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Thread: Celebrating Celibacy

  1. #1

    Celebrating Celibacy

    Jundo mentioned that the Buddha advocated celibacy, on another thread, and that made me think about the issue. We are all so conditioned to believing that we can only be happy when we are in a traditional family unit. I found this YouTube video on the subject from a guy who has a very different perspective. But it probably wouldn't interest the happily married in the forum:

    Quote Originally Posted by Ajahn Brahm

    “How celibacy brings peace, simple contentment and spiritual insight that surpasses that of romance and sexuality. AND makes for a positive response towards an overpopulated and polluted planet...”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXocSGQFvmw[/video]]

    "Celebrating Simplicity". “If you are a friend to yourself you are never lonely….if you don’t love yourself you will always be running away to somebody else thinking that there you can get your fulfillment….why should your happiness become dependent on somebody else? … on that attachment and support? …if your happiness is so dependent on your wife and family it is very fragile…”

    Gassho,
    John

  2. #2

    Re: Celebrating Celibacy

    Hi John, How are you?

    i dont know about celibacy... but i sure understand what you mean about people who try to find that someone to complete them.
    i myself never could give up on love and a relationship, but i could never be in any relationship that is just for comfort or in order not to be alone. i have a girlfriend now for over a year and i love her very much, i don't want to lose her and she makes me very happy ( and crazy sometimes but that's all part of it ). that doesn't mean that my happiness is dependent on someone else though. i very much believe that we are complete as we are, with nothing to add or take away... and should not look for happiness and peace somewhere other than ourselves, yet we should not deny ourselves of the company of people and sharing our lives with someone we love.

    Gassho
    Daniel.

  3. #3

    Re: Celebrating Celibacy

    Hi every body,...

    I just want to remind about what Master Tozan has said, that, our life just like a blue mountain and the white clouds.
    They depend to each other, without being dependence to each other. The white clouds is always the white cloud. Blue mountain is always a blue mountain. When the sun rise, the clouds just go, without leaving any trace.

    Gassho, Shui di

  4. #4
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Celebrating Celibacy

    Celibacy seems....extreme to me.

    As a Borderline, I have special issues with relationships - but I think that I may have worked through a LOT of that with my last relationship. I think that, for me, celibacy would be a reactionary refusal to deal with relationships altogether and I really can't trust that I'd choose it for the 'right' reasons right now.

    A partner really helps to draw me out of my own world in a very valuable way...or at least, it could - if I wasn't dealing with it in a Borderline way. I look back at the money I made when I lived in LA and how I don't have much to show for it - but that's not true. I had a very good (though costly) therapist in LA who really helped me address some of the borderline stuff.

    I'm in between thinking that I'm just too screwed up for relationships and thinking that I need them in order to evolve from my fractured black/white view of the entire world in general.

    Chet

  5. #5

    Re: Celebrating Celibacy

    Hi Zen, Shui Di, Chet.

    I am fine, thanks for asking. I just got back from a five day Zen retreat and I feel wonderfully relaxed and clear minded. But of course, I'm straight back onto the computer and watching TV, reading books etc.

    I was really impressed by that video -- it's really worth watching although it's a bit long. His main point, I think, is actually of being able to live in simplicity without all the complications of relationships, gadgets and other possessions that we think we can't do without. He talks of having spent six months in solitary retreat in a small hut. How many of us would want to do that? And yet he claims that if you are comfortable with yourself you can be quite happy, you are not alone, you have yourself for company. Perhaps all these wordly entanglements are just a big hindrance for us although we think we need them to make us happy.

    I was reading last week in Glenn Wallis's book about how the Budhha advocated meditating on discarded corpses in cremation grounds to free ourselves from carnal desires.I'm getting to an age where these things aren't that important any more anyway

    Gassho,
    John

  6. #6

    Re: Celebrating Celibacy

    From “Letter to Mara”, a Buddhist version of the CS Lewis “Screwtape Letters” (about how the devil uses temptations to enslave humans)


    “……Sex has been our weapon of choice for about a billion years now. For
    such a simple biological function, you've created so many unique
    possibilities. What a wonderful swindle it all is! The
    innumerable weird and wonderful variations humans get themselves
    so frenzied about all reduce to some tricky wiring and a simple
    bit of friction. And it often isn't even sex itself that keeps
    us in business but all the peripheral aspects that go with it --
    the expectations and preliminaries, the accessories and
    emotional baggage. Fortunately, there's enough of this to keep
    most humans going for a lifetime, and one lifetime at a time is
    all we need to concern ourselves with.

    "Lately, I must say, we have been succeeding wonderfully using
    technology as our ally. As soon as they got the daguerreotype
    working, they were pointing it at naked women.And now we have
    color photography, cinema and video. Tantalizing images are
    easier and easier to come by. Recently they've even been
    spreading this stuff through the Internet. They don't even have
    to leave home to find it. Maybe I ought to get a web page. No,
    it would only be redundant.

    "Technology itself is largely a product of sensual desire. The
    crazy humans create devices to make the acquisition of sensual
    pleasures easier or to avoid the occurrence of sensory
    discomfort. This drives their whole economy and keeps them busy
    all their brief lives. They want, indeed they imagine they need,
    a car, a stereo, a computer and then a newer car, a newer
    stereo, etc. We must keep them in a state of desire for all
    these devices -- the more they work, the less time they will
    have to figure out what's really going on.

    "The teachings of our Great Adversary have been the only serious
    obstacle to our project. He has pointed out to them again and
    again the dangers inherent in sensual desire. However, we have
    succeeded so well over the centuries in muddling up this truth
    with various bogus teachings that it is becoming harder and
    harder for them to find the real Truth. There are plenty of
    so-called "teachers" among them who are willing to speak our
    line in his name -- not merely soft-pedaling the idea of
    renunciation, but proudly announcing that 'the passions
    themselves are enlightenment.' Of course, there are plenty of
    fish who like the taste of that bait!

    "But we cannot rest, for there are a few beings getting
    dangerously close to finding a way out of our power. They are
    starting to reflect or even to practice renunciation and
    meditation. Once they discover that their true happiness is not
    based on our trickery, they may escape. We must use all the
    resources at our disposal to confuse them. Although they may be
    sitting quietly, their minds are still easily distracted.
    Fantasy is a great thing, especially since a mind with a bit of
    concentration can powerfully visualize and hold even our
    unwholesome objects.

    "The thing we must not let them do is to contemplate the real
    nature of the body. You would think that anyone of even moderate
    intelligence could see the inherently foul and unstable nature
    of those meat-machines they drag around. After all, they have to
    be constantly washing and perfuming the stinking things just to
    bear being in each other's company! But they don't see that and
    don't want to see it. We merely have to keep them looking at
    their bodies in a highly selective way, emphasizing the largely
    visual characteristics identified as "beautiful". It's an easy
    enough trick.

    "And don't forget to whisper all the current buzz that keeps
    them from doing body-meditations. You know what I mean --
    meditation on the unlovely is 'life-denying, uptight,
    repressive.' It's easy enough to convince them because it's what
    they want to hear. Keep them imagining they can have their cake
    and eat it too, and then we can stop worrying. Let them meditate
    all they want. As long as they think they don't have to let
    anything go, we're still in control…."


    http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma/mara1.html

  7. #7
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Celebrating Celibacy

    If a person's really into celibacy, then by all means let them embrace it--with both hands! haha!

    I think the problem is that a lot of people try to convince themselves they're into that when they're not. The reasons for the attempts to convince being many, including puritanical notions of the loathsomeness of the body, a desire to escape, a desire to be in control (desire being one of the things that tramples all over our attempts at control).

    That sort of contrived holiness ain't necessarily the door to the sacred... George Clinton said it best: "Free your ass, and your mind will follow"... :!:

  8. #8
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Celebrating Celibacy

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    If a person's really into celibacy, then by all means let them embrace it--with both hands! haha!

    I think the problem is that a lot of people try to convince themselves they're into that when they're not. The reasons for the attempts to convince being many, including puritanical notions of the loathsomeness of the body, a desire to escape, a desire to be in control (desire being one of the things that tramples all over our attempts at control).

    That sort of contrived holiness ain't necessarily the door to the sacred... George Clinton said it best: "Free your ass, and your mind will follow"... :!:
    Frankly, I don't know what to do with sex. I see how it leads to suffering, but I don't see a way to stop without also causing suffering. 'Love' relationships are almost entirely not love relationships. They almost always lead to suffering. Participating in relationships seems deluded, and so does avoiding them. I've never been able to really resolve this for myself.

    :?

    Chet

  9. #9
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Celebrating Celibacy

    Everything in this world leads to suffering
    Everything in this world is suffering.

    That's what the Buddha saw.

    To live, we have to eat, which means to consume life, which means to kill (the first precept is an impossibility)
    Just to live the simplest life, we have to take resources that are not ours to take (there goes that second precept)
    "Sex is violent" (Jane's Addiction) -- it invades our emotional lives, dangerously, inescapably -- there goes the third.

    No purity to be found in this world; just look at the lives of your spiritual heroes, you'll eventually find traces of "the red thread," sometimes manifesting in dangerous and destructive ways.

    So what do you do? Carry around a broom to sweep the bugs out of your path, go vegan, sell your car and ride a bike, go live in a hut? I personally don't think any of that is the answer; I think it's all delusion. These people are chasing after ghosts.

    I don't have an awesome answer to all this, but I do have a strong feeling that whoring out your soul to an ideal of purity isn't wisdom or compassion, it's just the ego assuaging itself, hiding from all of this scary stuff instead of dealing with it.

    There is nothing you can do with sex -- other than sex -- all you can "do" with sex is to do sex. Or not...

  10. #10
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Celebrating Celibacy

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    Everything in this world leads to suffering
    Everything in this world is suffering.

    That's what the Buddha saw.
    I think you misunderstood that. Life itself does not cause suffering. Clinging causes suffering. This is my understanding, at least.

    To live, we have to eat, which means to consume life, which means to kill (the first precept is an impossibility)
    Just to live the simplest life, we have to take resources that are not ours to take (there goes that second precept)
    "Sex is violent" (Jane's Addiction) -- it invades our emotional lives, dangerously, inescapably -- there goes the third.

    No purity to be found in this world; just look at the lives of your spiritual heroes, you'll eventually find traces of "the red thread," sometimes manifesting in dangerous and destructive ways.

    So what do you do? Carry around a broom to sweep the bugs out of your path, go vegan, sell your car and ride a bike, go live in a hut? I personally don't think any of that is the answer; I think it's all delusion. These people are chasing after ghosts.
    But it's kind of what the Buddha did. The vegan thing is pointless - agriculture of any kind causes death to living beings (suffering? Who knows?)

    I don't have an awesome answer to all this, but I do have a strong feeling that whoring out your soul to an ideal of purity isn't wisdom or compassion, it's just the ego assuaging itself, hiding from all of this scary stuff instead of dealing with it.

    There is nothing you can do with sex -- other than sex -- all you can "do" with sex is to do sex. Or not...
    Can you deny that sexual relationships lead to suffering? What is proper behavior regarding sex? I've never been able to have a sexual relationship without a great deal of attachment.

    Yet, I feel like you - any attempt to repress my sexual and romantic urges would be a puritanical attempt at 'control'.

    If you say there's no escape from suffering, aren't you denying the Third Noble Truth?

  11. #11

    Re: Celebrating Celibacy

    Hi,

    I think that celibacy is a wonderful path of practice, for all the reasons set out by Ven. Ajahn Brahm.

    I also think that marriage and relationships are also a wonderful path of practice. (By the way, "marriage" and "celibacy" sometimes both exist at the same time ... but that is another story. :| Hit the drum symbol. )

    It is an interesting question as to which is the "easier" or more challenging path of practice. The Buddha advocated celibacy because he felt it was the easier path to Buddhist practice. He never failed to preach the Dharma to householders and married folks. For example, to the Householders in the Saleyyaka Sutta ...

    7. "Householders, there are three kinds of bodily conduct not in accordance with the Dhamma, unrighteous conduct. ...

    8. ... He is given over to misconduct in sexual desires: he has intercourse with such (women) as are protected by the mother, father, (mother and father), brother, sister, relatives, as have a husband, as entail a penalty, and also with those that are garlanded in token of betrothal. That is how there are three kinds of bodily conduct not in accordance with the Dhamma, unrighteous conduct.
    In Nishijima Roshi's lineage, the inside joke is "alcohol no (except for some of us, in moderation), meat yes (except for some of us who are vegetarians), sex maybe.

    Gassho, Jundo

    Ps - I reprint that Sutta section in full, if anyone is interested:

    7. "Householders, there are three kinds of bodily conduct not in accordance with the Dhamma, unrighteous conduct. There are four kinds of verbal conduct not in accordance with the Dhamma, unrighteous conduct. There are three kinds of mental conduct not in accordance with the Dhamma, unrighteous conduct.

    8. "And how are there three kinds of bodily conduct not in accordance with the Dhamma, unrighteous conduct? Here someone is a killer of living beings: he is murderous, bloody-handed, given to blows and violence, and merciless to all living beings. He is a taker of what is not given: he takes as a thief another's chattels and property in the village or in the forest. He is given over to misconduct in sexual desires: he has intercourse with such (women) as are protected by the mother, father, (mother and father), brother, sister, relatives, as have a husband, as entail a penalty, and also with those that are garlanded in token of betrothal. That is how there are three kinds of bodily conduct not in accordance with the Dhamma, unrighteous conduct.

    9. "And how are there four kinds of verbal conduct not in accordance with the Dhamma, unrighteous conduct? Here someone speaks falsehood: when summoned to a court or to a meeting, or to his relatives' presence, or to his guild, or to the royal family's presence, and questioned as a witness thus, 'So, good man, tell what you know,' then, not knowing, he says 'I know,' or knowing, he says 'I do not know,' not seeing, he says 'I see,' or seeing, he says 'I do not see'; in full awareness he speaks falsehood for his own ends or for another's ends or for some trifling worldly end. He speaks maliciously: he is a repeater elsewhere of what is heard here for the purpose of causing division from these, or he is a repeater to these of what is heard elsewhere for the purpose of causing division from those, and he is thus a divider of the united, a creator of divisions, who enjoys discord, rejoices in discord, delights in discord, he is a speaker of words that create discord. He speaks harshly: he utters such words as are rough, hard, hurtful to others, censorious of others, bordering on anger and unconducive to concentration. He is a gossip: as one who tells that which is unseasonable, that which is not fact, that which is not good, that which is not the Dhamma, that which is not the Discipline, and he speaks out of season speech not worth recording, which is unreasoned, indefinite, and unconnected with good. That is how there are four kinds of verbal conduct not in accordance with the Dhamma, unrighteous conduct.

    10. "And how are there three kinds of mental conduct not in accordance with the Dhamma, unrighteous conduct? Here someone is covetous: he is a coveter of another's chattels and property thus: 'Oh, that what is another's were mine!' Or he has a mind of ill-will, with the intention of a mind affected by hate thus: 'May these beings be slain and slaughtered, may they be cut off, perish, or be annihilated!' Or he has wrong view, distorted vision, thus: 'There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed, no fruit and ripening of good and bad kammas, no this world, no other world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously (born) beings,1 no good and virtuous monks and brahmans that have themselves realized by direct knowledge and declare this world and the other world.'2 That is how there are three kinds of mental conduct not in accordance with the Dhamma, unrighteous conduct.

    "So, householders, it is by reason of conduct not in accordance with the Dhamma, by reason of unrighteous conduct, that some beings here, on the dissolution of the body, after death, reappear in states of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, even in hell.
    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nymo.html

  12. #12
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Celebrating Celibacy

    disastermouse--

    You're saying exactly what I'm trying to get across. That it's not "the facts of life" that cause suffering; it's our insistence that they be other than what they are that makes us suffer. I think a lot of people get caught up in delusions that the spiritual life is about making themselves pure, which I think is just another form of neurosis. The fact that this world is violent and built upon predation disturbs our sensibilities, and trying to pretend that we can take some sort of cosmic spiritual Windex and wipe it all clean is just us trying to deal with our anxieties about this stuff by escaping into fantasy and idealism. At least in my experience.

    But I'm not saying there's no point to the precepts, or that practice is futile. I just think it's gotta be a different level we engage that stuff on, not a literal-minded one. One answer to finding that some aspect of your existence has suffering in it is to deny it, but another is to let that discovery invite you to face it more directly than you ever have before. What do you do then? There's a Patty Griffin song I like:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeO63Trs5wk[/video]]

    The Sunday after, there was laughter in the air
    Everybody had a kite
    they were flying everywhere
    And all the trouble went away
    and it wasn't just a dream
    All the trouble went away
    and it wasn't just a dream

    In the middle of the night
    We try and try with all our mights
    To light a little light down here
    In the middle of the night
    We dream of a million kites
    Flying high above
    the sadness and the fear

    Little sister, just remember
    as you wander through the blue
    The little kite that you sent flying
    one Sunday afternoon
    Made of something light as nothing
    Made of joy that matters too
    How the little dreams we dream
    are all we can really do

    In the middle of the night
    The world turns with all its might
    A little diamond colored blue
    In the middle of the night
    We keep sending little kites
    Until a little light gets through


    If you're with someone who's suffering, send a little light through to them. If you're suffering, let it go. That's the best answer I have.

    Stephanie

  13. #13

    Re: Celebrating Celibacy

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie

    You're saying exactly what I'm trying to get across. That it's not "the facts of life" that cause suffering; it's our insistence that they be other than what they are that makes us suffer. I think a lot of people get caught up in delusions that the spiritual life is about making themselves pure, which I think is just another form of neurosis. The fact that this world is violent and built upon predation disturbs our sensibilities, and trying to pretend that we can take some sort of cosmic spiritual Windex and wipe it all clean is just us trying to deal with our anxieties about this stuff by escaping into fantasy and idealism. At least in my experience.
    Stefanie,

    I wasn't thinking so much along the lines of "purity" (which is more of Christian concept, I think). No, I was thinking mainly about "simplicity". Sex and relationships are only one example of how we seem to clutter up our lives with things that we think we "need", "must have" in our lives. And so many of these so-called essential needs are, I think, only cultural conditioning. I mean, if I can sit at retreat for five days without talking to anyone, with no computer or TV, and still feel quite happy, then I am suddenly starting to question how essential a lot of the things in my life really are, and begin to realise that many of these things are just a big hindrance to my practice,

    Gassho,
    John

  14. #14
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Celebrating Celibacy

    Quote Originally Posted by John
    Stefanie,

    I wasn't thinking so much along the lines of "purity" (which is more of Christian concept, I think). No, I was thinking mainly about "simplicity". Sex and relationships are only one example of how we seem to clutter up our lives with things that we think we "need", "must have" in our lives. And so many of these so-called essential needs are, I think, only cultural conditioning. I mean, if I can sit at retreat for five days without talking to anyone, with no computer or TV, and still feel quite happy, then I am suddenly starting to question how essential a lot of the things in my life really are, and begin to realise that many of these things are just a big hindrance to my practice,

    Gassho,
    John
    Oh, absolutely. I agree. I do believe that some people are of a nature such that they can be celibate and enjoy it. What I'm saying about the "purity" thing is that some idea of it seems to be the motivation for people who force themselves to become celibate when they really want to be having sex. Most people like that end up having some sort of sex on the down low anyway.

  15. #15

    Re: Celebrating Celibacy

    I like the definition of purity as the way things are before our intervention/interpretation.

    An orgasm is real, while the Sutras are mental formations.

    A good ol' in-n-out is waaaay more pure than this conversation we are carrying.

    Back to celebrating silence:

    A

  16. #16

    Re: Celebrating Celibacy

    Hi John,
    I see a retreat as an artificial situation, without distractions, designed so that we can take the time to waken up and become more aware. Hopefully we then bring that awareness into our daily life
    to embrace whatever constitutes our life, computers, t.v. books, relationships, work etc.

    I heard this joke somewhere.
    A group of monks in a monastery (probably a Catholic one) spent some time pouring over old manuscripts, copying and illustrating them. One day one of the monks who had gone down to the cellars to do this didn't appear for some time. When the monks went to investigate they found him sobbing and crying. What was wrong they asked? "The word wasn't celibate", he sobbed, "It was CELEBRATE."

    Jenny

  17. #17
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Celebrating Celibacy

    Quote Originally Posted by Jenny
    I heard this joke somewhere.
    A group of monks in a monastery (probably a Catholic one) spent some time pouring over old manuscripts, copying and illustrating them. One day one of the monks who had gone down to the cellars to do this didn't appear for some time. When the monks went to investigate they found him sobbing and crying. What was wrong they asked? "The word wasn't celibate", he sobbed, "It was CELEBRATE."
    Gosh, I like this, though laughter wasn't my reaction.

    Gassho--

  18. #18

    Re: Celebrating Celibacy

    Quote Originally Posted by Jenny
    I see a retreat as an artificial situation, without distractions, designed so that we can take the time to waken up and become more aware. Hopefully we then bring that awareness into our daily life
    to embrace whatever constitutes our life, computers, t.v. books, relationships, work etc.
    Hi Jenny,
    Yes, I suppose a retreat is an artificial situation in some ways, but then again, it might also be more "real" too - we have just removed a lot of the everyday distractions from our lives. I think the main point about the video was the idea of simplicity in our lives. I used to think that people who went away to meditate by themselves for long periods were really suffering to try to achieve something, but that guy claims that he is really happy under these circumstances! I think I would be bored without all my toys, though. Or would I? Maybe I should try it again by having another retreat at home or by just simplifying by cutting down a lot of the unnecessary things I do. I do have a fear of being bored that I need to confront,

    Good joke, by the way

    Gassho,
    John

  19. #19

    Re: Celebrating Celibacy

    Hi, John,

    Thanks for posting the video address. I listened to it earlier and found it to be of enormous benefit.
    What it boiled down to, for me, was to stream-line and simplify my life. I've been meaning to clean out closets and the house of things anyway. They do weigh me down, even when they're not in view. A needing to de-clutter. Sort of a cliche, but to live a more "zen" life.

    It's about being compfortable in my own skin, neither wanting nor needing others opinions. Letting go of cultural claptrap that is useless. And yes, being totally aware of the person who is watching me - me. That was a wonderful story he told about the theives.

    I've been on a few silent retreats (though with others around) and I found them to be very peaceful and refreshing. The noise after I left was somewhat overwhelming and it took a day or two to adjust back to city life while attempting to maintain whatever serenity I'd received at the retreat.

    Anyway, cudos to people who choose to live a celibate life AND cudos to those who choose not to!

    A big thankyou again.

    As long as we're trying to be awake.

    Lora

  20. #20

    Re: Celebrating Celibacy

    Hi,

    I am watching a wonderful film on this topic, recommended by others recently. I find it handles the issues with great honesty and realism, very much in keeping with all sides of the question of celibacy for Buddhist clergy ... Also, a stunning and moving film. I give it "Five Bodhisattvas" (my highest rating)
    (Jundo at the Movies)

    SAMSARA - Synopsis: Set in the majestic landscape of the Himalayas and shot in glorious Cinemascope, Samsara - which means "the world we live in" - tells an epic tale of a spiritual quest. Tashi (Shawn Ku) is a brilliant young Buddhist monk who is just completing three years of solitary meditation in a remote hermitage. With long hair and beard and fingernails like talons, he is sitting in lotus position in a deep trance. Roused by a group of monks, he is taken back to the monastery to recover his strength. As he resumes a monastic life of constant prayer, he is honoured for reaching a state of advanced enlightenment. But surprisingly, despite a life devoted from the age of five to spiritual matters, he finds himself experiencing a profound sexual awakening. While performing a routine harvest blessing, he is irresistibly attracted to the farmer's beautiful daughter, Pema (Christy Chung). Arguing that Prince Siddhartha renounced worldly existence only after experiencing it, Tashi leaves the monastery to discover the bliss of sexual union and marries Pema who, it turns out, has spiritual wisdom that surprises and challenges him. Years pass, and Tashi reveals strength and acumen in dealing with the world, but there are many lessons still to be learned.
    http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/samsara/

  21. #21

    Re: Celebrating Celibacy

    Great point John . . . god knows it would do me some good to follow that teaching.

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