Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

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Re: Did the Buddha teach strict determinism?

Postby Alex123 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 12:22 am

Hi Mike, all,

mikenz66 wrote:No-one is saying that there is "free will" in the Cartesian or Upanishadic sense, they are saying that choices are made.


If there is no free will, then the choice is fully conditioned and is not due to free-will. Choice and what is chosen occurs, but it arises due to impersonal causes. It is like choice of a leaf being blown by the wind. Except that if one hears the Dhamma and has some wisdom, those conditions will help the process to eventually become liberated. No fatalism here. In fact it is very good that once certain conditions are met, one has no choice but to become Awakened.

mikenz66 wrote:Yes, but the actions that the agent make, even though conditioned, do affect the future.


Of course kamma produces kammavipāka. I've never denied this. Wholesome kamma leads to wholesome vipāka, unwholesome kamma leads to unwholesome vipāka.


As for Makkhali Gosala, if we read his views we see that no knowledgeble Buddhist would hold them. Neither I, nor Robert accept the view of Makkhali Gosala below.
'there is no cause, no requisite condition, for the defilement of beings. Beings are defiled without cause, without requisite condition. There is no cause, no requisite condition, for the purification of beings. Beings are purified without cause, without requisite condition.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


The Makkhali's view above is not determinism. It is more of random chaos. According to the Buddha there are causes for defilement and purification of beings. "Beings are defiled without cause, without requisite condition....Beings are purified without cause, without requisite condition" - this is chaotic fatalism and terrible teaching of Makkhali. It is nothing that I was talking about and has nothing to do with cause-effect conditionality of the Buddha.


With metta,

Alex
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Re: Did the Buddha teach strict determinism?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 12:33 am

Alex123 wrote:If there is no free will, then the choice is fully conditioned and is not due to free-will.

You don't seem to be listening. Let me reapeat:
No one is arguing for free will in the usual western or Upanishadic senses.
We are (at least I am) trying to understand the subtleties involved in making sense out of the apparently contradictory concepts of choice and determinism.

Your argument that "things are determined therefore only this particular approach to the Dhamma is correct" makes no logical sense to me. It seems to me a case of trying to use philosophical and logical analysis to filter the practical instructions that the Buddha gave us.

:anjali:
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Alex123 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 12:41 am

Hello Tilt, Mike, all,

tiltbillings wrote: If it made sense, maybe it would be, but pure determinism leaves us as leaves blowing in the winds, having no choice.


Is there something wrong with a statement because it doesn't sound life-affirming and nice? Maybe we need to redo the 1st NT. The Truth of Dukkha is just too sad to be taught by the Buddha. And the whole anatta thing is just too soulless. Well, Dhamma is "soulless" path without a heart (passion).

tiltbillings wrote:
What difference is there in what we do, since what we do is has nothing to do with anything I imagine I want, since imagining that I want anything and can do anything of my own accord is just an artifact, a side effect, of impersonal mechanical cause and effect, meaning there is not a thing I can do? Is that what the Buddha taught?


Kamma produces kammavipāka. Wholesome kamma leads to wholesome vipāka, unwholesome kamma leads to unwholesome vipāka. Wisdom (paññā) leads to wholesome results. Avijjā leads to Dukkha. So it does matter what occurs.

Mikenz66 wrote:No one is arguing for free will in the usual western or Upanishadic senses.


Good. The the choice is fully conditioned and there is no control over it, or what it will chose. The choice that has been chosen was the only choice possible given that internal/external situation.

Mikenz66 wrote:Your argument that "things are determined therefore only this particular approach to the Dhamma is correct"


I am not aware of saying that. What I think you may be referring to was my statement like "events happen the only possible way that they could have ever happened given those causes & conditions".


With metta,

Alex
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Guy » Sat Nov 20, 2010 12:46 am

Hi All,

Regardless of whether will is "free" or conditioned (it appears to me to be conditioned) it can be useful to "pretend" that we have a choice so we can use that "choice" (whether that choice is real or delusion) to practice the Noble Eightfold Path. Whether or not there is free will, there is still the law of kamma. There are still good actions leading to good results and bad actions leading to bad results. So we should be careful, regardless of whether "being careful" is a result of our conditioning (e.g. hearing the Buddha's teachings on morality, etc.) or whether "being careful" is something that some independent "doer" decides on its own somehow.

Sorry, that was quite long-winded even though it was intended to be as short as possible.

Metta,

Guy
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1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Alex123 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 12:52 am

Hello Guy, all,

Guy wrote:Hi All,
Regardless of whether will is "free" or conditioned (it appears to me to be conditioned) it can be useful to "pretend" that we have a choice so we can use that "choice" (whether that choice is real or delusion) to practice the Noble Eightfold Path.


The possible problem with pretending in being able to control a choice implies belief in possession, possession of that choice. Belief in self or possession of the Self is wrong view. Any "practice" under wrong view just leads to wrong result.

Guy wrote: Whether or not there is free will, there is still the law of kamma. There are still good actions leading to good results and bad actions leading to bad results.


Right. Kamma produces kammavipāka. Wholesome kamma leads to wholesome vipāka, unwholesome kamma leads to unwholesome vipāka. Wisdom (paññā) leads to wholesome results. Avijjā leads to Dukkha. So it does matter what happens. Bad action is bad. Don't do it. Good action is good! Do it. Hopefully all these statements made by me, the Buddha, or others, will brainwash you enough to condition wholesome behaviour. Wholesome behaviour not because of control, but because you had no other choice given the liberating knowledge that you have heard from others and considered well enough.


With metta,

Alex
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Re: Did the Buddha teach strict determinism?

Postby Nyana » Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:00 am

Alex123 wrote:So I understand that "and none can have it of consciousness: 'Let my consciousness be thus, let my consciousness be not thus." - SN22.59 and MN35 teaching on not being able to wield power over aggregates to include all kind of control. If there was control, then ALL would experience only what they want to experience, not what they don't want. Lack of control on other hand, could lead to unwanted things, which is stressful.

There is a difference between complete, unconditional autonomous control on the one hand, and functional choice on the other. Just because there is no permanent, satisfactory autonomous Self wielding power and unconditional control over the aggregates doesn't mean that there is no functional choice. Volitional intention (cetanā), which is functional choice, only ever occurs in the present. It occurs in consort with desire (chanda), attention (manasikāra), and so on. If there is the presence of fundamental attention (yoniso manasikāra), then there is the opportunity for skillful choices to occur, motivated by desire for the development of right effort (sammāvāyāma) and right exertion (sammappadhānā). All of these path factors occur in consort with functional choice and desire. Cf. the following brief survey of discourses which give clear injunctions for generating desire, effort, diligence, endeavor, the arousal of persistence, the exertion to guard, the exertion to abandon, the exertion to develop, the exertion to maintain, etc.

    There are these four right exertions. Which four? There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, arouses persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen... for the sake of the abandoning of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen... for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen...(and) for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen. These are the four right exertions.

    Just as the River Ganges flows to the east, slopes to the east, inclines to the east, in the same way when a monk develops & pursues the four right exertions, he flows to Unbinding, slopes to Unbinding, inclines to Unbinding. [SN.49.1]

    There are these four exertions. Which four? The exertion to guard, the exertion to abandon, the exertion to develop, & the exertion to maintain.

    And what is the exertion to guard? There is the case where a monk, on seeing a form with the eye, does not grasp at any theme or variations by which — if he were to dwell without restraint over the faculty of the eye — evil, unskillful qualities such as greed or distress might assail him. He practices with restraint. He guards the faculty of the eye. He achieves restraint with regard to the faculty of the eye. (Similarly with the ear, nose, tongue, body, & intellect.) This is called the exertion to guard.

    And what is the exertion to abandon? There is the case where a monk does not acquiesce to a thought of sensuality that has arisen [in him]. He abandons it, destroys it, dispels it, wipes it out of existence. He does not acquiesce to a thought of ill will... a thought of violence... any evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen [in him]. He abandons them, destroys them, dispels them, wipes them out of existence. This is called the exertion to abandon.

    And what is the exertion to develop? There is the case where a monk develops the mindfulness factor for Awakening dependent on seclusion... dispassion... cessation, resulting in letting go. He develops the investigation of qualities factor for Awakening... the persistence factor for Awakening... the rapture factor for Awakening... the serenity factor for Awakening... the concentration factor for Awakening... the equanimity factor for Awakening dependent on seclusion... dispassion... cessation, resulting in letting go. This is called the exertion to develop.

    And what is the exertion to maintain? There is the case where a monk maintains a favorable theme of concentration — the skeleton perception, the worm-eaten perception, the livid perception, the festering perception, the falling-apart perception, the bloated perception. This is called the exertion to maintain. [AN 4.14]

    And how is a person ardent? There is the case where a monk thinks, 'The arising of unarisen evil, unskillful qualities would lead to what is unbeneficial,' and he arouses ardor. 'The non-abandoning of arisen evil, unskillful qualities... The non-arising of unarisen skillful qualities... The ceasing of arisen skillful qualities would lead to what is unbeneficial,' and he arouses ardor. This is what it means to be ardent.

    And how is a person concerned? There is the case where a monk thinks, 'The arising of unarisen evil, unskillful qualities would lead to what is unbeneficial,' and he feels concern. 'The non-abandoning of arisen evil, unskillful qualities... The non-arising of unarisen skillful qualities... The ceasing of arisen skillful qualities would lead to what is unbeneficial,' and he feels concern. This is what it means to be concerned. This is how a person ardent & concerned is capable of self-awakening, capable of Unbinding, capable of attaining the unexcelled security from bondage. [SN16.2]

    [W]hen an individual with an internal blemish discerns, as it actually is, that 'I have an internal blemish,' it can be expected of him that he will generate desire, endeavor, & arouse persistence for the abandoning of that blemish. [MN 5]

    If, on examination, a monk knows, 'I usually remain covetous, with thoughts of ill will, overcome by sloth & drowsiness, restless, uncertain, angry, with soiled thoughts, with my body aroused, lazy, or unconcentrated,' then he should put forth extra desire, effort, diligence, endeavor, undivided mindfulness, & alertness for the abandoning of those very same evil, unskillful qualities, just as when a person whose turban or head was on fire would put forth extra desire, effort, diligence, endeavor, undivided mindfulness, & alertness to put out the fire on his turban or head.... [AN 10.51]

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby robertk » Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:10 am

Dear guy,
I think what you say is basically correct except that there is no need to pretend there is an agent choosing to do this or that.
In fact it is because anatta is directly related to conditionality that kamma does bring results, and the more there is realization of the fact of this that naturally there should arise less inclination to evil.
This article is by sujin boriharnawanaket on kamma and result
http://www.abhidhamma.org/forums/index. ... 0&hl=Kamma
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:12 am

Very good post, Geoff.

:goodpost:

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: Did the Buddha teach strict determinism?

Postby Goofaholix » Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:14 am

Alex123 wrote:
Goofaholix wrote:Again, it is knowledge that liberates.


If it were knowledge that liberates the Universities would be full of Arahants, it's wisdom that liberates, and wisdom goes beyond the digesting and regurgitating knowledge or scripture.
"Whenever we feel that we are definitely right, so much so that we refuse to open up to anything or anybody else, right there we are wrong. It becomes wrong view. When suffering arises, where does it arise from? The cause is wrong view, the fruit of that being suffering. If it was right view it wouldn't cause suffering." - Ajahn Chah
"Remember you dont meditate to get anything, but to get rid of things. We do it, not with desire, but with letting go. If you want anything, you wont find it." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Did the Buddha teach strict determinism?

Postby Alex123 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:40 am

Hi Geoff, all,

Ñāṇa wrote:There is a difference between complete, unconditional autonomous control on the one hand, and functional choice on the other. Just because there is no permanent, satisfactory autonomous Self wielding power and unconditional control over the aggregates doesn't mean that there is no functional choice.


-Is "functional choice" within or outside of aggregates? Within.
-Is there complete, unconditional autonomous control of any of the aggregates? As you said, no.
-Is there complete, unconditional autonomous control of "functional choice", cetanā, manasikāra, sammāvāyāma,sammappadhānā, etc?

If there is complete, unconditional autonomous control of "functional choice", etc, which is part of the aggregates (primarily saṅkhāra khandha), then why isn't there complete, unconditional autonomous control of the aggregates?

The aggregates (primarily saṅkhāra khandha) include "functional choice", cetanā, manasikāra, sammāvāyāma,sammappadhānā, etc.

So all the sutta quotes should be view with above in mind.

With metta,

Alex
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Re: Did the Buddha teach strict determinism?

Postby Alex123 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:41 am

Goofaholix wrote:
Alex123 wrote:
Goofaholix wrote:Again, it is knowledge that liberates.


If it were knowledge that liberates the Universities would be full of Arahants, it's wisdom that liberates, and wisdom goes beyond the digesting and regurgitating knowledge or scripture.


Wisdom (paññā) has to develop enough, and to cut the fetters. Mere lip reciting isn't wisdom.
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:42 am

Greetings Alex,

Alex123 wrote:Is "functional choice" within or outside of aggregates? Within.


So you acknowledge "functional choice" then?

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)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Alex123 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:45 am

Hi Retro,

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Alex,
Alex123 wrote:Is "functional choice" within or outside of aggregates? Within.

So you acknowledge "functional choice" then?

Metta,
Retro. :)



I am just taking Geoff's terminology and asking him. In any case, every thing that arises has a "function" to do. So choice vs functional choice may not differ in essence (conditionality). I do wonder what Geoff has precisely meant by functional choice.


"Functional choice" as bunch of thoughts does arise. But it is fully conditioned, and so is its deliberations and outcome. It is conditioned like a leaf being blown by the wind, to use Tilt's expression. There is no Self that owns anything, include "functional choice".

With metta,

Alex
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby alan » Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:59 am

Alex,
Don't get your motivation for assuming such an extreme position. Obnoxious contrarianism?

Instead I'll just ask: what good comes from assuming your view?
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Alex123 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 2:05 am

alan wrote:Alex,
Don't get your motivation for assuming such an extreme position. Obnoxious contrarianism?

Instead I'll just ask: what good comes from assuming your view?


For Right View.


All my past failures are not "I", not "mine", and "I" couldn't do anything better. What has happened, has happened the only possible way it ever could possibly occur. No need to be upset.

With metta,

Alex
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Nov 20, 2010 2:06 am

Greetings,

Alex123 wrote:What has happened, has happened the only possible way it ever could possibly occur.

Fatalism - the spiritual life is over.

Alex123 wrote:All my past failures are not "I", not "mine", and "I" couldn't do anything better.

... and all responsibility for past actions is absolved.

Image

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: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Hoo » Sat Nov 20, 2010 2:08 am

Well said, Geoff :goodpost: One needs to get past freshman and sophomore philosophy to see what the Buddha discovered - and the forest of views, the thicket of views, that don't lead to the end of suffering. IMHO, it doesn't matter if there is ultimately "free will, freedom of choice" or not. Neither is a "thing" of inherent existence. At best they are concepts, fabricated and composite.

IMHO, it's a matter of asking the wrong question and applying the wrong criteria. Does one ask what is the origin of Cherry Tarts? What is the truth of Cherry Tarts? I think all of us can see that Cherry Tarts have essentially nothing to do with what the Buddha taught.

To this, I can picture the Buddha saying, "Look at the recipe. Try it, see if it works, keep it if it does, discard it if it doesn't." (Poorly paraphrased from the advice to the Kalamas)

I can't picture him saying, "There is only one recipe for Cherry Tart. There is only this, all else is wrong." (Canki Sutta for reference) IMO, the question is not "What is the only right way?" It is more like, "how does it work for you" because there is more than one way to go at it." IMHO, this implies that I have choice.

In my brief exposure, Buddhism is "learn and do" more than learn and debate. It's useful to swap ideas and look at the interpretations but for me, at least, it then comes down to "what difference does this make to my practice or my snail's pace toward liberation."

Can I ever truly know the ultimate answers, or will I end up taking refuge in the words of others or just my own preferences/views? "Did I really just solve what hasn't been resolved in 2,500 to 4,000 years of philosophical debate?" It can be a humbling reality check when I'm engaged in debate. On my beter days I choose not to pick it up. On other days I set it back down as not conducive to the goal.

I'm not good at this, mind you. I only share this thought because it has helped me on the path. May it be of benefit to others, too.

With Metta,
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby alan » Sat Nov 20, 2010 2:18 am

Alex,
Please explain the relationship between your position and Right View. Using Suttas, not experiential examples.
It is obvious you haven't understood some very basic teachings--Buddha railed against determinists, in straight language, many times.
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby Alex123 » Sat Nov 20, 2010 2:33 am

Hi Alan, all,

alan wrote:Alex,
Please explain the relationship between your position and Right View. Using Suttas, not experiential examples.
It is obvious you haven't understood some very basic teachings--Buddha railed against determinists, in straight language, many times.


By seeing the drawbacks of the aggregates, one more and more becomes dispassionate toward them, and craving fades.

Seeing thus[alex: anicca-dukkha-anatta], Sona, the instructed noble disciple becomes disenchanted with form, disenchanted with feeling, disenchanted with perception, disenchanted with volitional constructions, disenchanted with consciousness. Being disenchanted, he becomes dispassionate. Through dispassion (his mind) is liberated. When it is liberated there comes the knowledge: ‘It’s liberated.’ He understands: ‘Destroyed is birth, the holy life has been lived, what
had to be done has been done, there is no more for this world.’”
SN22.49 (7) Sona (1) - Ven BB Transl.

Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu sees as impermanent form which is actually impermanent: that is his right view. Seeing rightly, he becomes disenchanted. With the destruction of delight comes the destruction of lust; with the destruction of lust comes the destruction of delight. With the destruction of delight and lust the mind is liberated and is said to be well liberated. [same for other aggregates]
SN22.51 (9) Destruction of Delight (1) - Ven BB Transl.

Here, Aggivessana, my disciples see whatever matter, in the past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, unexalted or exalted, far or near, all that matter is not mine. I'm not that, it is not my self. This is seen with right wisdom, as it really is. Whatever feelings, whatever perceptions, whatever determinations, whatever consciousness, in the past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, un -exalted or exalted, far or near, all consciousness is not mine. I'm not that, it is not my self. This is seen with right wisdom as it really is. Aggivessana, with this much, my disciples have done the work in my dispensation, followed the advice, dispelling doubts have become confident not relying on a teacher abide.
[Alex: then path to Arhatship]
Here, Aggivessana, whatever matter[alex: and other 4 aggregates], in the past, future or present, internal or external, coarse or fine, unexalted or exalted, far or near, all matter is not mine. I'm not that, it is not my self, This should be seen with right wisdom, as it really is, and the mind released without holdings.
Aggivessana, when this much is done the bhikkhu is perfect with desires destroyed, the holy life lived, what should be done, done, the weight put down, come to the highest good, the desires `to be' destroyed, and rightly knowing is released. Aggivessana, the mind of the bhãkkhu so released is endowed with three nobilities: The nobility of vision, the nobility of method, and the nobility of release.
http://metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pitaka/ ... ta-e1.html


In MN35 the not-self is explicitly taught as lack of being able to wield power over aggregates. So by talking about strict conditionality, no free will, and choice being "like leaf blown by the wind" - we are having a great Dhamma discussion about Not-Self. Discussion is very important and one of the causes for wisdom to arise. Some people have achieved maggaphala during the Dhamma discussions due to considering and contemplating these things.


With metta,

Alex
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Re: Did the Buddha teach that we have choice?

Postby alan » Sat Nov 20, 2010 2:44 am

I'm afraid that Great Dhamma Discussion is going on only in your mind, and that you are misreading the texts you cited.
Your position is extreme; you have shown no awareness of that. You have ignored several intelligent, well meaning posts by DW members I've come to respect. I see no reason to continue discussing this or any other matter with you.
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