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Thread: ZAZEN ON DRUGS: Brad's Post

  1. #51

    Re: ZAZEN ON DRUGS: Brad's Post

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse

    I think that understanding shikantaza is very difficult at first. Shikantaza is not a method, and REALLY, there is no goal. Shikantaza is not a kensho-attainment method. I think that a lot of people have a hard time groking that. Ironically, dropping all ideas of attainment, IMHO, makes kensho much more likely, but it doesn't matter since if you are truly practicing shikantaza, you are basically practicing what kensho IS. Kensho is really just a dramatic validation of the principles of shikantaza, but shikantaza is itself the practice of enlightenment. It is radical non-attainment.

    IMHO.

    Chet
    Hey Chet,

    Wow, you sound like me! 8) Sounds like I finally got to you, and the brainwashing has been a success!

    Yes, thus a moment of Zazen is a moment of Buddha ... Zazen is Enlightenment Realized!

    Gassho, J

  2. #52
    disastermouse
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    Re: ZAZEN ON DRUGS: Brad's Post

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse

    I think that understanding shikantaza is very difficult at first. Shikantaza is not a method, and REALLY, there is no goal. Shikantaza is not a kensho-attainment method. I think that a lot of people have a hard time groking that. Ironically, dropping all ideas of attainment, IMHO, makes kensho much more likely, but it doesn't matter since if you are truly practicing shikantaza, you are basically practicing what kensho IS. Kensho is really just a dramatic validation of the principles of shikantaza, but shikantaza is itself the practice of enlightenment. It is radical non-attainment.

    IMHO.

    Chet
    Hey Chet,

    Wow, you sound like me! 8) Sounds like I finally got to you, and the brainwashing has been a success!

    Yes, thus a moment of Zazen is a moment of Buddha ... Zazen is Enlightenment Realized!

    Gassho, J
    Hardly brainwashed - you just helped cut away my attachment to kensho and realize just exactly how profound is shikantaza. If I sound like a parrot, well, I'm open to that criticism as well.

    Chet

  3. #53
    disastermouse
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    Re: ZAZEN ON DRUGS: Brad's Post

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    I want to play devil's advocate for a second. Why does Brad say what he does? How does he know it's wrong? I'm not asking whether he's done hallucinogens or not, I'm asking, how does he know that it's wrong? While Buddhism may not have a tradition of using hallucinogens, that doesn't mean that it's wrong. I think a better answer here would be that in the Zen tradition, this is not the way, but we cannot know if this is right or wrong. I think he's being overly dogmatic, and not considering the possibility that there may be other ways.
    Although I share your distrust of dogmatism, contradicting wrong paths is still an essential part of what a teacher does. Sometimes people with strong personalities such as Brad's may occasionally and unconsciously insert a lot of their own crap into the dialogue that may or may not belong there. Welcome to institutional Buddhism and the realization that sometimes even our teachers are assholes. Again, although I empathize with the energy of your objection, I agree with Brad for a few reasons.

    First, awakening is not a state. If awakening was a state, it would be useless, as all states are subject to conditions and are wholly impermanent. I think this is what is meant when it's stated in Mahayana Buddhism that we are 'already awakened'. If genuine awakening was merely a state, we could all take mushrooms and be instant Buddhas. I don't know about you personally, but psychedelics did not convert me, nor anyone else I know who has used them, into eternally awakened Buddhas (wouldn't that be awesome though?).

    Second, Fugen tells me that too much of anything, even zazen, can have negative side effects. Although I agree in principle, I haven't seen very much evidence of it yet. I have, however, seen much evidence of the harmful effect that overindulging in psychedelics can have. This doesn't by itself invalidate it, but it sure makes the whole adventure a lot more treacherous.

    Third, more about states. 'State-chasing' is a real danger of any profound spiritual path (and maybe even a few non-profound ones - handled any snakes or spoken in tongues lately?). Awakening is not state-chasing, IMHO.

    Chet

  4. #54
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: ZAZEN ON DRUGS: Brad's Post

    It may be a wrong path as far as Zen is concerned, but other traditions do use hallucinogens as part of their practice. So my point is simply that what he's saying is not different from saying that, for example, praying to Jesus is wrong. That's dogmatic. Now, those who try to integrate hallucinogens into a Zen path, that's another story. Again, as they are not part of the tradition, it's safe to say they're wrong. But what is wrong anyway? Why can one be so sure it's wrong for Zen if Zen hasn't tried adding such chemicals?

    Again, just being a devil's advocate, but I think if you replaced "hallucinogens" with other words - mantras, k?ans, etc. - then my point might be more clear.

  5. #55

    Re: ZAZEN ON DRUGS: Brad's Post

    Quote Originally Posted by Dosho
    To be fair, I don't think Brad is using this section to defend the particular post I quoted, just the general line of counterargument he offered which was perfectly valid.
    Ah, my mistake--I did not mean to imply that at all! Yes, this was just a response to other people's comments about his language on his blog (http://hardcorezen.blogspot.com). Sorry about that.

    Gassho,
    Matt

  6. #56
    disastermouse
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    Re: ZAZEN ON DRUGS: Brad's Post

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    It may be a wrong path as far as Zen is concerned, but other traditions do use hallucinogens as part of their practice. So my point is simply that what he's saying is not different from saying that, for example, praying to Jesus is wrong. That's dogmatic. Now, those who try to integrate hallucinogens into a Zen path, that's another story. Again, as they are not part of the tradition, it's safe to say they're wrong. But what is wrong anyway? Why can one be so sure it's wrong for Zen if Zen hasn't tried adding such chemicals?

    Again, just being a devil's advocate, but I think if you replaced "hallucinogens" with other words - mantras, k?ans, etc. - then my point might be more clear.
    Praying to Jesus is wrong only insofar as it's not a method by which to express enlightenment along the lines and terms of Buddhism in general and Zen specifically. Brad was offering a criticism of the line of thought that the use of hallucinogens are a 'shortcut' to Zen insight - not necessarily that the experiences had no merits at all in their own rights, although I would not be surprised that he also advocates this view.

    Also, stating that methods outside the tradition are intrinsically wrong is not necessarily true, since Zen - even Soto Zen - is constantly refining itself and incorporating many methods, including but not limited to 'virtual sanghas', 'virtual dokusan', and psychoanalysis, none of which were or are part of the tradition before they were incorporated or used within the tradition. Put concisely, Zen is a constantly evolving discipline (the word 'discipline' is wrong, but I can think of nothing else to use in its stead).

    Soto Zen emphasizes the radical 'method-of-no-method' that is Shikantaza, but it also makes use of koans, albeit in a decidedly different way than does Rinzai Zen. I also would not be surprised to find Soto Zen practitioners incorporating mantras, slogans, etc. into their daily practice.

    Once again though, I want to emphasize that shikantaza is radical in that it is expressly not a tool by which to attain a state of mind, but rather a profound expression of the truth that is validated by kensho experiences. That truth is not contained within any state, it exists in all states without being any of them. Hence, it's aimless-aim can not be compared without remainder to other goal-oriented methods.

    IMHO, and respectfully,

    Chet

  7. #57

    Re: ZAZEN ON DRUGS: Brad's Post

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Brad was offering a criticism of the line of thought that the use of hallucinogens are a 'shortcut' to Zen insight
    So what is unique about an insight that makes it specifically "Zen"?


    To address some of Kirk's points...

    I think there is a very important distinction to be made. That is between a legitimate religion/ spiritual practice which utilizes entheogens and people who abuse the framework of spirituality as an excuse to get wasted. The former as you probably know does require a degree of training as well a period of preparation before the substance is imbibed. The latter is usually "dose and go". I also think the latter is the primary target of much of the fervor against the idea.

    Imagine for a second that Brad agreed with Rene, that the drug experience is on par or equal to zazen. Can't you just hear the outcry in the "Buddhist" blogosphere and publications? "Zen Master condones use of illegal drugs!" His personal feelings aside, would you not agree that there is a responsibility to not endorse something that could potentially lead to highly irresponsible choices?

  8. #58

    Re: ZAZEN ON DRUGS: Brad's Post

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse

    I think that understanding shikantaza is very difficult at first. Shikantaza is not a method, and REALLY, there is no goal. Shikantaza is not a kensho-attainment method. I think that a lot of people have a hard time groking that. Ironically, dropping all ideas of attainment, IMHO, makes kensho much more likely, but it doesn't matter since if you are truly practicing shikantaza, you are basically practicing what kensho IS. Kensho is really just a dramatic validation of the principles of shikantaza, but shikantaza is itself the practice of enlightenment. It is radical non-attainment.

    IMHO.

    Chet
    I must have read this five times. Thank you.
    -Matt

  9. #59

    Re: ZAZEN ON DRUGS: Brad's Post

    Let me just drop in that, growing up in the 70's, I have had my time dabbling and mind-diving with this and that and the other thing ...

    ... and, yes, perhaps I could say that the same something that I encountered here and there (and in a bit of Pink Floyd and Crimson and such ... that dates me ... ) is the same something that also led me to the section of the library with the Tao-Te-Ching, Ram Dass and Zen books ...

    ... I have traveled to some places in the world and encountered various potions ...

    ... and there was certainly some mind expanding, mind bending stuff which I cherish ...

    ... but no more or less particularly than the mind expanding, mind bending stuff I have encountered in life as, for example, a sometime runner, a reader of Shakespeare, a new father or husband, parachuting out of a plane, scuba diving, a parent's death, recovering from an illness and going home from hosital, earthquakes and nuclear accidents, picking weeds in the garden, a cold drink of water on a hot day, soaking in the rain, a good sneeze, etc. etc.

    No, our Zen Practice is much more Timeless, All Encompassing and Expansive than even "Seeing God on Acid".

    This whole life is the Trip.

    Gassho, J

  10. #60
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: ZAZEN ON DRUGS: Brad's Post

    Quote Originally Posted by Rev R
    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Brad was offering a criticism of the line of thought that the use of hallucinogens are a 'shortcut' to Zen insight
    So what is unique about an insight that makes it specifically "Zen"?
    A few things to address here. Obviously, insights come in many flavors, but the ones typically considered 'Zen' would be those that verify the teachings of the Buddha primarily and the teachings of the Mahayana Zen sects specifically. Hence insights about the perfect design of a chair that follow from design principles could only very tangentially be related to Zen. But I think you're referring to what separates a drug insight from a Zen insight, am I right?

    There are many places to go in this argument, but the one that kills the attempt to give them parity is this: Zen insights are not limited to certain states of mind or insight, but also to so-called 'mundane' states of mind. Shikantaza does not just express the perfect teachings of non-self exemplified in the Diamond Sutra, but ALSO the perfection of mundane mind states. The many hours spent sitting zazen where nothing 'special' seems to happen are ALSO an expression of Buddha's perfect Dharma. It is a rather human tendency to focus on the highs and lows of life - the stark contrasts - and indeed, in my humble opinion, these can be very critical opportunities to 'wake up'. But what about the long slogs through flat, seemingly uninteresting landscapes? What does the drug experience (almost always in heightened contrast) teach about the perfect reflection of Dharma that is doing your taxes, changing your baby's diaper, or kissing your wife? I believe it was Barry Magid who proposed this scenario in 'Ending the Pursuit of Happiness': Imagine that your practice period today was as good or bad as it would ever be. Imagine that every practice period you had from this day on was exactly like today's with no hope of ever 'improving'. Could you continue to sit zazen in light of such an admittedly unlikely scenario? Could you both be at peace and also not squelch the disappointment that would surely well up within you? If so, I believe that would describe the mindset exemplified in Shikantaza. If your approach becomes one such as this, you have defeated the poisons of ego without going to war with ego. This is an expression of the perfect Dharma, and kensho or the peak experiences of hallucinogens are quite beside the point. Nice if they happen. but irrelevant to the true expression of the Dharma.

    What can the drug experience, trading as it does in very extreme states of mind, teach you about the perfection of the mundane?


    To address some of Kirk's points...

    I think there is a very important distinction to be made. That is between a legitimate religion/ spiritual practice which utilizes entheogens and people who abuse the framework of spirituality as an excuse to get wasted. The former as you probably know does require a degree of training as well a period of preparation before the substance is imbibed. The latter is usually "dose and go". I also think the latter is the primary target of much of the fervor against the idea.
    I think this argument is rendered irrelevant in light of what I spoke to above. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

    Imagine for a second that Brad agreed with Rene, that the drug experience is on par or equal to zazen. Can't you just hear the outcry in the "Buddhist" blogosphere and publications? "Zen Master condones use of illegal drugs!" His personal feelings aside, would you not agree that there is a responsibility to not endorse something that could potentially lead to highly irresponsible choices?
    We are talking about Brad Warner here, right? I can't proclaim to know him as well as others on this forum, nor especially his dharma-brother Jundo, but I truly believe that if Brad Warner thought the practice was meritorious, he would say so - and to hell with the Zen institution and its outrage.

    Chet

  11. #61

    Re: ZAZEN ON DRUGS: Brad's Post

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    There are many places to go in this argument, but the one that kills the attempt to give them parity is this: Zen insights are not limited to certain states of mind or insight, but also to so-called 'mundane' states of mind. Shikantaza does not just express the perfect teachings of non-self exemplified in the Diamond Sutra, but ALSO the perfection of mundane mind states. The many hours spent sitting zazen where nothing 'special' seems to happen are ALSO an expression of Buddha's perfect Dharma. It is a rather human tendency to focus on the highs and lows of life - the stark contrasts - and indeed, in my humble opinion, these can be very critical opportunities to 'wake up'. But what about the long slogs through flat, seemingly uninteresting landscapes? What does the drug experience (almost always in heightened contrast) teach about the perfect reflection of Dharma that is doing your taxes, changing your baby's diaper, or kissing your wife? I believe it was Barry Magid who proposed this scenario in 'Ending the Pursuit of Happiness': Imagine that your practice period today was as good or bad as it would ever be. Imagine that every practice period you had from this day on was exactly like today's with no hope of ever 'improving'. Could you continue to sit zazen in light of such an admittedly unlikely scenario? Could you both be at peace and also not squelch the disappointment that would surely well up within you? If so, I believe that would describe the mindset exemplified in Shikantaza. If your approach becomes one such as this, you have defeated the poisons of ego without going to war with ego. This is an expression of the perfect Dharma, and kensho or the peak experiences of hallucinogens are quite beside the point. Nice if they happen. but irrelevant to the true expression of the Dharma.

    What can the drug experience, trading as it does in very extreme states of mind, teach you about the perfection of the mundane?
    Geez, feels like Bubba's bowling is hot today! Another strike! 8)

    This is really something coming from a fellow who once described Shikantaza as nothing but a form of (if I recall) "stiff upper lip stoicism". :wink:

    Yes, perhaps (if I may sound like a Zen fortune cookie for a moment) ... Zazen is the state that is just each and all states, both the seemingly magical and the purely mundane ... and thus somehow stateless for being all states ... and somehow Sacred & Magic in a way that sweeps in all silly human judgments of "magical v. mundane" ... and which is just you and me too ...

    Something like that. Now THAT's EYE OPENING! :shock:

    Gassho, J

  12. #62

    Re: ZAZEN ON DRUGS: Brad's Post

    I for one have sat with the Venerable Brad Warner and I can tell y'all that with my very own eyes I have seen Brad get high (well 'higher') on kapok and buckwheat hulls while sitting zazen on the floor.
    Yup.
    Everytime.

    No, take that back, forget the buckwheat hulls--his zafu as well as his zabuton are kapok--no, I have to amend my statement to: Brad does zazen while high on kapok exclusively--at least while he was sitting at the Hill Street Center.
    I don't know 'bout now.

    And that's the trute.

  13. #63

    Re: ZAZEN ON DRUGS: Brad's Post

    This thread is great. Thank you, everyone for posting, especially Chet. You write some really wonderful descriptions of shikantaza.

    One issue, Chet: a real musician, IMHO, does not practice their scales for any future performance. They practice for the deepening relationship with the music that occurs in the never-ending NOW . . . an exploration of music itself . . . done with complete attention and sincerity. Still not the same as shikantaza, but not quite as pragmatic as was suggested. Also, there is a great tradition of Zen and the arts whereby they work non-separately. Just saying.

    Again, awesome thread.

    Gassho,
    Eika

  14. #64
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: ZAZEN ON DRUGS: Brad's Post

    Slightly off-topic, but musicians practice scales to maintain dexterity, not as any exploration of music. They do it because they know they have to, not because they want to, in most cases. I was watching an interview the other day with pianist András Schiff, who said he hates practicing scales, so instead he plays an hour of Bach every morning. That, to me, is more about an exploration of music.

  15. #65
    disastermouse
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    Re: ZAZEN ON DRUGS: Brad's Post

    Quote Originally Posted by Keishin
    I for one have sat with the Venerable Brad Warner and I can tell y'all that with my very own eyes I have seen Brad get high (well 'higher') on kapok and buckwheat hulls while sitting zazen on the floor.
    Yup.
    Everytime.

    No, take that back, forget the buckwheat hulls--his zafu as well as his zabuton are kapok--no, I have to amend my statement to: Brad does zazen while high on kapok exclusively--at least while he was sitting at the Hill Street Center.
    I don't know 'bout now.

    And that's the trute.
    I only sat with him twice. Hardly enough to weigh in except to say that he's an incredibly nice guy on first impression. But as to his writing and his honesty in just presenting what he feels is true without regard for personal consequences...I think we've all seen evidence of that.

    Chet

  16. #66

    Re: ZAZEN ON DRUGS: Brad's Post

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    Slightly off-topic, but musicians practice scales to maintain dexterity, not as any exploration of music. They do it because they know they have to, not because they want to, in most cases. I was watching an interview the other day with pianist András Schiff, who said he hates practicing scales, so instead he plays an hour of Bach every morning. That, to me, is more about an exploration of music.
    Au contraire. I spoke too broadly and didn't qualify my perspective. Not the jazz musician. Scales are, along with harmony and rhythms, an inexhaustible source, indeed THE source of music itself for the improvisor. If by scales, you mean M2, M2, m2, M2, M2, M2, m2 for a major scale for example, then I might agree, but that's an extremely narrow view of something like a scale. What about 3rds, or 4ths? Or alternating ascending 2nds and descending 7ths? Coltrane, Shorter, Tyner, et al practice these "basic" items over and over and over, not solely during their "developmental" years, but throughout. Schiff is not an improvisor (at least not on the structural level--all interpretations are on some level improvisatory). Practicing scales to maintain dexterity is like doing kinhin to stretch your legs. Yes, it is a side effect, but not the point. So, again, my perspective was that of a improvising jazz guy, not a classical repertoire-oriented musician. Each tradition has it's own practice needs, I realize. Also, I know a great number of orchestral classical musicians who do practice scales in a deeper way than you suggest. This is especially true for instruments like clarinet, flute, and trumpet where the tone itself is one of the primary expressive dimensions.

    Peace,
    Eika

  17. #67

    Re: ZAZEN ON DRUGS: Brad's Post

    Interesting...Two schools...The gradual, scales practice, and the instant, just music.
    Well, well, well. Both are right.
    Jazz musicians will often play endlessly along with the record. A jazz musician must know his musical geography better than any other musician, the great apparent freedom is the byproduct of real hard work. So scales again and again.
    So they travel effortlessly through keys...In a way, at a certain level classical musicians don't need scales anymore, Bach will do the job, playing this and that. They will play scales again if they stop practising for a while and have to come back to a full shape ( very true with the fiddle, as I witnessed my ex wife and her friends doing it many times).

    One more thing, if you can play a scale musically, then you will be able to make stone sing.
    Long notes are great too, tone practice. On wind or string instrument. You would be amazed of how incredibly complex is an instrument like the piano, if you learn to play it not as a mere percussion but with the descending movement that doesn't strike and hit the keyboard, just like Arrau. Listen to the grace of a single note propperly played. Pure wonder.

    I would add that scales make you listen to this space between notes: silence. This is the most important part of any score. The white stuff...

    A visual heart sutra feast :wink:

    gassho

    Taigu

  18. #68

    Re: ZAZEN ON DRUGS: Brad's Post

    I think I'm going to roll out of this one. The toughest thing about playing devil's advocate here is arguing for or against views that there are no particular attachments to.

  19. #69

    Re: ZAZEN ON DRUGS: Brad's Post

    Quote Originally Posted by kirkmc
    Slightly off-topic, but musicians practice scales to maintain dexterity, not as any exploration of music. They do it because they know they have to, not because they want to, in most cases. I was watching an interview the other day with pianist András Schiff, who said he hates practicing scales, so instead he plays an hour of Bach every morning. That, to me, is more about an exploration of music.
    Ah, not if one plays scales as Shikantaza!

    Then, one plays each note by note of the scales as each an unending symphony sounding all time and space!

    Each note by note, scale by scale is whole and complete, nothing more to attain.

    And keep at that hard, tedious slog up the musical mountain day by day, and you may actually get better ... able to play like Bach, Beethoven, Brubeck and Buddha at their peak.

    Of course ... I have a tin ear for the piano myself. But a good eye for Shikantaza! 8)

    Gassho, J

  20. #70

    Re: ZAZEN ON DRUGS: Brad's Post

    Never heard of someone who died of zazen.
    Known a lot of people killed by drugs.
    I defer to the precepts.

  21. #71
    disastermouse
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    Re: ZAZEN ON DRUGS: Brad's Post

    Quote Originally Posted by KvonNJ
    Never heard of someone who died of zazen.
    Known a lot of people killed by drugs.
    I defer to the precepts.
    I'm pretty sure some people have died in Japanese monasteries, whether from blood clots, heat, chill, sleep deprivation, or beatings. But I take your point.

    Chet

  22. #72
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: ZAZEN ON DRUGS: Brad's Post

    I have fallen way behind on this discussion, but would like to say thanks for the added insight in a couple of responses to my post WAY up there. I may get through the rest of the thread later.

  23. #73

    Re: ZAZEN ON DRUGS: Brad's Post

    Hello all,

    I don’t how many of you have seen the movie “Enter the Void.” A word of warning it does contain segments that are pornographic and has graphic violence. Before making the movie the director traveled to South America to experience ayahuasca first hand…it’s sort of the hot hallucinogen these days. There are even tours you can make that include a “drug” trip. ayahuasca is filled with DMT and from all accounts probably one of the most intense drug experiences you can have. Anyway, shot in Tokyo the movie, in parts, has exquisite colors….I’ve never seen quite anything like it. Even the title sequence is ground breaking. But I did find myself fast forwarding through some of the scenes …just too intense for my liking.

    Although the movie is filled with references from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, it revolves around a rather weak concept – what would it be like for someone to die who is under the influence of all these psychoactive drugs? Thus, not very profound . Interesting visually and that’s about it.

    Every other year I attend a conference in Tucson Arizona on the “Scientific Study of Consciousness.” Invariably there are people presenting on psychedelic drugs. Research on ayahuasca is fascinating, but one of the issues that always comes up is that of neurotoxicity. Not to mention the possibility of developing post-hallucinogenic perceptual disorder, one symptom of which are flashbacks. Many of the personal accounts I’ve heard of people taking Ayahuasca seem that it can be a really terrifying experience. There is a research institute studying hallucinogens, including ayahuasca, in clinical use. Some “fringe” researchers claiming spiritual benefits, primarily for those with chronic illnesses facing death. Fascinating read…not that I would encourage any of my friends or family to sign up for trials, but research is open ended and who knows? http://www.heffter.org/

    Gassho,
    BrianW/ Jisen


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