Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

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Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Mar 12, 2010 8:57 am

pt1 wrote:Are you specifically after khana, or more in the sense of cittakhana? Because I think I saw khana discussed in kathavatthu in the sense of duration of time, so can try and chase it down tomorrow in the library if you like.
Page 124-8.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

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Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby cooran » Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:08 am

tiltbillings wrote:
vinasp wrote:. The Abhidhamma has developed a doctrine of 'momentariness', meaning at first, the shortest perceptible moment.
A bit of information here: 'Momentariness' was introduced into the Theravada by Buddhaghosa, 5th cent CE. It is not part of the Abhidhamma Pitkaka texts, which means it is also not part of the pre-Buddhaghosa Mahavihara tradition.


Hello Tilt,

I would be grateful if you could give some references to support this. I believe it, but would value some evidence.

with metta
Chris
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Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:14 am

cooran wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
vinasp wrote:. The Abhidhamma has developed a doctrine of 'momentariness', meaning at first, the shortest perceptible moment.
A bit of information here: 'Momentariness' was introduced into the Theravada by Buddhaghosa, 5th cent CE. It is not part of the Abhidhamma Pitkaka texts, which means it is also not part of the pre-Buddhaghosa Mahavihara tradition.


Hello Tilt,

I would be grateful if you could give some references to support this. I believe it, but would value some evidence.

with metta
Chris
The book Vincent referenced, I may be able to get a copy of it, but will take some time (interlibrary loans and all). I am guessing that will have textual evidence.

Remind me if I don't say something about in the next couple weeks.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:19 am

robertk wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:I know where it is from. That it is from the Sutta Pitaka still does not change the fact that it is from a commentary later than the suttas or that the nature of the the poem as an anomalous to the text in which it finds itself, by the admission of the translator.


I am glad you know the background. However, according to the Theravada this text was by Sariputta and thus predated the Buddha's parinibbana and was included in the first council. Do you have some evidence that it was faked up and added into the sutta pitaka?
Faked up? Those are your words. As to the date, well, find a parallel to that poem in the Patisambidamagga, also attributed to Sariputta, and I'll reconsider my position that the poem is a bit quesationable as to its inclusion in the text. And do you have any evidence that it is not.

And, which you ignored:

tiltbillings wrote:
robertk wrote:In what way do you find it inconsistent with Abhidhamma?
Show us the Abhidhamma Pitaka texts that unambiguously, without being contested, promulgates the notion of momentariness as found in the Abhidhammattha Sangaha and its commentary which which talks about discrete mind moments and that they happen in the billions per the duration of a blink of an eye, which something in this thread you tried to use to dismiss mindfulness/vipassana practice: viewtopic.php?f=13&t=3740&p=55708#p55708



But in rereading the poem a bit more carefully, not getting caught in the seeming similarity of the words "moment" and "lightning flashing" to later texts, it is obviously and certainly is not consistent with the later Abhidhammattha Sangaha type Abhidhamma and the Abhidhammattha Sangaha commentary, so I guess I have no problem with it being in the Niddesa. Taking it as it written, cool:

1. "Life, personhood, pleasure and pain
- This is all that's bound together
In a single mental event
- A moment that quickly takes place.

2. Even for the devas who endure
For 84,000 thousand kalpas
- Even those do not live the same
For any two moments of the mind.

3. What ceases for one who is dead,
Or for one who's still standing here,
Are all just the same heaps
- Gone, never to connect again.

4. The states which are vanishing now,
And those which will vanish some day,
Have characteristics no different
Than those which have vanished before.

5. With no production there's no birth;
With "becoming" present, one exists.
When grasped with the highest meaning,
The world is dead when the mind stops.

6. There's no hoarding what has vanished,
No piling up for the future;
Those who have been born are standing
Like a seed upon a needle.

7. The vanishing of all these states
That have become is not welcome,
Though dissolving phenomena stand
Uncombined through primordial time.

8. From the unseen, things come and go.
Glimpsed only as they're passing by;
Like lightning flashing in the sky
- They arise and then pass away."
I would say, Robert, it is up to you to show that it supports your position.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

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Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby Ben » Fri Mar 12, 2010 11:32 am

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Split from Many lifetimes of paramita development needed to be aryan?: viewtopic.php?f=13&t=3740

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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby vinasp » Fri Mar 12, 2010 6:51 pm

Hi everyone,

Here is everything that David J. Kalupahana says about 'impermanence' on pages 36 and 37 of : Buddhist Philosophy, A Historical Analysis, 1976, University of Hawaii Press Honolulu. ISBN 0-8248-0392-2 pbk.

'The theory of impermanence in Buddhism has been generally misunderstood because it came to be confused with a later theory known as the 'doctrine of moments' (ksanavada/ kanavada), which was formulated from a logical analysis of the process of change (parinama) by the later Buddhist scholars belonging to the scholastic (abhidhamma) tradition. But such a theory is conspicuous by its absence in the early discourses. Therefore, although there were statements in the early discourses that could be interpreted as a theory of momentariness, statements such as "There is no moment, no inkling, no particle of time that the river stops flowing (1) ," the most important view was the one which recognized that a finite segment of time constitutes our immmediate experience. The theory of impermanence as stated in the early texts could be correctly described as an empiricist theory."

"A passage found in many of the discourses runs thus: "Impermanent indeed are the compounded [i.e., conditioned] things; they are of the nature of arising and passing away. Having come into being, they cease to exist. Hence their pacification is tranquillity." (Anicca vata sankhara uppadavayadhammino, uppajjitva nirujjhanti tesam vupasamo sukho.) (2) According to this statement, things are impermanent not because they are momentary, but because they are characterized by arising (uppada) and passing away (vaya)."

"An extended definition is sometimes met with in the early texts which analyses the process of change into three stages: arising (uppada), passing away (vaya), and decay or change of what exists (thitassa annathatta). (3) The theory of moments may be derived from a logical analysis of this decay or change (thitassa annathatta), which literally means change of what exists. But even here the change is not commuted in terms of moments. Whatever is born is considered to be impermanent since it is sure to perish."

"In short, impermanence is a synonym for 'arising and passing away', or 'birth and destruction'. The Assutava-sutta of the Samyutta-nikaya presents this empiricist account of change in the statement: "This physical body made up of the four great elements is seen to exist for one, two, three, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, one hundred or more years." (4) This certainly is an empiricist account of change. It is not a result of metaphysical inquiry or of any mystical intuition, but a straightforward judgment arrived at by investigation and analysis. It is founded on unbiased thought and has a purely empirical basis."

1. A 4. 137 ; cf. TD 1. 682b.
2. D 2. 157 ; S 1. 191, 3. 146 ; TD 2. 153c.
3. S 3. 38 ; A 1. 152 ; TD 2. 607c.
4. S 2. 94, 96 ; TD 2. 81c, 82a.

Best wishes, Vincent.
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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Therava

Postby BlackBird » Fri Mar 12, 2010 8:41 pm

Thank you Vincent
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby vinasp » Sat Mar 13, 2010 4:10 pm

Hi everyone,

Some further observations on the 'docrine of moments' by Kalupahana (1976):

"But in spite of their dependence on the discourses, the Sautrantikas have accepted certain doctrines that are not found there, but which may be considered later developments. These are the doctrines of moments (khanavada, Sk. ksanavada) and atomism (paramanuvada), which are found in all the scholastic schools of Buddhism - post-Buddhaghosa Theravada, Sarvastivada, and Sautrantika. Significantly, they are not found in the pre-Buddhaghosa Theravada tradition." (16) [page 100]

Note 16: See my article "Schools of Buddhism in Early Ceylon," Ceylon Journal of the Humanities (Peradeniya: University of Ceylon), I (1970) : 159 - 190. It is significant that the Abhidhamma pitaka of the Theravadins makes no mention of either the theory of atoms or the theory of moments. They are certainly not found in either the Pali Nikayas or the Chinese Agamas. In his commentary on the Dhammasangani, Buddhaghosa makes a very important remark regarding the theory of moments. He says: "Herein, the continued present (santatipaccuppanna) finds mention in the commentaries (atthakatha) ; the enduring or long present (addhapaccuppanna) in the discourses (sutta). Some say that the thought existing in the momentary present (khanapaccuppanna) becomes the object of telepathic insight" (DhsA, p. 421). According to this statement, it was 'some people' (keci) who spoke about the momentary present; it was found neither in the discourses nor in the commentaries preserved at the Mahavihara which Buddhaghosa was using for his own commentaries in Pali. This may be taken as substantial evidence for the view that the doctrine of moments was not found in Theravada Buddhism as it was preserved at the Mahavihara in Sri Lanka. In the same way, the theory of atoms was for the first time suggested by Buddhaghosa and came to be accepted as an important theory in the Theravada tradition after him."

Best wishes, Vincent.
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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby vinasp » Sat Mar 13, 2010 9:52 pm

Hi Blackbird,

Thanks for the link to the essay: Change - an examination of impermanence in experience, by Samanera Bodhesako.

I have only read up to section six, but already it is clear to me that this is an important contribution. Some of his insights are highly relevant to the topic of this thread. It is not an easy read, he must have studied philosophy at university level. I have read a few philosophy books, but I am only an amateur. Here are a few quotations from section four:

"For we have seen that at the very least the question, “What is meant in the Buddha’s Teaching by the term ‘impermanence’?” is not so easily answered as has been sometimes supposed."

"Does the Buddha’s Teaching of impermanence mean a teaching of flux, or does it not? For if it does then either we shall have to find a way to accommodate the objections already raised, or else we shall have to abandon the Buddha’s Teaching as untenable. And if it does not then we shall have both to decide what it does involve, and also to account for the widespread and long-lived endurance of a misconception which cannot be regarded as trivial."

"For it is not only nowadays that we find expositors setting forth the doctrine of continuous change as being what the Buddha taught. As far back as fifteen centuries ago we find this doctrine already firmly embedded in the perspective proposed in various expositions that have come down to us. But what do we find if we go back yet another ten centuries, to the oldest Buddhist texts extant? To those texts which represent, if any at all do, the actual Teaching of the Buddha?"

Best wishes, Vincent.
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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby BlackBird » Sat Mar 13, 2010 10:03 pm

vinasp wrote:Hi Blackbird,

Thanks for the link to the essay: Change - an examination of impermanence in experience, by Samanera Bodhesako.

I have only read up to section six, but already it is clear to me that this is an important contribution. Some of his insights are highly relevant to the topic of this thread. It is not an easy read, he must have studied philosophy at university level.


No problems. I find Ven. Bodhesako's writings very logically compelling, however my knowledge of the Dhamma is not strong enough to make a critical doctrinal evaluation. Wikipedia says that Bhante studied creative writing at the University of Iowa, and it really shows in his autobiography, which is so far making for a great read.

metta
Jack
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'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby pt1 » Sun Mar 14, 2010 7:02 am

appicchato wrote:
pt1 wrote:Are you specifically after khana, or more in the sense of cittakhana? Because I think I saw khana discussed in kathavatthu in the sense of duration of time, so can try and chase it down tomorrow in the library if you like.

Lots of choices here:...http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=kathavatthu&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8 :reading:

Hi Venerable, thanks for the link. I’m not sure if you had something specific in mind there? I mean the link just takes me to a google search result for “kathavatthu”, but there don’t seem to be any documents there that provide a full kathavatthu (Points of controversy) translation in English. There’s a full document of it in Pali, but my Pali is terrible at the moment. Perhaps you had in mind a pdf of an English translation of kathavatthu? I think I saw one of those floating around the internet some time ago, but cannot locate it at the moment. If you or anyone else knows about it, I’ll be thankful for a link.

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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Mar 14, 2010 7:14 am

pt1 wrote:
appicchato wrote:
pt1 wrote:Are you specifically after khana, or more in the sense of cittakhana? Because I think I saw khana discussed in kathavatthu in the sense of duration of time, so can try and chase it down tomorrow in the library if you like.

Lots of choices here:...http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=kathavatthu&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8 :reading:

Hi Venerable, thanks for the link. I’m not sure if you had something specific in mind there? I mean the link just takes me to a google search result for “kathavatthu”, but there don’t seem to be any documents there that provide a full kathavatthu (Points of controversy) translation in English. There’s a full document of it in Pali, but my Pali is terrible at the moment. Perhaps you had in mind a pdf of an English translation of kathavatthu? I think I saw one of those floating around the internet some time ago, but cannot locate it at the moment. If you or anyone else knows about it, I’ll be thankful for a link.

Best wishes
You are not going to find in the Kv anything that resembles the cittakhana notion as found in late Abhidhamma stuff.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby pt1 » Sun Mar 14, 2010 7:17 am

tiltbillings wrote:
pt1 wrote:Are you specifically after khana, or more in the sense of cittakhana? Because I think I saw khana discussed in kathavatthu in the sense of duration of time, so can try and chase it down tomorrow in the library if you like.
Page 124-8.

Hi tilt, yes that's one of the places I had in mind that mentions "momentary happening of consciousness", though I don't think that Pali actually uses khana there.

The place I had in mind is on page 296 (XV.4.) that deals with the issue of whether any stroke of time is predetermined. It's titled "of instants, moments, seconds of time". Note 5 says:
Khana, laya, muhutta: 10 'instants' = 1 'moment,' 10 'moments' = 1 'second'. There is no measured coincidence between second and muhutta.

Also, XV.3. before it is also interesting as it deals with duration.

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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Mar 14, 2010 7:47 am

pt1 wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
pt1 wrote:Are you specifically after khana, or more in the sense of cittakhana? Because I think I saw khana discussed in kathavatthu in the sense of duration of time, so can try and chase it down tomorrow in the library if you like.
Page 124-8.

Hi tilt, yes that's one of the places I had in mind that mentions "momentary happening of consciousness", though I don't think that Pali actually uses khana there.

The place I had in mind is on page 296 (XV.4.) that deals with the issue of whether any stroke of time is predetermined. It's titled "of instants, moments, seconds of time". Note 5 says:
Khana, laya, muhutta: 10 'instants' = 1 'moment,' 10 'moments' = 1 'second'. There is no measured coincidence between second and muhutta.

Also, XV.3. before it is also interesting as it deals with duration.
The opponent in XV 3 and in XV 4 use exactly the same argument in both sections for duration being predetermined, which the Theravadins dismiss.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby pt1 » Sun Mar 14, 2010 7:56 am

Yes I think so. I'm trying to understand XV.3 now as it seems most relevant to this thread - basically, what the theravadin is saying is that a particular instant of time has no fixed duration, right? And in addition he's saying that there's no such thing as an instant of time in the first place (i.e. it's not a dhamma), other than as a conceptual designation ("time-notion")? Is this how you understand it too? I find kathavatthu translation very hard to comprehend.

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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Mar 14, 2010 8:01 am

pt1 wrote:Yes I think so. I'm trying to understand XV.3 now as it seems most relevant to this thread - basically, what the theravadin is saying is that a particular instant of time has no fixed duration, right? And in addition he's saying that there's no such thing as an instant of time in the first place (i.e. it's not a dhamma), other than as a conceptual designation ("time-notion")? Is this how you understand it too? I find kathavatthu translation very hard to comprehend.

Best wishes
I would read it that way, and it is interesting that, as happens in the Kvu, the opponent gets the last word as a question.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Mar 14, 2010 9:18 am

Greetings,

pt1 wrote:I'm trying to understand XV.3 now as it seems most relevant to this thread - basically, what the theravadin is saying is that a particular instant of time has no fixed duration, right? And in addition he's saying that there's no such thing as an instant of time in the first place (i.e. it's not a dhamma), other than as a conceptual designation ("time-notion")?


I'm glad that's what the Kathavatthu says, because that's how I understand it.

:popcorn:

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby PeterB » Sun Mar 14, 2010 11:51 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

pt1 wrote:I'm trying to understand XV.3 now as it seems most relevant to this thread - basically, what the theravadin is saying is that a particular instant of time has no fixed duration, right? And in addition he's saying that there's no such thing as an instant of time in the first place (i.e. it's not a dhamma), other than as a conceptual designation ("time-notion")?


I'm glad that's what the Kathavatthu says, because that's how I understand it.

:popcorn:

Metta,
Retro. :)

If I can add my two pennies worth, thats how I understand it too. I think we westerners can tend to project our learned sense of time onto processes that the arising of Insight suggests are exactly that, i.e. a conceptual designation.
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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby Paññāsikhara » Sun Mar 14, 2010 11:58 am

Probably the most memorable moment ( :tongue: ) of my Theravada Abhidhamma classes with Prof Y Karunadasa was his response to a question about "time":

He paused, furrowed his brow for a second or two, and declared: "But there is no time!"

This has since become an in-joke amongst HKU CBS research students. A handy line for a number of occasions: "But there is no time!" :jumping:
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Re: Provenance of the notion of momentariness in the Theravada

Postby pt1 » Sun Mar 14, 2010 12:58 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
pt1 wrote:Yes I think so. I'm trying to understand XV.3 now as it seems most relevant to this thread - basically, what the theravadin is saying is that a particular instant of time has no fixed duration, right? And in addition he's saying that there's no such thing as an instant of time in the first place (i.e. it's not a dhamma), other than as a conceptual designation ("time-notion")? Is this how you understand it too? I find kathavatthu translation very hard to comprehend.

Best wishes
I would read it that way, and it is interesting that, as happens in the Kvu, the opponent gets the last word as a question.

Thanks tilt.

retrofuturist wrote:I'm glad that's what the Kathavatthu says, because that's how I understand it.

Yes, I think that’s the standard Buddhist view on time. If I remember right, I think it’s the same deal even in the much later Milinda Panha.

I’m wondering about the problems of momentariness in that light. Perhaps it’s just due to the English term “moment” which is conventionally taken as a unit of time, and thus it automatically brings up the problem of discrete units of time? Perhaps “instant” is therefore a better translation for khana. I mean, to me whenever I used to read about moments of citta, it always seemed synonymous in practical terms with an instance of panna understanding a certain dhamma in terms of its individual characteristics, or the tilakkhana characteristics if the understanding is deeper, or its conditioned nature, or it’s arising and ceasing, etc, as per progress of insight. I mean, I doubt that later abhidhamma commentators were not acquainted with kathavatthu.

Imo, momentariness becomes a problem only when patthana is not taken into consideration. In that case, dhammas occurring in instances/moments can truly take on the guise of little entities that get stuck in exist-don’t exist dichotomy. However, when the 24 conditions are taken into consideration, then it’s kind of clear that momentariness is still in line with the arising and ceasing nature of a conditioned process. I can’t imagine that later abhidhamma commentators would be unfamiliar with patthana.

So, I mean, are we sure that when commentators use cittakkhana, they mean it in terms of discrete units of time and not in terms of instances of insight?

When it comes to the issue of speed, I do wonder if a billion cittas per a flash of lightning is an accurate description or perhaps it is overblown. But I’m reluctant to make any definite conclusions at the moment because the rate of change that can be observed experientially seems to increase with practice. I mean, before Buddhism, I thought one and the same consciousness lasts the entire life. Then it seemed consciousness lasts for a few seconds as long as one and the same thing is thought about. Now, it seems obvious that attention changes objects at least a couple of dozen of times per second, and my insight, if any, is at the very, very early stages. So I wonder how fast the mind will be seen to change when insight is really, really developed - a hundred times a second, thousand…? So perhaps those two billion moments are really just two billion instances that someone with advanced insight can see the mind change with panna, instead of being 2 billion picoseconds or whatever it is in terms of discrete time?

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