across the lines - wrong understanding

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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby Jechbi » Mon Mar 09, 2009 4:20 pm

Hi Tilt,

The OP indicates that if you can't inspire, then there's something lacking in your understanding. But there are at least two persons involved in any transaction: you and the other person. So if you can't inspire, it may not be due to a one-sided lack in understanding, but rather in a two-sided inability to communicate with natural fluidity.
mudra wrote:if you can't relate in a polite and even somewhat inspiring way with other Buddhist traditions, there is something lacking in your understanding of your own tradition.

Some folks like to fox trot. Others like cha-cha. You put them together and it's not a pretty dance (at least until they get some practice together and figure out some new moves).

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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby mudra » Mon Mar 09, 2009 11:59 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Ravana:
I agree. I've seen people say that "all traditions lead to the same result" - as far as I can see it is not an idea people have verified to be true, but a baseless assertion that seems of come from a vague sense of political correctness.


Of course the problem with this is who gets to define the results. The sibling of this is: “All religions are one.” To which one might respond: “Well, that is nice, but which one?”

So, what is this “same result,” and who gets to define it? This certainly can be driven by political correctness, warm, fuzzy feel, good new-ageyness, or it could be driven by a subsumptive need of redefining everything in terms of one’s particular vision of things.

In reference to the OP:
if you can't relate in a polite and even somewhat inspiring way with other Buddhist traditions, there is something lacking in your understanding of your own tradition.


That wipes out a great deal of the Mahayana, a tradition that developed as an aggressive oppositional religion in response to what it cast as a lesser vision of things, giving us a highly subsumptive and supersessionist, we-are-the-true-and-great-fulfilment-of-your-lesser-understanding-of-the-Buddha’s-teachings-for-those-of-lesser-capacity, approach to the Mainstream Buddhist schools of India that gets carried over to this day and applied to the Theravada.


In answer:

1. There was no intent in the original post to discuss or push towards a conclusion like "all religions are one".

2. Regarding wiping out a great deal of the Mahayana, I agree it does wipe out a great deal of the interpretation and attitude of Mahayana practitioners.
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Mar 10, 2009 1:33 am

mudra wrote:1. There was no intent in the original post to discuss or push towards a conclusion like "all religions are one".


But the two go hand in hand; if all religions lead to the same result, what really is the difference among them?

2. Regarding wiping out a great deal of the Mahayana, I agree it does wipe out a great deal of the interpretation and attitude of Mahayana practitioners.


The problem with the Mahayana in these terms is that the triumphalist supersessionist attitude is in the very scriptures of the Mahayana as well as their commentarial literature. I am not dismissing the whole of the Mahayana, but if we are to take your opening dictum - if you can't relate in a polite and even somewhat inspiring way with other Buddhist traditions, there is something lacking in your understanding of your own tradition - the Mahayana appears to be institutionally in a bad place.
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby christopher::: » Tue Mar 10, 2009 2:13 am

mudra wrote:In view of a number of on-line spats between members of different traditions, I am developing a theory that:

if you can't relate in a polite and even somewhat inspiring way with other Buddhist traditions, there is something lacking in your understanding of your own tradition.

Please feel free to add to this, refute it, tweak it, whatever - as long as it is with intelligence, compassion, and loving kindness.

It is entirely possible of course that I am a romantic, but I would have thought that with the Buddha as our inspiration we should be able to relate to each other in such a manner.


Hi mudra and friends. I wonder if it might be more accurate to say, "if you can't relate in a polite and even somewhat inspiring way with people from other Buddhist traditions, there there could be something lacking in your understanding of right speech."

It's hard to judge though, for many of the reasons provided by Peter, Ven. Dhammanando and others. I do know that for myself I've benefited greatly from interactions with friends of other traditions. I've also found that if I spend just a little time, with an open mind, I can usually find a few teachers from other traditions who's presentations of the dhamma inspire me. With that as common ground communication becomes much easier.

If you seek common ground, it can be found. If we wish to focus on differences, then yes, of course, no common ground to be found there...

Just my 2 cents.

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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Tue Mar 10, 2009 2:54 am

In view of a number of on-line spats between members of different traditions, I am developing a theory that:

if you can't relate in a polite and even somewhat inspiring way with other Buddhist traditions, there is something lacking in your understanding of your own tradition.

Please feel free to add to this, refute it, tweak it, whatever - as long as it is with intelligence, compassion, and loving kindness.

It is entirely possible of course that I am a romantic, but I would have thought that with the Buddha as our inspiration we should be able to relate to each other in such a manner.


I think it just depends. Right speech doesn't necessarily mean pretty speech or polite speech. Of course if someone uses words with the specific intent to harm, that's not good. The more mindful the better.

There's no need to pretend that all forms of Buddhism are the same. All I ever really hope for is that my dhamma brothers and sisters will know that at the end of the day we all take refuge in the triple gem. I have been so fortunate to have received inspiring, insightful, informative, and even instructive words from Theravadan practitioners. And I've received as much respect as I've given. What more could I ask for?

It's the person more than the tradition that matters to me.

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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby Ravana » Wed Mar 11, 2009 9:19 am

Jechbi wrote:Some folks like to fox trot. Others like cha-cha.

But if those who like to fox-trot keep claiming that fox-trot is an 'advanced practice' for the bright people, and cha-cha is for the not-so-bright people, and say that those who practice cha-cha 'will someday have to take up fox-trot, when they're advanced enough' then there is little possibility of having a dialogue.

christopher::: wrote:If you seek common ground, it can be found. If we wish to focus on differences, then yes, of course, no common ground to be found there...

I think the Dhamma tends to be holistic - most teachings in the Dhamma are connected to each other. You might start to discuss one aspect, but sooner or later you're very likely to find yourself arriving at a topic where differences occur (as can be seen in many threads that have lead to sectarian arguments in other forums). To prevent this you would have to place boundaries and limitations and heavy moderation of posts, in which case the conversation is likely to be stifled.

Before having a conversation with Mahayanists, I think one should establish whether they

1) believe that Arahats also have to become Sammasambuddha's in the end?
2) believe that the Mahayana path to Buddhahood is 'faster' than the Theravada path to Buddhahood
3) believe that Theravada is for people with 'lesser capacity'

Most Mahayanists would answer 'yes' for the above. One might say 'oh but you're focusing on the differences' - true, but the goal of pointing these out is to show that when most Mahayanists claim they want to have a conversation with Theravada, they want to do it all the while maintaining their disparaging opinion towards Theravada - which does not seem very honest. Can we have proper discussions with those who do not have proper respect for the Dhamma and the Ariyas? Proper conversation cannot occur if one party believes themselves to be superior to the other.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:Especially interesting is the protocol of respect for the Dhamma. Buddhist monks and nuns are forbidden from teaching the Dhamma to anyone who shows disrespect, and the Buddha himself is said to have refused to teach his first sermon to the five brethren until they stopped treating him as a mere equal.
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby Dan74 » Wed Mar 11, 2009 12:11 pm

I think one can find common threads when it comes to the basic teachings such as the Four Noble Truths, Dependent Arising, etc. (Discussing the three characteristics don't usually work because discussing Anatta ushers in a discussion about Suññata, which brings about an argument about Mahayana-Emptiness vs. Theravada-Emptiness.) But as you delve further and into practice, the traditions begin to diverge radically.


One the contrary, I would say that as you delve further and further into practice, the traditions begin to converge, as one recognises that the differences are largely about the methods. From Ven Dr Walpola Rahula:

I have studied Mahayana for many years and the more I study it, the more I find there is hardly any difference between Theravada and Mahayana with regard to the fundamental teachings.


from
http://www.geocities.com/jolly2be/theravada-mahayana.html

and also

[url]http://www.dharmaweb.org/index.php/Zen_and_the_Ten_Ox-herding_Pictures,_by_Venerable_Dr._Walpola_Rahula
[/url]

Before having a conversation with Mahayanists, I think one should establish whether they

1) believe that Arahats also have to become Sammasambuddha's in the end?
2) believe that the Mahayana path to Buddhahood is 'faster' than the Theravada path to Buddhahood
3) believe that Theravada is for people with 'lesser capacity'

Most Mahayanists would answer 'yes' for the above.


:coffee:
Does this come from some survey of Mahayana Buddhists? What exactly do you base this assumption on?

My teacher who is a nun of some 30 years in Mahayana tradition has never once (publicly or privately) taught anything like this. Nor any other mahayana teacher I've heard for that matter.

It's important to understand that Hinayana that some Mahayana scriptures refer to is a no-longer existing school and not Theravada and these references are used for illustration purposes (at least these days) rather than to score some sectarian points.

I really appreciate Theravada and have many books particularly from the teachers in the Thai Forest tradition as well as CD's. In prison where I go as a chaplain I mostly teach Theravada. Today (after 8 months) I talked about Zen with two of the guys who've come from the start for the first time. I don't think they had any clue... :shrug:

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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby christopher::: » Wed Mar 11, 2009 1:41 pm

Ravana wrote:Before having a conversation with Mahayanists, I think one should establish whether they

1) believe that Arahats also have to become Sammasambuddha's in the end?
2) believe that the Mahayana path to Buddhahood is 'faster' than the Theravada path to Buddhahood
3) believe that Theravada is for people with 'lesser capacity'

Most Mahayanists would answer 'yes' for the above. One might say 'oh but you're focusing on the differences' - true, but the goal of pointing these out is to show that when most Mahayanists claim they want to have a conversation with Theravada, they want to do it all the while maintaining their disparaging opinion towards Theravada - which does not seem very honest. Can we have proper discussions with those who do not have proper respect for the Dhamma and the Ariyas? Proper conversation cannot occur if one party believes themselves to be superior to the other.


I'm with Dan. I've never heard a Zen Buddhist talk this way. Sadly, I have heard some Mahayana Buddhists speak this way, over at a certain forum we all know and love. For me, the very tone of such speech, with its assumptions of superiority and inferiority, is a sign to ignore the topic. I ignore a lot of things I hear, if they sound like they are setting things up in an exclusive us/them superior/inferior way.

I think Dan mentioned over at ZFI that he teaches with the Dhammapada. That's a favorite book for many Zen Buddhists, and a lot of us are drawn to Ajahn Chah and the Thai Forest tradition. There are also a lot of Tibetan Buddhist teachers and teachings that are popular with Zen Buddhists. They are mostly teachings that have to do with dhamma practice and how the mind works. Same with the Theravadin teachings we are drawn to...

The Dhamma, how the mind works, how to practice, how to meditate, how to transform your suffering, how to become a happier and more compassionate person. These are spoken of by Buddhist teachers in all traditions, and the core wisdom is pretty much the same, what they share, imo.

I mean, for me that's how I identify something as "core wisdom." If its taught by the great teachers of many different traditions, its "core wisdom"... core dhamma.... the heart of Buddhism...

:group:
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~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby nathan » Wed Mar 11, 2009 2:38 pm

Lots of places with lots of room for everyone who is sincere to learn online. Tolerance, patience, humility and forbearance are all learned with practice. Always room to learn better communications skills, there being so many kinds of people. We can probably all improve something about ourselves and not too much about others.
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby kc2dpt » Wed Mar 11, 2009 6:09 pm

Ravana wrote:Proper conversation cannot occur if one party believes themselves to be superior to the other.

I think it depends on the purpose of the conversation. When I talk with my non-Buddhist friends about religion it is just our of curiosity. We know we're not trying to convert each other. It is obvious we each believe our path is superior and that doesn't ever bring the conversation down. "Oh you believe that? Interesting. We believe this." No pressure.

Like I said, I think the only pressure comes form when people believe there has to be some sort of consensus.
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby Jechbi » Wed Mar 11, 2009 8:07 pm

Ravana wrote:
Jechbi wrote:Some folks like to fox trot. Others like cha-cha.

But if those who like to fox-trot keep claiming that fox-trot is an 'advanced practice' for the bright people, and cha-cha is for the not-so-bright people, and say that those who practice cha-cha 'will someday have to take up fox-trot, when they're advanced enough' then there is little possibility of having a dialogue.

True, true. But I was talking about communication styles, not Buddhist traditions. "Fox trot" talk might be slow and systematic, "cha-cha" might be quick and confrontational. Any way, I'm rambling. Point is, we can't take full responsibility for whether another person feels inspired or informed by what we have to say. And if inspiration is lacking in a dialogue between two people, it might not refect any shortcoming in the understanding of either person with regard to their respective traditions.

But, yeah, that "one-upsmanship" approach to discussing traditions can really get in the way of the dialogue.

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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby Ravana » Fri Mar 13, 2009 6:10 am

Dan74 wrote:
From Ven Dr Walpola Rahula:

I have studied Mahayana for many years and the more I study it, the more I find there is hardly any difference between Theravada and Mahayana with regard to the fundamental teachings.


from
http://www.geocities.com/jolly2be/theravada-mahayana.html


I don't think there's much point in continuing this argument, but to make one point - among the many points on which I disagree with Ven. Rahula's article, one that I see quoted a lot is this:

Ven. Walpola Rahula wrote:We must not confuse Hinayana with the Theravada because the terms are not synonymous. Theravada Buddhism went to Sri Lanka during the third century B.C. when there was no Mahayana at all. Hinayana sects developed in India and had an existence independent from the form of Buddhism existing in Sri Lanka. Today there is no Hinayana sect in existence anywhere in the world.

This would depend on the definition of the term 'Hinayana'. As far as I know, Hinayana - as its name connotes - is defined as any school of Buddhism that teaches a path leading to Arahantship. Therefore, from a Mahayana perspective, any school that does not make Sammasambuddhahood mandatory for all its practitioners is a Hinayana school - and hence, from a Mahayana point of view, Theravada is also a Hinayana school.

I also don't think he's correct in claiming that Nagarjuna's doctrine of Emptiness is found in Theravada.
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby kc2dpt » Mon Mar 16, 2009 3:47 am

Ravana wrote:As far as I know, Hinayana - as its name connotes - is defined as any school of Buddhism that teaches a path leading to Arahantship.

I don't think it's that simple. Mahayana defines arahantship differently than Theravada defines it. Just because both traditions use the same word doesn't mean they are talking about the same thing. So if we put it this way:

Mahayana teachings that any school of Buddhism that teaches a path leading to X is hinayana.
Therevada teaches a path leading to Y.

then once again we can question whether hinayana is correctly applied to Theravada.
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby cooran » Mon Mar 16, 2009 4:25 am

Oh, Come O-o-n Tilt!!!! :thinking:

You know there is the truth of the THERAVADA taught daily by the Buddha for 45 years, which was supplanted centuries after He reached Nibbana by truly true teachings for those of superior understand in the MAHAYANA, and then there is the the really truly true teachings for those few of superlative understanding in the VAJRAYANA and then there is the ultimate really truly true teachings for those rare few of priceless understanding in the Dzogchentradition. :popcorn:

Stop playing games and get over it - oh ye of little ... hang on, that's another fight in another Tradition ... but one, at least, that we Theravadins can all feel superior to. Thank heavens there's one! It's hard being considered the bottom of the heap - no wonder the newbies all want to start with Dzogchen. :stirthepot:
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Mar 16, 2009 4:28 am

Greetings Chris,

Shouldn't Dzogchen be in flashing lights or something?

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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Mar 16, 2009 8:29 am

Thank heavens there's one! It's hard being considered the bottom of the heap - no wonder the newbies all want to start with Dzogchen.


Well, one could say that Dzogchen is an attempt at reintroducing and centralizing mindfulness practice by running it through the mill of warmed over Yoagachara and Madhyamaka that has been de-Indianized and dressed upon in Tibetan garb and given an a dubious pedigree to prove its superiority, but then that would be no way to win friends and influence people, so I will not say that for fear of getting bad breath, warts, a lengthy stay in an unpleasent hell realm and - worse - incurring the disadain of a "devotee of Saint Columba," or some other malcontent.
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Mar 16, 2009 8:33 am

Dan74,

Before having a conversation with Mahayanists, I think one should establish whether they

1) believe that Arahats also have to become Sammasambuddha's in the end?
2) believe that the Mahayana path to Buddhahood is 'faster' than the Theravada path to Buddhahood
3) believe that Theravada is for people with 'lesser capacity'

Most Mahayanists would answer 'yes' for the above.



Does this come from some survey of Mahayana Buddhists? What exactly do you base this assumption on?
It is standard Mahayana doctrine. Whether it get applied to the Theravada or not depends upon whether ot not one feels that the Mahayana, or one's own Mahayana school, is the arbiter of all things Buddhist.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby fig tree » Mon Mar 16, 2009 9:04 am

mudra wrote:1. There was no intent in the original post to discuss or push towards a conclusion like "all religions are one".

I didn't suppose you did. However, when Peter wrote

Peter wrote:On the flip side, I find the most tension, the spats as you say, seem to have at their root an assumption of unity. "We all claim to follow the Buddha so that means at heart our practices must be the same, right?" Then we get arguments whether the Buddha taught this or that scripture, or whether one can violate precepts as skillful means, or whether arahant is a path to be respected, etc. I have a teacher who often uses the phrase "In this tradition we believe X" or "In this tradition we teach Y" as if to say "We believe this, you believe that, OK. We teach this, you teach that, OK. We practice this way, you practice that way, OK." There is no attempt to reconcile, to find who is right. You want to do it that way? I want to do it this way. OK.

I took this as offering a different account of how friction is created, and not a suggestion that you were doing so yourself. Peter can correct me if I've misunderstood him.

I get the same impression about how the friction occurs myself. Most Buddhists I have discussions with are pleasant to deal with. The few who I've found difficult are nearly all people I can deal with easily enough most of the time. Some of the most frustrating discussions have been when one participant assumes a kind of unity that isn't there. They may describe a situation as their own school describes it, although not stating it as such, but protest that they don't want to get into sectarian issues when someone describes their own school as having a different point of view! Talking like Peter's teacher seems to help, but it doesn't seem to prevent all such situations (and I'm not sure there's any way to do so).

It's not just Buddhists who do this, of course. In the U.S. we seem to have quite a few people who suffer from an illusion of national unity on various cultural, religious or political issues. I suspect there's a desire by many for the problem of getting along with people who have different points of view to be easier than it really is. A documentary was made for Passover and Easter (which are essentially Jewish and Christian celebrations of the spring equinox) in which one priest made what I thought was a good observation. He said he came to realize that although they could learn from each other, there were good things in the other tradition that could not simply be absorbed into his own. He said he needed to know that to have a real dialog with the other. This is an advance over certain half-baked attempts at friendship by supposing there to be a hyphenated joint tradition (if you know what I mean). This is not to say that everything that calls itself a tradition deserves such respect, although my opinion is that they have to be pretty bad before they don't.

Understanding and acting on our own traditions requires right intention and right speech, which will be kind speech. This will tend to be polite and inspiring more often than usual, but as the Buddha points out in the Abhaya sutta, sometimes the kindest speech is disliked by the person hearing it. Thinking in terms of general kindness, however, it seems to be easy to miss the unkindness that is inflicted by misunderstanding others. It doesn't feel unkind the way that hating others and wishing them harm does, but it sets the stage for our speaking and acting based essentially on faulty guesses as to what would be beneficial. I don't know how an unkindness of this kind can even begin to be cured without a recognition that it's an unkindness. Not misunderstanding others may be part of our tradition, but it requires wise attention to what (we think) we know about the other's tradition.

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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby sparrowhawk » Mon Mar 16, 2009 3:08 pm

My two cents about it...

In my opinion, the main things two practitioners of Mahayana and Theravada must accept before any conversation are:

Each one considers his tradition best for himself and perhaps (not always) others. Otherwise why would they practice it?

The Theravadins consider Mahayana later developments of the teachings, never revealed by the Buddha, not always accurate and by any means consider Mahayana superior. By the opposite, they consider Theravada more correct.

The Mahayanists consider Theravada teachings incomplete, although extremely wholesome, but philosophically less accurate.

If both accept this and that both are in different circumstances due to the effects of past actions, who is right or wrong matters little when it comes to respect.

There will be differences and incompatibilities. Trying to make all traditions equal is the same as respecting them just because of that, not in spite of their differences. That's just a subtle form of intolerance.

If people ease up, accept the differences and move on, recognizing that there is great virtue in practicing Buddhadharma, whatever it's form, then I believe friendship can consolidate. The subtle doctrinal differences matter mostly to very advanced practitioners. Whatever the result of the practice of these two traditions, it is always excellent compared to our current state... so one will win a Ferrari while another will win a Mercedes. Who knows who will win the Ferrari? Right now we only ride on a broken skateboard.

I believe that practitioners of different, yet outstanding traditions, as Theravada and Mahayana not being able to harmoniously communicate only shows great immaturity. One can criticize the view of each other with fair play, but should be careful when speaking about the path or the practitioner.
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Re: across the lines - wrong understanding

Postby Dan74 » Mon Mar 16, 2009 11:09 pm

While the post above is probably a more accurate statement of doctrinal differences, I am still not sure why we have to play party politics with our spiritual paths.

I am one individual practicing in my limited way some of the sublime teachings and practices that come under the umbrella of Mahayana Buddhism and more specifically Zen. But really I am just one man trying to make sense of life, accept it, to be with it fully, to bring compassion rather than suffering to it, to help others do likewise and ultimately perhaps awaken to Reality as it is. Where does "my path is superior to yours" fit in here? I fail to see.

Likewise I fail to see how anyone who is sincerely concerned with similar goals would bother with this kind of one-man-upmanship and the various types of party politics - "this is my party line and it is different to yours. Ours is correct!" Better put in more effort, more commitment into my practice and leave all squabbles and sceptical doubts aside!

The Right View is the same in Theravada and Mahayana, so what is there to quibble about?

This is how I see it, I realise others here see it very differently and are probably more serious practitioners than me. I just fail to understand why they bother with this...

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Dan74
 
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