Why Meditate?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Buckwheat » Wed May 23, 2012 5:08 am

:goodpost:
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby robertk » Wed May 23, 2012 5:17 am

I add some more on the idea of vipassana - in the classical sense - having any negative feelings/experiences/emotions.
Even the weakest type of kusala , wholesome, mindstate, even those devoid of wisdom, can only ever come with pleasant or neutral feeling. And moment of vipassana are very very very high levels of kusala associated with very high degrees of wisdom: no possibility of there being anything negative.

Even for someone who has the beginnings of right view and right understanding, long before any vipassana , is more detached and relaxed and knows every moment is uncontrolable.Thus the tendency towards panic or depression is very weak even then.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ron Crouch » Wed May 23, 2012 5:50 am

@Buckwheat - as I've said to others who have had only good experiences with mediation - that's awesome! I hope that is the case for every person out there and no one ever has to go through difficulty in contemplative practice. It would be perfect if everyone had the same experience as you.

But that simply isn't the case, and there just isn't anyone out there making that the issue it deserves to be, with the exception of a few in academia and a handful of teachers like me. That is part of the reason I wrote such an inflammatory essay. To grab the attention of people who do not know that this is real and it deserves careful consideration. Not only are people not taking the dukkha nanas seriously, they are under the impression that they somehow aren't even part of the path. Many people believe that if they meditate things will only get better - but it is WAY more complicated than that. Things get exponentially better, but only after you've directly experienced dukkha, anicca and anatta. And by "experience" and "insight" I don't mean understanding something at a cognitive level, that's the initial "right view" step, but rather a direct taste of these things that is visceral and sometimes ugly.

How ugly this gets varies a lot from person to person, and even people with impeccable sila can have an awful time of it. I've seen this happen directly, so I'm not speaking theoretically.


@Ben - I really can commiserate with you about getting all the "MBSR refugees." The road to hell is paved with what...?
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby manas » Wed May 23, 2012 6:38 am

Alex123 wrote:There is absolutely no guarantee that what the suttas say is what Historical Buddha Gotama has actually said. There is also no guarantee regarding memory of Ananda and other monks. There is no guarantee that "Ananda memorizing Buddha's sermons" wasn't later invention to justify the suttas. There is no guarantee that some well intentioned, but crucial changes, weren't introduced in the First Council. So we should NOT dogmatically cling to scriptures or anything.

Not-Sure!


Alex,

I never said there was a guarantee. I never said we should cling dogmatically to anything. But I do say, we really can take sceptical doubt to the point where it becomes a hindrance.

I mean - the pali tipitaka isn't guaranteed, but it's the best and/or most accurate we are going to get right now (as most scholars would agree), so there comes a point (well there has for me) where you realize that doubting everything - all of the time - isn't the best way to go. Been there, done that. Eventually you have to decide what seems to work best, and really investigate it properly, and stick with it. There might not be a tomorrow for any of us to even try yet another 'method'.

take care

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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ben » Wed May 23, 2012 6:41 am

Hi Robert,
robertk wrote:I add some more on the idea of vipassana - in the classical sense - having any negative feelings/experiences/emotions.
Even the weakest type of kusala , wholesome, mindstate, even those devoid of wisdom, can only ever come with pleasant or neutral feeling. And moment of vipassana are very very very high levels of kusala associated with very high degrees of wisdom: no possibility of there being anything negative.

Even for someone who has the beginnings of right view and right understanding, long before any vipassana , is more detached and relaxed and knows every moment is uncontrolable.Thus the tendency towards panic or depression is very weak even then.


I think you're right. Those mind moments when vipassana arises are kusala, and from my understanding, characterised as having neutral vedana and upekkha. However, as I alluded to above (somewhere), my observation is that all sorts of stuff happens in the proximity of the development of insight. And without the proper guidance, support and upekkha, some of those occurances can create difficulty. When one is aware of the arising or falling of unpleasant (or highly pleasant) mental and physical phenomena but lacks the necessary equanimity to deal with it - it becomes a source of suffering and maybe a destabilizing influence on the person.

I like Ledi Sayadaw's description of vipassana practice as "insight exercises", an exercise that nurtures the conditions for the arising of vipassana (proper).
kind regards,

Ben
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby robertk » Wed May 23, 2012 6:55 am

Dear Ben and Ron
I think what is happening is that they are seeing something about how the body/mind changes and is uncontrollable.
But this seeing is in a distorted way- meaning with the idea that is happening to 'me'.

It can't ever seem bad when it is actual wisdom arising that experiences phenomena because the understanding of anatta:
1. concures perfectly with reality.
2. indicates no identification with any phenomena.

It's like watching a bonfire burning: just something interesting to view. And that is actually what the khandhas are, just like sticks and leaves in a bonfire, not us. If we start thinking that the bonfire is ME then we are deluded, and might/will panic.

SOOO, as Retro has been saying a post or two ago: RIGHT VIEW is prime and should lead all factors.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed May 23, 2012 7:25 am

robertk wrote:
SOOO, as Retro has been saying a post or two ago: RIGHT VIEW is prime and should lead all factors.
robert
The reality is, of course, until you become fully awakened you will not really have Right View. You can have as a unawakened one Right (conceptual) View with the conceptual stuff being replaced with genuine insights as one's practice progresses.
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.

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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby manas » Wed May 23, 2012 7:50 am

tiltbillings wrote:
robertk wrote:
SOOO, as Retro has been saying a post or two ago: RIGHT VIEW is prime and should lead all factors.
robert
The reality is, of course, until you become fully awakened you will not really have Right View. You can have as a unawakened one Right (conceptual) View with the conceptual stuff being replaced with genuine insights as one's practice progresses.


Hi Tilt,

this might be a subject for elsewhere, but how does one distinguish between conceptual knowledge, and genuine insight, within oneself? Can we, if we are searchingly self-honest enough, know for ourselves when an insight is no longer just conceptual, but has rather become actual?

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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed May 23, 2012 8:15 am

manas wrote:but how does one distinguish between conceptual knowledge, and genuine insight, within oneself? Can we, if we are searchingly self-honest enough, know for ourselves when an insight is no longer just conceptual, but has rather become actual?
Sometimes not easy, but sometimes it is a matter of "seeing," of knowing in a direct, non-conceptual way, which of course, one applies after the fact a conceptual structure in order to talk about it. Does that help? Probably not much because these experience can simply be difficult to talk about.

Here is a msg with a description of a meditative experience that might make this sort of thing a bit clearer, or not:


viewtopic.php?f=17&t=7709&p=122566#p122566
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.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby manas » Wed May 23, 2012 11:19 am

tiltbillings wrote:
manas wrote:but how does one distinguish between conceptual knowledge, and genuine insight, within oneself? Can we, if we are searchingly self-honest enough, know for ourselves when an insight is no longer just conceptual, but has rather become actual?
Sometimes not easy, but sometimes it is a matter of "seeing," of knowing in a direct, non-conceptual way, which of course, one applies after the fact a conceptual structure in order to talk about it. Does that help? Probably not much because these experience can simply be difficult to talk about.

Here is a msg with a description of a meditative experience that might make this sort of thing a bit clearer, or not:


viewtopic.php?f=17&t=7709&p=122566#p122566


That was interesting. I think I get what you mean by 'seeing' rather than what commonly passes as 'knowing' for many of us, when it is actually 'thinking' - even if that thinking is in accord with Dhamma, it is still thinking and not seeing.

Anyway, thanks for your reply, and although I am not going to assume or expect my own future experiences to be like anyone elses, it will be good to keep in mind that direct seeing and comprehending through pondering are, it would seem, not the same. Guess I'll only find that out properly when it actually happens, yes?

:anjali:
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed May 23, 2012 11:23 am

Greetings Tilt,

tiltbillings wrote:The reality is, of course, until you become fully awakened you will not really have Right View.

This does not make sense. The Noble Eightfold Path needs Right View. If there is no Right View, there is no possibility of being "fully awakened". There is no possibility even of any noble attainment. Thus, the statement you make here is a Catch-22, but if you said Right Knowledge (as in the 9th factor of the path of the 10fold path) then you would remove the circularity.

Unsurprisingly, Right View is the forerunner to Right Knowledge...

MN 117 wrote:"Of those, right view is the forerunner. And how is right view the forerunner? In one of right view, right resolve comes into being. In one of right resolve, right speech comes into being. In one of right speech, right action... In one of right action, right livelihood... In one of right livelihood, right effort... In one of right effort, right mindfulness... In one of right mindfulness, right concentration... In one of right concentration, right knowledge... In one of right knowledge, right release comes into being. Thus the learner is endowed with eight factors, and the arahant with ten.

tiltbillings wrote:You can have as a unawakened one Right (conceptual) View with the conceptual stuff being replace with genuine insights as one's practice progresses.

Yes.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed May 23, 2012 2:59 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Tilt,

tiltbillings wrote:The reality is, of course, until you become fully awakened you will not really have Right View.

This does not make sense.
Of course it makes sense. It is rather simple. Just because one has an intellectual "Right View" of anatta does not make on free of self-views, which, of course, are not intellectual. The intellectual Right View is, of course, a tool for the examination of one's experience, the khandhas, which will lead to freedom from self-view as an ariya, which is Right View free of the underlying self-stuff. Until then one is always in danger of coloring what one does and how one understands with self interest. No Catch-22, no circularity. Just simple, straightforward Dhamma.
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.

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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Ron Crouch » Wed May 23, 2012 4:05 pm

Right view is really much more organic than most people believe. It starts off like a seed, just a little kernal of the three characteristics and four noble truths. This is when a person is just starting off, that is, they are reading about the dhamma on their computer or in books and maybe sitting each day and feeling relaxed. They feel their life improving, but they aren't getting formal instruction and aren't yet experiencing anything like the deeper insights. The way they "view" life is technically "right" (or skillful), but it's shallow. It's cognitive.

As you meditate and the insight knowledges come up, right view grows with each insight knowledge stage that you pass through. You go through the arising and passing and actually see impermanence happening in real time. That one is no longer cognitive. You've tasted it for real and know what it is like in a way that goes far beyond a "view." Next comes dissolution, fear etc. and you get a direct taste of dukkha. Again, that characteristic is now no longer academic to you. Finally you get to the insight knowledge of "Equanimity to Formations" and can finally view all the impermanent and painful phenomena as "non-self." That insight is also not cognitive anymore. This is a real to you as the sky is blue. It's just that way. No reason to think it through or ever doubt it.

So while "right view" is important at the start, it's also weak and more opinion than deep visceral understanding. It isn't until one gets to the tippy top of the equanimity stage that right view is actually perfected, in a very brief flash called "Conformity." In conformity your moment-to-moment processing is in perfect harmony with reality (i.e. the 3 characteristics) and views all the previous pleasant and unpleasant insights with the highest possible equanimity:

VM Page 699 133. Conformity is like the king. The eight kinds of knowledge [NANAS] are like eight judges. The thirty-seven states partaking of enlightenment are like the ancient royal custom. Herein, just as the king conforms by saying “So be it” both to the judges’ pronouncements and to the royal custom, so this conformity, which arises contingent upon formations through [comprehending] impermanence, etc., conforms to the function of truth both in the eight kinds of knowledge and in the thirty-seven states partaking of enlightenment that follow. Hence it is called “knowledge in conformity with truth.” [671]
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... on2011.pdf

So, one doesn't have real equanimity toward this stuff until very close to the finish line (stream entry). Until then, you are really working to perfect that little kernal of right view you started off with.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Dmytro » Wed May 23, 2012 4:10 pm

Hi Retro,

Unsurprisingly, Right View is the forerunner to Right Knowledge...


MN 117 wrote:"Of those, right view is the forerunner. And how is right view the forerunner? In one of right view, right resolve comes into being. In one of right resolve, right speech comes into being. In one of right speech, right action... In one of right action, right livelihood... In one of right livelihood, right effort... In one of right effort, right mindfulness... In one of right mindfulness, right concentration... In one of right concentration, right knowledge... In one of right knowledge, right release comes into being. Thus the learner is endowed with eight factors, and the arahant with ten.


Thank you for the quote.

Most of the lists are described in the suttas. In case of the Eightfold Path, it is described in the suttas from the first part of Digha Nikaya.

Right View section there is quite simple:

"There is the case, great king, where a Tathagata appears in the world, worthy and rightly self-awakened. He teaches the Dhamma admirable in its beginning, admirable in its middle, admirable in its end. He proclaims the holy life both in its particulars and in its essence, entirely perfect, surpassingly pure.

"A householder or householder's son, hearing the Dhamma, gains conviction in the Tathagata and reflects: 'Household life is confining, a dusty path. The life gone forth is like the open air. It is not easy living at home to practice the holy life totally perfect, totally pure, like a polished shell. What if I were to shave off my hair and beard, put on the ochre robes, and go forth from the household life into homelessness?'

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Travis » Wed May 23, 2012 4:54 pm

Ron,
Getting back to the OP (in light of some of the things discussed since) I wonder if the cropping up of the "dark night" has anything to do with the Mahasi-vipassana approach, or more precisely a common reaction to it? This is by no means to say that there is anything inherently wrong with the approach. From what I gather (ie not from personal experience) Mahasi-vipassana is generally characterized as an intense and rigorous system, so I wonder if this does not feed into the "western" propensity for excessive striving (which would explain why it is an experience found in Christianity, etc), or simply create an opening for the hinderances to arise and result in unskillful states of mind? Earlier I was reading about U Tejaniya, and it seems like his popularity (as an alternative to Mahasi Sayadaw vipassana) has increased for similar reasons. Thoughts?

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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby Buckwheat » Wed May 23, 2012 7:16 pm

Ron Crouch wrote:@Buckwheat - as I've said to others who have had only good experiences with mediation - that's awesome!

Thanks for ignoring my points and putting words in my mouth. I feel you are talking past me, but i will make one more effort.
Ron Crouch wrote:...Many people believe that if they meditate things will only get better - but it is WAY more complicated than that. Things get exponentially better, but only after you've directly experienced dukkha, anicca and anatta.

The path is complicated, full of ups and downs. However, from what I've seen, when I really dig into the experience of dukkha, anicca, and anatta, it feels good because that experience is seeing how visceral and fabricated it all was in the first place. It feels liberating, and I see nothing in the suttas to suggest otherwise. Any form of dark night would have to be associated with the opposites: ignorance of dukkha, craving satisfaction in fleeting things, and clinging to the ideas of, as George Harrison said, "I me me mine." Everybody experiences dukkha, the path is about realizing it so that you can put an end to it.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed May 23, 2012 7:20 pm

Ron Crouch wrote:Right view is really much more organic than most people believe. It starts off like a seed, just a little kernal of the three characteristics and four noble truths. .

This is certainly what one gets from reading
MN 9 Sammaditthi Sutta: The Discourse on Right View
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .ntbb.html
There is development from the mundane:
3. "When, friends, a noble disciple understands the unwholesome, the root of the unwholesome, the wholesome, and the root of the wholesome, in that way he is one of right view, whose view is straight, who has perfect confidence in the Dhamma, and has arrived at this true Dhamma.

Through:
14. "When, friends, a noble disciple understands suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the way leading to the cessation of suffering, in that way he is one of right view... and has arrived at this true Dhamma.

And Dependent Origination.

Clearly, by the definitions of that Sutta, one cannot start the Path with fully right view in the sense of "understands ... the cessation of suffering". That would be stream entry.

:anjali:
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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed May 23, 2012 7:33 pm

Greetings Travis,

I understand and appreciate the concerns you raise above.

The following sutta shows how the Buddha went about it and how he avoided "creat[ing] an opening for the hinderances to arise and result in unskillful states of mind". It seems pertinent to this "dark night" business.

MN 19 wrote:The Blessed One said, "Monks, before my self-awakening, when I was still just an unawakened Bodhisatta, the thought occurred to me: 'Why don't I keep dividing my thinking into two sorts?' So I made thinking imbued with sensuality, thinking imbued with ill will, & thinking imbued with harmfulness one sort, and thinking imbued with renunciation, thinking imbued with non-ill will, & thinking imbued with harmlessness another sort.

"And as I remained thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, thinking imbued with sensuality arose in me. I discerned that 'Thinking imbued with sensuality has arisen in me; and that leads to my own affliction or to the affliction of others or to the affliction of both. It obstructs discernment, promotes vexation, & does not lead to Unbinding.'

"As I noticed that it leads to my own affliction, it subsided. As I noticed that it leads to the affliction of others... to the affliction of both... it obstructs discernment, promotes vexation, & does not lead to Unbinding, it subsided. Whenever thinking imbued with sensuality had arisen, I simply abandoned it, destroyed it, dispelled it, wiped it out of existence.

"And as I remained thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, thinking imbued with ill will arose in me. I discerned that 'Thinking imbued with ill will has arisen in me; and that leads to my own affliction or to the affliction of others or to the affliction of both. It obstructs discernment, promotes vexation, & does not lead to Unbinding.'

"As I noticed that it leads to my own affliction, it subsided. As I noticed that it leads to the affliction of others... to the affliction of both... it obstructs discernment, promotes vexation, & does not lead to Unbinding, it subsided. Whenever thinking imbued with ill will had arisen, I simply abandoned it, destroyed it, dispelled it, wiped it out of existence."

That's a beautiful mode of meditation one could happily and profitably spend their life pursuing.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed May 23, 2012 7:53 pm

Greetings Buckwheat,

Buckwheat wrote:However, from what I've seen, when I really dig into the experience of dukkha, anicca, and anatta, it feels good because that experience is seeing how visceral and fabricated it all was in the first place. It feels liberating, and I see nothing in the suttas to suggest otherwise.

Yes, that has been my experience too. It also sounds like it is a experience shared amongst other meditators too...

William Hart, The Art Of Living, p127 wrote:The Buddha said that in cleansing the mind and attaining "wisdom brought to full perfection," one experiences "joy, bliss, tranquility, awareness, full understanding, real happiness." With a balanced mind we can enjoy life more. When a pleasant situation occurs, we can saviour it completely, having full and undistracted awareness of the present moment. But when the experience passes, we do not become distressed. We continue to smile, understanding that it was bound to change. Equally, when an unpleasant situation occurs, we do not become upset. Instead we understand it and by doing so perhaps we find a way to alter it. If that is not within our power, then we still remain peaceful, knowing full well that this experience is impermanent, bound to pass away. In this way, by keeping the mind free of tension, we can have a more enjoyable and productive life.

There is a story that in Burma people used to criticize the students of Sayagayi U Ba Khin, saying that they lacked the serious demeanour proper to those who practice Vipassana meditation. During a course, the critics admitted, they worked seriously, as they should, but afterward they always appeared happy and smiling. When the criticism came to the ears of Webu Sayadaw one of the most highly respected monks in the country, he replied, "They smile because they can smile". Theirs was a smile not of attachment or ignorance, but of Dhamma. Someone who has cleansed the mind will not go about with a frown. When suffering is removed, naturally one smiles. When one learns the way to liberation, naturally one feels happy.

This smile from the heart expressing nothing but peace, equanimity and good will, a smile that remains bright in every situation, is real happiness. This is the goal of the Dhamma.

Let us use any insights we develop to remove dissatisfaction!

:meditate:

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Why Meditate?

Postby dhamma_newb » Wed May 23, 2012 8:31 pm

:goodpost: s Retro!

Travis wrote:Ron,
Getting back to the OP (in light of some of the things discussed since) I wonder if the cropping up of the "dark night" has anything to do with the Mahasi-vipassana approach, or more precisely a common reaction to it? This is by no means to say that there is anything inherently wrong with the approach. From what I gather (ie not from personal experience) Mahasi-vipassana is generally characterized as an intense and rigorous system, so I wonder if this does not feed into the "western" propensity for excessive striving (which would explain why it is an experience found in Christianity, etc), or simply create an opening for the hinderances to arise and result in unskillful states of mind? Earlier I was reading about U Tejaniya, and it seems like his popularity (as an alternative to Mahasi Sayadaw vipassana) has increased for similar reasons. Thoughts?

-Travis


Article about Sayadaw U Tejaniya vs. Mahasi Sayadaw's approach to vipassana: http://www.21awake.com/checking-your-attitude-evolving-your-practice.
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I am larger and better than I thought. I did not know I held so much goodness.
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