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Kagyu buddhism (Tibetan Buddhism)

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  • Kagyu buddhism (Tibetan Buddhism)

    In common with Shaolin, it has indian roots trough Tilopa and Naropa. But these days i feel tibetan tantric buddhism is quite often on the dark side. Take the Milarepa story, some may think you can commit crimes and still become a saint. Even Tara has its angry faces. It might be realistic but might also havea dark effect on the subconscious.

    Also the tibetan history is not very peaceful. These lamas if they are reincarnated must have gone to many dark times.

    What s your opinion on this?
    i've taken the liberty of copying liutangsanzang's post to create a new thread. this way the topic doesn't get mixed into the "Personalities and Community Members" section of the site.

  • #2
    OK first up... Kagyu Buddhism is a school of Tibetan Buddhism, one of the main four. So I'm going to concentrate on Tibetan Buddhism as a whole really, since the massive history of Tibetan Buddhism really is more solid and general than the history of Kagyu Buddhism.

    Tibetan Buddhism has not been a nice little monkey all of its life.
    I don't think anyone who really studies Buddhism would ever claim that Buddhism as a whole has been lovely and peaceful all of the time.
    It just hasn't.
    The thing is that 'back in the day', things were different.
    People went out to concquer and spread the message of Buddhism just as much as they did with Christianity.

    However, on the whole they did try to do the whole "Teaching so that people reaslise it's better" thing.
    They also showed a lot of 'miracles' to show that their teachings were true.

    Tibetan Buddhism arose when Padmasambhava (or as Tibetan's call him, Guru Rinpoche) was invited by the King of Tibet to teach there.
    He went and taught and that is the founding of the Nyingma School, but in truth it's also the founding of the whole of Tibetan Buddhism.

    In its early days, Tibetan Buddhism wasn't very nice.
    We tried to stamp out the local Religion, Bon.
    In the end, though, the Buddhism and Bon became entwined, and to this day, Tibetan Buddhism is so very different from many other forms of Buddhism as a result.

    Tibetan Buddhism is Vajrayana, the third wheel, which means it's quite different anyway, but the influence of Bon shows through quite strongly.
    There's a lot of demonology, local spirits, much more so than in other areas of Buddhism. I think the closest really is Japanese Zen since Shinto didn't just influence its followers, but all of Japan.

    Vajrayana Buddhism wasn't just practiced in Tibet and Bhutan at this point, but it was practiced extensively in China as well. Unfortunately it completely died out with the fall of the Yuan dynasty. Though it did resurface a bit when the Dalai Lama established ties again in the 17th century.

    Many of the most famous of our Lamas have had very difficult lives, yes.
    In some cases the famous Lamas were not very helpful; for example, the 6th Dalai Lama was pretty much an alcoholic playboy.

    Others, however, merely continued the way of life of their times; the 5th Dalai Lama had prisons built into the Potala, but he also unified Tibet under his school, the Gelugpa School. But to do so, he had to beat off the rival school, the Kagyupas.
    As you can imagine, he didn't do that by talking nicely to everyone.

    As for Tantric Buddhism, well the whole of Tibetan Buddhism is Tantric, so you can't really seperate anything out.
    As for being on the dark side? Quite the opposite.
    Vajrayana Buddhism is different from the other types in that followers study and work hard to become Bodhisattvas, rather than fully enlightened Buddhas, so that we may remain behind, to help the rest of the world become enlightened, stuck in Samsara, rather than leaving as we could at that point quite easily.

    Tara having nasty faces? She has a few.. well.. I wouldn't call them nasty.
    There are many protector deities (Bodhisattvas), and even Protector Spirits in Tibetan Buddhism. They may look nasty to someone who doesn't know what the symbolism all means, but they're far from it.
    Let me explain by explaining Vajrapani's symbolism.
    He is what we call a Wrathful Deity.
    He is normally depicted, glaring forwards, his right arm extended holding a Vajra, his left hand to his chest holding a lightning bolt.
    A tiger skin wraps around his waist.
    He looks like he's stamping, whereas he's actually kicking.
    He is surrounded by flames.

    Now I can't remember all of the symbolism, it's been many, many years since it was explained to me, but let me try some of it.

    He holds the Vajra, which means he represents the power of the Dharma to ward off the three poisons: Greed, Aversion and Delusion.
    The look on his face is indignation at hindrances that impede the practitioner on the path to enlightenment.
    The lightning bolt is odd; he was linked to Indra at one point and I think that's where that came from. But he has the power to throw lightning.
    In other depictions he holds a noose in that arm instead. That is said to bind the meditator to the highest wisdom.

    The tiger skin around his waist represents virility. Tigers are protectors and very important in the Kagyu Lineage. Most Dharma Protectors wear them, and it combines yogic symbilism with the Buddhist association of the Tiger to compassion and generosity.

    I'm pretty sure the kick / stamp position is to stamp upon 'evil', or the bad things that we do.

    All of the 'nasty' stuff you see in a Thangka of a Protector Deity is, then, symbolism that actually has a really strong compassionate form.

    As for Milarepa.
    No, it doesn't tell us you can do anything and get away with it.
    The story tells us that we, who have already done these terrible things, can still become enlightened.
    All of us, no matter how bad we have been, how little we have studied, will one day become enlightened. Milarepa is a very good role model if you like.
    I have studied his story extensively, and I have never come across anyone or any train of thought that echoes what you have said.

    So... to summarise.
    No one's history is peaceful.
    Yes, we have done things we are not proud of.
    In the days they were done, mostly, it was just part of life.
    Look at the Crusades.
    That was how life was lived back then.
    It happened.
    Now we must work hard to overcome the bad deeds that we have comitted in innumerable past lives, and work towards enlightenment.
    That's what it's all about, after all.

    By the way, the Tibetan Government (in exile), has a nice section on their website about the Bon, and apologised officially for what the Buddhists did to them so long ago, and now strives to help Bon survive and to support practitioners of the Religion.

    I hope this made sense. I've not really woken up, and my brain is definitely not woken up yet!

    Djon Ma
    Karma Dechen Djon Ma
    "For as long as space endures, And as long as living beings remain, Until then may I too abide, To dispel the misery of the world."


    • #3
      djonma, i liked your symbolism. and this "Milarepa" also sounds interesting to me....



      • #4
        Well I can always talk about Milarepa.

        Long story short - Milarepa was a young lad when his father died and his Uncle took over the family.
        His uncle's family took everything they had and his mother had to pretty much work as a slave to them.
        Milarepa went off and learnt sorcery to get revenge on them.
        He levelled their house with a giant scorpion, killed a load of people, and then sent a hailstorm to destroy the crops.

        He realised that he'd done wrong and sought out a lama, that ended up being Marpa, one of the most famous Lama's of our history.
        Marpa refused to teach him so many times, but Milarepa would not give up.
        So Marpa made him build him a tower.
        He did... Marpa said it wasn't good enough and demolished it.
        He told Milarepa to build another tower for him.
        Same thing.
        And again with a third.
        Marpa still refused to teach him.
        Milarepa became frustrated and Marpa's wife took pity on him and forged a letter of introduction to another teacher, and off he went to study.
        But he couldn't learn anything.
        So back he went to Marpa, and then after 12 years, he gained enlightenment.
        He's said to be the only person to gain enlightenment after 1 lifetime of trying. Remember that Shakyamuni had many lifetimes before hand where he'd efffectively been working towards the goal, whereas Milarepa was just a guy, and in fact had done terrible things in that lifetime, but still managed it.

        He subsisted only on nettles for so many years that his skin turned green, and he is depicted as a green-skinned person.
        He is actually more famous for his poems and songs about the Dharma, than he is for becomming enlightened after such bad deeds.
        He demonstrated many of the Bodhisattva powers, such as flying, and moving at incredible speeds.
        The Songs of Milarepa are beautiful and a wonderful read for anyone with a basic knowledge of Dharma.

        Djon Ma
        Karma Dechen Djon Ma
        "For as long as space endures, And as long as living beings remain, Until then may I too abide, To dispel the misery of the world."


        • #5
          it's really fasinating.

          but how much is real, symbolic, or make believe? or does it not matter either way?


          • #6
            I personally believe it's real.
            I believe greatly in the history that we have and that it's not actually mythology.

            But... I know many people who believe it's symbolic mythology.

            I don't think it really matters, to be honest; it's there to tell us a story.
            To make us believe in ourselves, that we, too can become enlightened.
            People can use the teaching whether they believe it was real, or that it is mythology.

            But, I do believe it happened.

            Djon Ma
            Karma Dechen Djon Ma
            "For as long as space endures, And as long as living beings remain, Until then may I too abide, To dispel the misery of the world."


            • #7



              evidence of ancient technology at the nuclear level or higher in the days of the vedic scriptures?

              something to trip out on...
              "Life is a run. In attack we run, in defense we run. When you can no longer run, time to die" - Shichiroji "Seven samurai"


              • #8
                In human antomy class, the cadevas ( dead ppl's donor samples) are preserved in the same stuff they used in ancient egypt to preserve mummys, so, I'm thinking they should probably have some documents and ideas exactly similar to that.

                really might check that out one day. the ( med) science ( doctrinal ) trail to the west. . see, now that's a good story in the making. .

                It probably shouldn't be such a huge surprise that where there's darkness there is also something to counsel for it and describe it spiritually . I wasn't so shocked, anyway. pick a god any god and you have the disposition. it's alll dark. becaaause ppl are always dying.

                cool stories though. thanks . I did read into your sig, and did investigate that one.

                Blooming tianshi lotus.
                Last edited by blooming tianshi lotus; 05-12-2008, 04:20 AM.


                • #9
                  Well, i think that tibetan buddhism is interesting and i have studied a bit of it but i also feel there is a lot of superstition in it.

                  Last summer i made a 37 days retreat in a kagyu temple. In there i learnt about Powa, a technique which is supposed to lead you to Amitaba's paradise after death. My question was if it works why tibetan lamas have such a history of violence?

                  I feel a lot of contradiction between tibetan's claims of non violence and history. And i wonder if it is not linked with the so magical and superstitious way of tantrism.

                  To take another example, i was very surprised by the offerings of Tsok after Milarepa's initiation. So much meat and industrial food. Seemed like dark magic to me.

                  Now the Karmapa Urgyen Trinle have asked its followers to be vegetarian and it seemed as a good move to me. Tibetan lamas are often seen as not coherent by chinese buddhists because of their habit to eat meat. What Karmapa are you following DjonMa? Are you a vegetarian?

                  If you want to explore a criticism of tantrism, try this link, it is very interesting.

                  Yet i dont want to make divisive talk. There is a lot of beauty in tibetan buddhism. Just watch the paintings. But it seems its move to the West has also helped it to become more civilized.


                  • #10
                    OK a couple of comments.
                    BTL, the stuff used to preserve things nowadays isn't the same as Egyptian Mummy preservations.
                    Nowadays we use formalin mostly for preservations that allow us to see the items and study them. Formalin is a diluted form of formaldehyde, and that is anything but natural, being synthesides in the 1800's.
                    Mummy preservation was done using Cedar sap and other things, mostly cedar sap.

                    Master Splinter; there's a lot of stuff that is absolutely ancient that if you look closely actually looks like it could be way ahead of where we are, technologically.
                    I find it really, really interesting!
                    Thanks for the links!

                    Liu; What one person calls superstition, others call Religion.
                    Yes, I said there was a fair bit of violence in our history, but no more so than any other Religion, or school, or sect.
                    Kagyu are the most monastic of Tibetan orders.
                    And you ask why if something works people effectively haven't done it...
                    Well, there's enlightenment right?
                    And it can be gained in one lifetime?
                    So why aren't we all enlightened?
                    Answer that.
                    It's the same answer.

                    Tsok meat offerings... again, you're looking at this without understanding the symbology.
                    We eat a tiny bit of meat (though if you wish, you can just touch the meat to your lips rather than eat it), and we pray for the soul of the being that was killed to produce it. In eating it, it symbolises a compassionate being taking that death and making it worth something - freeing the soul from the violent death that they suffered, and allowing them to go on to a higher life.
                    For example - there are stories of Lamas who fished, or even killed men.
                    At the high level of enlightenment they had gained, they were in fact releasing those souls from their terrible life and guarenteeing them one that has true contact with the true Dharma for their next life.
                    Of course, your ordinary people can't do that, it just doesn't work, how ever much we may pray. So it's advised against, we just know about it because it's beautiful, and inspirational.

                    It does worry me though; you're looking in from the outside, and you see our beautiful protector deities, whose Tangkhas are full of compassion and strength, and you see our rituals full of compassion, and all you see is hate and nastiness, and fear.

                    As for the Karmapa issue, that is something entirely seperate.
                    My Sangha follow Ogyen Trinley Dorje, but it's not for me to comment on the whole situation.
                    I'm just a person, you know.
                    There are many very high Lamas that have been very confused in that issue.

                    I am a vegetarian. I was one before I was a Buddhist; I became a veggie at 6, and then a buddhist at 13.
                    I suppose it was the same thing though; I felt it was wrong to eat living beings, and I believe that that feeling was the same thing I was feeling about a lot of things, that I eventually realised was Buddhism.

                    As for Lamas habit to eat meat...
                    Ok two things here.
                    One; Tibet is one of the highest regions in the world.
                    If you don't eat meat, you die pretty quickly.
                    As for dying so that others may live? We have what pretty much amounts to a rule to look after our own body as well, because we help others in this life, so we need to make sure we're alive to do so.
                    In Tibet, Tibetan Buddhists never butcher or slaughter. The massive Muslim community did that, so that the Buddhists didn't have to deal with killing the animals. (By the way that Muslim community is no longer there - the Chinese killed every single one of them).
                    Most Tibetans are mostly vegetarian anyway.

                    Tibetans in exile, without the pressures of altitude have quickly become vegetarian and most Lamas are. Monks are vegetarian unless someone gives them meat, and then they eat it, as with any other monks.
                    His Holiness the Dala Lama had been a vegetarian all of his life, until a few years ago when his doctor said that he needed to eat a little meat in his diet as he has a bad heart.

                    The first thing I see on that link is sexuality...
                    Sex is wrong?
                    First thing I knew about it.
                    Monks and Nuns may be sworn off it, but not me.
                    I'm allowed to have as much as I want.
                    So are Lamas.
                    Lamas are not monks.
                    Some are as well... but Lama means teacher. Not higher monk.
                    My Lama is married with children.
                    Quite a few of our Bodhisattvas are depicted with their lover.
                    Still can't see anything wrong with that.
                    Love is a beautiful thing.

                    The second; Magic.
                    We don't practice magic.
                    It exists, we don't mess with it.
                    But Buddhism itself can give you amazing powers.
                    Tantric Buddhism in particular.
                    The first level of the Bodhisattva road gives you the power to fly.
                    To some that would seem to be magic.
                    Maybe that's why they call it magic.
                    But it isn't.
                    Buddha flew down from the heavens.
                    Was he performing magic?

                    Unfortunately Tibet has been forced to participate in politics on a Global scale.
                    The Chinese invasion took care of that.

                    As for that link... well I've had a glance at the contents list.
                    Sorry but it doesn't seem very good.
                    I don't know much about higher tantric practices, because I've never done any.
                    But... it goes on about the Dalai Lama being a reincarnation of our Gods.
                    We don't have Gods.
                    Gods exist in the God realms... we don't worship them.
                    We have Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
                    The Dalai Lama is not a God.
                    He is the reincarnation of Chenrezig.
                    Or Avolokiteshvara as the Indians call him.
                    Buddhas Compassionate friend.
                    A Bodhisattva.

                    I'll probably read through it when I have time, but to me it seems very anti-Dala Lama, which makes me wonder if it originates from within the Chinese government somewhere.

                    As for moving to the west... well, the Dalai Lama was about to open things up properly and let Tibet take its' place as a country, and then people would have seen Tibetan Buddhism properly, just before China invaded.
                    We will never know what could have been.

                    Djon Ma
                    Karma Dechen Djon Ma
                    "For as long as space endures, And as long as living beings remain, Until then may I too abide, To dispel the misery of the world."


                    • #11
                      Dear friend, i ll try to answer you.

                      First i m really quite used to tibetan buddhism. I even took my boddhisattva vows under the Dalai Lama in 2000 in Bodhgaya. And i ve spent some time with tibetans in India and China.

                      Ypu ask me if there is enlightnment. This i dont know. Many people claim so, to be awaken but are they really? In tibet you would meet many living buddhas but are they really or is it just religious propaganda?
                      And if the Powa worked many lamas would have gone to AMitaba's paradise and receive precious teaching. So why would they keep their people like slaves until the chinese came?

                      Tsok. Why did the karmapa ask that there would be no meat if it was ok before. I know high lamas are so high that when they kill it is blessing. Let me doubt this.

                      I might look form the outside but believe me i practiced quite a bit. Remember the last retreat i made was 37 days at a Kagyu temple. You say i look at the deities and do not see the compassion. Well my point is that is very special to tantrism to have so many wrathful deities holding so many weapons. Their might be compassion in killing but it can easily misunderstood and i believe many lamas have misunderstood it. Including for instance the 5 dalai lama. But that s just a guess, i do not hold it as truth.

                      By the way you say tibetan buddhist do not worship gods but you just say they paint deities.

                      U say the muslim communities is not in Tibet any more and that the chinese killed them all. I am afraid it is tibetan propaganda. I ve seen news recently where you could see a muslmim imam in Tibet. U say most tibetans are mostly vegetarians. I think you idealize Tibet, that s what a lot of westerners do, because they dream of a kind of spiritual paradise. In my opinion the vast majority of tibetans are not at all veg. And i ve seen many lamas eat meat. If it wouldnt be so why the Karmapa asked to become veg? U say the DL has been vegetarian most his life until recently. I have different informations on that. And i read his problem was liver. Illusions, illusions. Tibetans are very good at creating illusions.

                      As for the Trimondi site, take some times to read it. It does not come from China but from Germany and this people have beem acquointed with the Dl for a while. It is a critical approach.

                      U say the DL was about to open the country. How do you know that? Why the 13 DL didnt do so and abolish slavery?

                      I dont want to put down tibetan buddhism, i just try to be realistic and critical about it. DOubt is the essence of philosophy.

                      Take the guru yoga practice for instance. It has its merits but one should not forget his critical mind in the process. And some lamas abuse the position.

                      Yours in non violence towards every sentient being


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by liutangsanzang View Post
                        \DOubt is the essence of philosophy.
                        Finally. Something I have to agree with you on.

                        Nice observation.
                        Experienced Community organizer. Yeah, let's choose him to run the free world. It will be historic. What could possibly go wrong...

                        "You're just a jaded cynical mother****er...." Jeffpeg

                        (more comments in my User Profile)


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Djonma View Post
                          OK a couple of comments.
                          BTL, the stuff used to preserve things nowadays isn't the same as Egyptian Mummy preservations.
                          Nowadays we use formalin mostly for preservations that allow us to see the items and study them. Formalin is a diluted form of formaldehyde, and that is anything but natural, being synthesides in the 1800's.
                          Mummy preservation was done using Cedar sap and other things, mostly cedar sap.

                          Djon Ma

                          So this guy who just yesterday told our entire lecture class this, is wrong???
                          He was quite specfic, btw.

                          another know it all extrapolator. excellent value.

                          Blooming tianshi lotus.


                          • #14
                            No idea, BLT.
                            I don't study health, forensic science, or egyptology.
                            I know there was a massive breakthrough recently when a load of experts discovered that it wasn't juniper sap, as thought previously, used to preserve mummies, it was in fact cedar sap.
                            And I know that Formaldehyde was first synthesised in the 1800's.
                            I just kind of put two and two together.

                            Liu; you don't believei in enlightenment?
                            How are you a Buddhist then?
                            Especially a Tibetan Buddhist.
                            The very refuge prayer says that you take refuge until enlightenment.

                            "In Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, I take Refuge until enlightenment.
                            By the merit of giving, and so on, may I acheive enlightenment for the benefit of all beings."

                            (You may see other translations, that's the one my Sangha uses).

                            As part of Tibetan practice, we say that at the beginning of every Sadhana (prayer kind of).

                            I'm confused as to how you can be Buddhist and not believe in Enlightenment.
                            Maybe I'm misunderstanding.

                            And not many people claim to be enlightened, but mostly their followers claim it.
                            I believe my Lama and his Lama are enlightened. It's part of being Buddhist really; if you can't truly believe your Lama is enlightened, why would you study from him?

                            This is quite a difficult discussion now, the way it's going. You've been very antagonistic about Kagyu School, yet you're talking a lot about HH Dalai Lama, who is Gelug school. Being Kagyu, I've not really studied the history of the Dalai Lamas. I just know a bit, so I can't really comment much. You probably know a lot more than I do about them.

                            And no, we do not worship Gods.
                            Deity is a bad translation perhaps.
                            We say Deity a lot, but they are Bodhisattvas.
                            Not Gods.

                            I'm glad there's a Muslim community in Tibet again. All I know is what I've been told. That's all anyone can ever know.
                            I was told that they were wiped out early on in the invasion.

                            By saying Tibetans were mostly vegetarian, I didn't mean most people, I meant all were mostly vegetarian. They eat a bit of meat here and there, but it's nothing like western meat eaters who stuff themselves with far too much meat for the body.
                            Like I said; with the altitude in most of Tibet, you need to eat meat for the body to survive.

                            I don't have an issue with anyone eating meat.
                            I know plenty of Buddhists who eat meat.

                            I choose not to.

                            HH Karmapa has now decided that eating meat is bad for us, and so he asked that we not do so, and so many Kagyupas have stopped eating meat if they did so before.
                            But he is only a Kagyu lama, others may listen to him, but do not have to follow his advice.

                            I thought it was HHDL's heart that was the problem, because I discussed it with my Dad who also has major heart problems, and we talked about him maybe starting eating a bit of meat every now and then to help. But he doesn't want to, and he doesn't have altitude to worry about.
                            Though I've just looked at google and it turns out HHDL had jaundice problems without meat, so you're probably right. I know he has heart problems too, maybe I mixed the two up.
                            My mind is not that great.
                            It wasn't Tibetans creating illusions. It's easy to mix things up, especially old information.

                            I will read that site, but it won't be straight away; I'm in the middle of moving house, so everything is taking time, sorry.
                            But I will read it.

                            HHDL says he was going to open the country up. HH 13th DL had started the process.
                            He couldn't finish it because he died.
                            But he'd visited the west, and was wondering how to open a country up that had been closed and insular for so long.
                            It's not easy to do such a thing and not have the country experience culture shock. And, for the rest of the world to not think Tibet was horribly backward, which they probably would have done, as it really was at the time.

                            It sounds like you have a big problem with some of the things in Tibetan Buddhism. The things you're asking, I can't answer though.
                            I'm not a Lama.
                            I don't live in Tibet and never have.
                            I'm just an ordinary person trying to find answers to life like the rest of us.
                            It doesn't help that I've probably not conveyed things very well. I have dyspraxia, so I find explaining things quite difficult, and sometimes I mess it up and confuse people.

                            Doubt is one of the most useful tools we have, never feel bad for using it.

                            It seems like you should ask a lama these questions though, especially if you still practice.

                            And there will always be Lamas who abuse positions. For myself, I don't believe they're true Lamas; they've lost any gains they had on the path by abusing their position. Next life they're in trouble!

                            Djon Ma
                            Karma Dechen Djon Ma
                            "For as long as space endures, And as long as living beings remain, Until then may I too abide, To dispel the misery of the world."


                            • #15
                              Dear friend,
                              currently i try to have no position whether i am a buddhist or not. I dont know if buddhism is true so how would i call myself a buddhist? And i dont know if it is untrue so how would i say i am not a buddhist?

                              You can find roots for such an attitude in a famous theravada sutta called Kalama sutta, where Sakyamuni asks not to believe because of a tradition, a religion or a master but because of your own personal experience.

                              The same goes with enlightnement. I dont know if it is true so how can i say i believe in it? But i also do not know it is untrue, so why not believe it?

                              I know that in tibetan buddhism you have to see your lama has enlightened, as a representative of the buddha. It is very peculiar to Vajrayana. You do not have such claims in Theravada to my knowledge. In Theravada they insist on the "good friend".
                              My question about this is: wasnt it made for religious propaganda? Remember that in Tibet the lamas were crucials in politics and everything was mixed, religion and politics. The Guru Yoga can have political and power goals.

                              Your point about gods is interesting. The buddha is said to teach even gods.

                              About meat eating i dont understand why this karmapa made such a move and not his preceding incarnation. How can one change so dramatically? And in the next incarnation, he will turn to meat again? Arent the lamas fooling us with this incarnation system? It might also have political roots.

                              Anyway keep the compassion!


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