How to handle doubts (vicikicchā)?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
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acinteyyo
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How to handle doubts (vicikicchā)?

Postby acinteyyo » Wed Jun 03, 2009 8:06 am

Hi,
I meditate (ānāpānasati) almost daily for about 1 year now, since I visited the Muttodaya Forest Monastery in Germany. I think I'm quite sure how do deal with sakkāyaditthi (personality?) and sílabbataparāmāsa (clinging to rules and rites) but there are moments from time to time where I'm in doubt. I don't doubt the dhamma but rather whether I do things right or not. So I'm rather in doubt whether my practice leads in the "right" direction.
Does anyone have some advice, please? Should I comprise these doubts into contemplation? or suppress? or just further letting go?
:thanks: and
:namaste:
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Api cāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare, sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadan. (AN4.45)

:anjali:

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Re: How to handle doubts (vicikicchā)?

Postby Fede » Wed Jun 03, 2009 9:10 am

From my humble point of view (and I have used this analogy before) I think it important to ascertain a Middle Way and be like the well-tuned guitar string... neither too tight (highly-strung, and over-exerted), nor too slack (laid back and non-committal)....

It is better to not be to self-critical, but evaluate progress and accept days when you will do really well, and days when you fall over, and need to pick up again...If you keep evaluating your own 'performance', there is also the problem that you may begin pandering to an undesirable 'Egoic' state...

It's OK.

Observe the Eightfold Path, and simply look at what you do in a non-judgemental way.

I wish you well.

:namaste:
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Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

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Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

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Re: How to handle doubts (vicikicchā)?

Postby cooran » Wed Jun 03, 2009 9:26 am

acinteyya wrote:Hi,
I meditate (ānāpānasati) almost daily for about 1 year now, since I visited the Muttodaya Forest Monastery in Germany. I think I'm quite sure how do deal with sakkāyaditthi (personality?) and sílabbataparāmāsa (clinging to rules and rites) but there are moments from time to time where I'm in doubt. I don't doubt the dhamma but rather whether I do things right or not. So I'm rather in doubt whether my practice leads in the "right" direction.
Does anyone have some advice, please? Should I comprise these doubts into contemplation? or suppress? or just further letting go?
:thanks: and
:namaste:


Hello acinteyya,

Maybe it will help to know the differences in types of doubt? If it is kankhā, there is no problem ...

kankhā

'doubt', may be either an intellectual, critical doubt or an ethically and psychologically detrimental doubt. The latter may either be a persistent negative skepticism or wavering indecision.

Only the detrimental doubt (identical with vicikicchā, q.v.) is to be rejected as karmically unwholesome, as it paralyses thinking and hinders the inner development of man. Reasoned, critical doubt in dubious matters is thereby not discouraged.

The 16 doubts enumerated in the Suttas (e.g. M. 2) are the following: "Have I been in the past? Or, have I not been in the past? What have I been in the past? How have I been in the past? From what state into what state did I change in the past? - Shall I be in the future? Or, shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? From what state into what state shall I change in the future? - Am I? Or, am I not? What am I? How am I? Whence has this being come? Whither will it go?"
http://www.palikanon.com/english/wtb/g_m/kankhaa.htm

metta
Chris
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Re: How to handle doubts (vicikicchā)?

Postby MMK23 » Wed Jun 03, 2009 10:49 am

acinteyya wrote:Hi,
I meditate (ānāpānasati) almost daily for about 1 year now, since I visited the Muttodaya Forest Monastery in Germany. I think I'm quite sure how do deal with sakkāyaditthi (personality?) and sílabbataparāmāsa (clinging to rules and rites) but there are moments from time to time where I'm in doubt. I don't doubt the dhamma but rather whether I do things right or not. So I'm rather in doubt whether my practice leads in the "right" direction.
Does anyone have some advice, please? Should I comprise these doubts into contemplation? or suppress? or just further letting go?
:thanks: and
:namaste:


Hi :-) My personal opinion, and I guess it might be a bit idiosyncratic - I think doubt is the most awesome ally. Transmute "passive" doubt - subordination to doubtful feelings - into "active" enquiry - penetration of the object of investigation. Doubt is one of the most wonderful qualities to have as a human being imho.

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Re: How to handle doubts (vicikicchā)?

Postby acinteyyo » Wed Jun 03, 2009 12:01 pm

Hello Fede,
Fede wrote:If you keep evaluating your own 'performance', there is also the problem that you may begin pandering to an undesirable 'Egoic' state...

Do you mean if I evaluate my own 'performance', I should do it with wisdom to avoid a possibly undesirable 'Egoic' state?
In the way you already mentioned:
Fede wrote:Observe the Eightfold Path, and simply look at what you do in a non-judgemental way.

...to be simply aware but not to jump to conclusions?
Did I understand you correctly?

best wishes
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Api cāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare, sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadan. (AN4.45)

:anjali:

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Re: How to handle doubts (vicikicchā)?

Postby acinteyyo » Wed Jun 03, 2009 12:08 pm

Chris wrote:Hello acinteyya,
Maybe it will help to know the differences in types of doubt? If it is kankhā, there is no problem ...


It does! :thanks: I'd rather say it's a form of kankhā instead of vicikicchā in that case.
Thank you very much! That's really helpful.

best wishes
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Api cāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare, sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadan. (AN4.45)

:anjali:

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Re: How to handle doubts (vicikicchā)?

Postby acinteyyo » Wed Jun 03, 2009 12:11 pm

MMK23 wrote:Transmute "passive" doubt - subordination to doubtful feelings - into "active" enquiry - penetration of the object of investigation.


Hello MMK23,

I'll give it a try ;)

best wishes
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Api cāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare, sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadan. (AN4.45)

:anjali:

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Re: How to handle doubts (vicikicchā)?

Postby kc2dpt » Wed Jun 03, 2009 2:57 pm

acinteyya wrote:I think I'm quite sure how do deal with sakkāyaditthi (personality?) and sílabbataparāmāsa (clinging to rules and rites) but there are moments from time to time where I'm in doubt.

It sounds like you are talking about sotapanna.

I don't doubt the dhamma but rather whether I do things right or not.

My understanding is not that one eradicates doubt in order to become sotapanna. Rather one's practice leads to a direct experience of Nibbana and thus one's doubts are eradicated since one sees directly how the practice leads to Nibbana. When this happens one is called sotapanna. That's my understanding, anyway.

So I'm rather in doubt whether my practice leads in the "right" direction. Does anyone have some advice, please?

I think if one has questions about the practice one can ask a wise friend, a teacher. Or one can try to study the suttas directly.

Should I comprise these doubts into contemplation? or suppress? or just further letting go?

I think that until one attains sotapanna one should remember that doubt will inevitably arise from time to time. It's just a normal part of being a puthujjana. :shrug: I think if there is no specific question but rather just doubt in those teachings then one should cultivate faith. Contemplate the Buddha or a wise teacher you know and let their admirable qualities inspire faith and counter doubt.

I hope this is helpful.
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

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Re: How to handle doubts (vicikicchā)?

Postby Jechbi » Wed Jun 03, 2009 3:48 pm

acinteyya wrote:Should I comprise these doubts into contemplation? or suppress? or just further letting go?
The third one. Lots of things will come and go. (Tho it's probably worthwhile to ask your teacher.)

Or you could write a limerick about it:

Vicikicchā

A gentleman named Laframboise
had a problem with vicikicchā.
Every time he would sit,
he'd think, "This can't be it."
And he'd go for a drink with Francois.
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.

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Re: How to handle doubts (vicikicchā)?

Postby acinteyyo » Wed Jun 03, 2009 11:27 pm

Peter wrote:
acinteyya wrote:I think I'm quite sure how to deal with sakkāyaditthi (personality?) and sílabbataparāmāsa (clinging to rules and rites) but there are moments from time to time where I'm in doubt.

It sounds like you are talking about sotapanna.

more or less... doubts (vicikicchā) disable real practice which shall lead to direct experience of nibbana. So I thougth because I know how to deal with sakkāyaditthi and sílabbataparāmāsa but get into trouble when doubts arise, sotapanna can't be realized or rather experience of nibbana would not be possible until I developed a way to handle doubts.
besides Chris told me about kankhā, the difference between kankhā and vicikichā and different kinds of vicikicchā. now I don't think my doubts are unwholesome vicikicchā, so I'm more relaxed about that now
Peter wrote:
acinteyya wrote:I don't doubt the dhamma but rather whether I do things right or not.

My understanding is not that one eradicates doubt in order to become sotapanna. Rather one's practice leads to a direct experience of Nibbana and thus one's doubts are eradicated since one sees directly how the practice leads to Nibbana. When this happens one is called sotapanna. That's my understanding, anyway.

That sounds right to me. I'm not sure if practicing with doubts and not letting go or eradicating one's doubts actually allows someone to experience nibbana. I mean in that case I would be trapped in a vicious circle. If doubts were not eradicated -> no experience of nibanna and no experience of nibanna -> no eradication of doubts, which probably leads to more doubts.
But I don't really have a clue... I shouldn't suppose too much :tongue:
Peter wrote:
acinteyya wrote:So I'm rather in doubt whether my practice leads in the "right" direction. Does anyone have some advice, please?

I think if one has questions about the practice one can ask a wise friend, a teacher. Or one can try to study the suttas directly.
Unfortunately I don't have a wise friend nor a teacher. The Suttas are helpful but it isn't that easy to "see the real dhamma" for puthujjanas (like me). I just assume that my understanding is right. But I have you and this forum :clap:
Peter wrote:
acinteyya wrote:Should I comprise these doubts into contemplation? or suppress? or just further letting go?

I think that until one attains sotapanna one should remember that doubt will inevitably arise from time to time. It's just a normal part of being a puthujjana. :shrug: I think if there is no specific question but rather just doubt in those teachings then one should cultivate faith. Contemplate the Buddha or a wise teacher you know and let their admirable qualities inspire faith and counter doubt. I hope this is helpful.

It is. Thank you very much!
best wishes
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Api cāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare, sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadan. (AN4.45)

:anjali:

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Re: How to handle doubts (vicikicchā)?

Postby acinteyyo » Wed Jun 03, 2009 11:31 pm

Jechbi wrote:
acinteyya wrote:Should I comprise these doubts into contemplation? or suppress? or just further letting go?
The third one. Lots of things will come and go. (Tho it's probably worthwhile to ask your teacher.)

Or you could write a limerick

Vicikicchā

A gentleman named Laframboise
had a problem with vicikicchā.
Every time he would sit,
he'd think, "This can't be it."
And he'd go for a drink with Francois.


Nice one :jumping: I like it...
Ajahn Chah often said: "simply let go"
I think it's a good advice. :thanks:
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Api cāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare, sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadan. (AN4.45)

:anjali:

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Re: How to handle doubts (vicikicchā)?

Postby Dhammanando » Thu Jun 04, 2009 7:37 pm

Hi Chris,

Chris wrote:Maybe it will help to know the differences in types of doubt? If it is kankhā, there is no problem ...

kankhā

'doubt', may be either an intellectual, critical doubt or an ethically and psychologically detrimental doubt. The latter may either be a persistent negative skepticism or wavering indecision.

Only the detrimental doubt (identical with vicikicchā, q.v.) is to be rejected as karmically unwholesome, as it paralyses thinking and hinders the inner development of man. Reasoned, critical doubt in dubious matters is thereby not discouraged.


It's true that there is an implicit distinction in the Suttas between (1) unwholesome doubt (e.g., scepticism regarding the qualities of the Triple Gem), (2) commendable doubt (e.g., when one doubts doubtworthy claims, as in the opening to the Kālāma Sutta), and (3) ethically indifferent doubt (e.g., wondering whether one should go left or right to get to Rājagaha).

However, these distinctions need to be determined contextually. They have nothing to do with which word for doubt the Buddha happens to use. In the Suttas the various words for doubt (kaṅkhā, vicikicchā, vimati, saṃsaya etc.), along with the verbs from which they derive, are all used synonymously and interchangeably.

    Here, a monk is doubtful (kaṅkhati) and vacillates (vicikicchati) regarding the Teacher; he is dissatisfied and cannot settle in his mind. Thus his mind is not inclined towards ardour, devotion, persistence and effort.
    (DN. iii. 278)

    It is fitting for you, Kālāmas, to be sceptical (kaṅkhituṃ); it is fitting for you to doubt (vicikicchituṃ). Doubt (vicikicchā) has arisen in you in a doubtworthy (kaṅkhanīya) matter.
    (AN. i. 189)

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
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Re: How to handle doubts (vicikicchā)?

Postby Dhammanando » Thu Jun 04, 2009 7:50 pm

One further remark:

What I wrote in my last post concerns Sutta usage. In the Abhidhamma, however, vicikicchā is never wholesome or neutral, but is always an unwholesome mental factor. The question sometimes arises as to how to reconcile the abhidhammic claim that vicikicchā is always bad with those sutta passages in which this seems not to be the case. One does so as follows:

1. When vicikicchā is being commended in the Suttas, it is to be understood as referring to the mental factor of understanding (paññā), with the Buddha using the word 'vicikicchā' merely to conform to common worldly usage.

2. Ethically indifferent doubt, such as wondering how to get to Rājagaha when one arrives at a crossroad, is referred to as a "counterfeit of a hindrance". Abhidhammically this is described not in terms of the presence of the mental factor of vicikicchā, but rather, in terms of the absence of the mental factor of decision (adhimokkha).

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,

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Re: How to handle doubts (vicikicchā)?

Postby cooran » Thu Jun 04, 2009 7:54 pm

Hello Ajahn,

Thanks for your post. I was using Ven. Nyanatiloka's Buddhist Dictionary as a basis in the above definition of kankhā.

This is what he states about vicikicchā: ~ 'sceptical doubt', is one of the 5 mental hindrances (nīvarana) and one of the 3 fetters (samyojana), which disappear for ever at Stream-entry, the first stage of holiness (s. ariya-puggala).
As a fetter, it refers to sceptical doubt about the Master (the Buddha), the Teaching, the Sangha, and the training; about things past and future, and conditionality (Dhs.1004; cf. A.X.71).
It also applies to uncertainty whether things are wholesome or not, to be practiced or not, of high or low value, etc.
According to Vis.M. XIV, 177, vicikicchā is the lack of desire to think (things out i.e. to come to a conclusion; vigata-cikicchā, desiderative to Ö cit, to think); it has the nature of wavering, and its manifestation is indecision and a divided attitude; its proximate cause is unwise attention to matters of doubt.
It is associated with one of the 2 classes of unwholesome consciousness rooted in delusion (Tab. I, No. 32). - See also kankhā.

metta and respect,
Chris
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Re: How to handle doubts (vicikicchā)?

Postby bodom » Mon Jun 08, 2009 12:58 am

Questions & Answers with Ajahn Chah

Q: What can I do about doubts? Some days I'm plagued with doubts about the practice or my own progress, or the teacher.

Answer: Doubting is natural. Everyone starts out with doubts. You can learn a great deal from them. What is important is that you don't identify with your doubts: that is, don't get caught up in them. This will spin your mind in endless circles. Instead, watch the whole process of doubting, of wondering. See who it is that doubts. See how doubts come and go. Then you will no longer be victimized by your doubts. You will step outside of them and your mind will be quiet. You can see how all things come and go. Just let go of what you are attached to. Let go of your doubts and simply watch. This is how to end doubting.

:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah

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Re: How to handle doubts (vicikicchā)?

Postby acinteyyo » Mon Jun 08, 2009 6:16 pm

:thanks:
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Api cāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare, sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadan. (AN4.45)

:anjali:

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Re: How to handle doubts (vicikicchā)?

Postby rowyourboat » Thu Jun 11, 2009 12:53 pm

dear friend

Silabbataparamasa, sakkayaditti and vicikicca are all interconnected and cannot be eradicated one after the next -it cannot be done intentionally but with the progress of insight it will happen on its own.

seeing mental and material (nama rupa) components of our every experience, the yogi starts seeing how they interact in a cause-effect manner. Hence the reality that we observe now is severely undermined to a point where everything seems like a mirage. Such 'seeing' required dedicated practice, most likely in a retreat setting, even though many achieve this at home.

From that point on wards the yogi is clear that there is no self, that everything is impermanent and unsatisfactory. Then he goes further into states of revulsion/disenchantment, dispassion and cessation until the release ('magga-phala') moment occurs. Some with deep concentration and jhanas attain 'fruition' states (phala samawatha) where they can re-experience the nibbana states.

You might want to read this:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... gress.html

I felt I should respond to you because this can be very confusing otherwise

with metta and wishing you well on the path

RYB
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha

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Re: How to handle doubts (vicikicchā)?

Postby Gahapati » Mon Jul 20, 2009 3:18 pm

Greetings, everyone. :anjali:
Dear acinteyyo,

acinteyyo wrote:
acinteyyo wrote:It sounds like you are talking about sotapanna.

more or less…

If you aren't yet, you might want to acquaint yourself with the following (German) works of Dr. Hellmuth Hecker,
which might prove more than helpful:

  • Hecker, Hellmuth, »Der Stromeintritt: Voraussetzungen—Vollzug—Vollendung«
    (»Stream-Entry: Requisites—Achievement—Perfection«)
    Juni 2000, Verlag Beyerlein & Steinschulte, ISBN 3-931095-23-1 ( :coffee: online)
  • Hecker, Hellmuth, »Das Glück der Sicherheit in der Lehre des Buddha«
    (»The Joy of Confidence in the Teachings of the Buddha«)
    Dezember 2003, Verlag Beyerlein & Steinschulte, ISBN 3-931095-44-4
…as well as of Dr. Fritz Schäfer:

  • Schäfer, Fritz, Realität nach der Lehre des Buddha: Wirken und Erleben die einzige Realität
    (»Reality according to the Teachings of the Buddha«)
    Januar 2007, Verlag Beyerlein & Steinschulte, ISBN 978-3-931095-604
  • Schäfer, Fritz, Rechte Anschauung und ihre Bedeutung in der ursprünglichen Lehre des Buddha
    (»Right View and its meaning within the original Teachings of the Buddha«)
    November 2008, Verlag Beyerlein & Steinschulte, ISBN 978-3-931095-76-5

»Herzliche Grüße«
Gahapati
»Ye dhammā hetuppabhavā
tesam hetum tathāgato āha
tesañca yo nirodho
evamvādī mahāsamano«

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Re: How to handle doubts (vicikicchā)?

Postby acinteyyo » Fri Jul 24, 2009 1:41 pm

Vielen Dank für den Hinweis.
Thanks for the advice.
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Api cāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare, sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadan. (AN4.45)

:anjali:


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