, culture, parents, teachers, friends, physical, mental and emotional food have an impact on physical health. Impactful situations break the connection and awareness of the body with the inner soul. Because of feeling rejected, the basic subconscious assumption of a child, based on what they have learned, is: ‘nobody loves me, or, I am not worthy, something is wrong with me’.

In holistic medical treatment, coming home to yourself has a central role. Recognition of the journey of survival up until now and making contact with the desire of the heart (to feel loved and safe) are the golden keys. The adult or child learns how to say ‘yes’ to the present, even if the present is painful and unpleasant. The second step is to take a risk and dare to not know certain things and learn something new. We use deep breathing and meditation to rebuild contact with old emotional pain that is stored in the body. Healing means feeling all the pain, loss, sadness and loneliness that had been stored in childhood because all that was needed so much as a child was not available.

When contact between body and soul is restored, the body begins to increase the self-healing capacity. When we heal ourselves of the old inner wounds, scars remain, which is much easier to live with than open wounds and chronic diseases.

The body possesses tremendous power and wisdom. It gives us messages through physical complaints and chronic diseases as to what is needed in our life. Learning to listen to those messages brings miracles for physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. We can heal ourselves. Healing creates a healthy relationship with ourselves and with each other.

Dr Judith M. Kocken MD, PhD, is a paediatrician and a paediatric gastroenterologist. A pioneer in holistic healthcare, she studies and practises Rajyoga with the Brahma Kumaris in The Netherlands.

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