the great rebirth debate

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Sylvester » Tue Jul 16, 2013 3:53 am

Thanks nowheat!

I think you will not find me disagreeing on the varied meanings of the "world" in the suttas.

Yet, I continue to have some difficulty with your "double levelled vocabulary" analysis, insofar as it suggests that either the self or the conceptualisation of self needs to be transcended. I hope I have not misunderstood you?

My concern is largely driven by the anusaya model in the suttas, those pre-verbal defilements that are craving at its most basic. MN 64 suggests that when craving operates at this level, it seems to be on a "subconscious" or "pre-verbal" stage (where even the thought/idea of "personality" does not exist - sakkāyotipi na hoti.) And yet, this type of defilement, according to SN 12.38, is a support for the establishment of consciousness ( ārammaṇametaṃ ... viññāṇassa ṭhitiyā).

Won't the double entendre reading of DN 15's saṃsāraṃ nātivattati be unduly restrictive, to the extent that it may not account for the subconscious anusayas that drive the establishment of consciousness/rebirth?

BTW, I enjoyed your earlier post, especially this bit -

DA, being an object of meditation, is telling us the field we need to pay attention to in order to see what is going on in each link, and it is describing a condition that has to be present in order for what's going on to happen, but it isn't actually explaining what's happening.


Could you expand a bit on the distinction you draw between the field/"where" and the "what"? I certainly follow the position that the grammatical structure of the DO formula leads one to think of it as a principle of necessary conditions; I was just curious to see how that would differ in terms of a "where" versus a "what".

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby chownah » Tue Jul 16, 2013 2:37 pm

Sylvester wrote:
I think you will not find me disagreeing on the varied meanings of the "world" in the suttas.

Sylvester,
Can you mention the various places in the suttas where the varied meanings of the "world" are found?
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Sylvester » Wed Jul 17, 2013 1:52 am

Hi chownah

Try a word search for "world" on ATI using Google and limit it to the "suttas". The suttas generally use loka/world in these senses -

1. as the literal world into which beings are reborn : AN 4.235, see also the standard listing of Wrong View eg MN 117
2. as a synonym for dukkha : SN 12.44 implying loka = 5 Clinging Aggregates
3. as a designation for contact and feeling : SN 35.82

Loka also features prominently in the satipaṭṭhānā suttas' formulaic "giving up covetousness and sorrow with reference to the world" (vineyya loke abhijjhādomanassaṃ).
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jul 17, 2013 2:21 am

site:http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka world

https://www.google.co.nz/search?q=site: ... 93&bih=802

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Wed Jul 17, 2013 5:37 am

Sylvester wrote:I continue to have some difficulty with your "double levelled vocabulary" analysis, insofar as it suggests that either the self or the conceptualisation of self needs to be transcended. I hope I have not misunderstood you?

My concern is largely driven by the anusaya model in the suttas, those pre-verbal defilements that are craving at its most basic. MN 64 suggests that when craving operates at this level, it seems to be on a "subconscious" or "pre-verbal" stage (where even the thought/idea of "personality" does not exist - sakkāyotipi na hoti.) And yet, this type of defilement, according to SN 12.38, is a support for the establishment of consciousness ( ārammaṇametaṃ ... viññāṇassa ṭhitiyā).

Won't the double entendre reading of DN 15's saṃsāraṃ nātivattati be unduly restrictive, to the extent that it may not account for the subconscious anusayas that drive the establishment of consciousness/rebirth?


Well, no, but it's understandable that you'd not see that since so far I'm describing a significantly different way of looking at DA in just bits and pieces -- hard to see the big picture this way.

MN 64 says that we are born with an underlying tendency to develop identity view, and I agree because, in a sense at least, that's what sankhara is: that underlying tendency. At the moment my preferred translation of sankhara is as a drive (a particular kind of drive, not all drives) or as what is created as a result of that drive (i.e. "that which is driven"). It is the drive that fosters in us an over-the-top craving for existence -- a desire to have a self, see that self, know that self, which results in us ultimately creating the sense that we have a certain kind of self (whatever kind we end up believing in). That's not something we are doing on a conscious level, but it does cause the creation of a certain kind of consciousness (see below).

Could you expand a bit on the distinction you draw between the field/"where" and the "what"? I certainly follow the position that the grammatical structure of the DO formula leads one to think of it as a principle of necessary conditions; I was just curious to see how that would differ in terms of a "where" versus a "what".

If each link is taken as a "what", then consciousness is, pretty much, consciousness as we define it nowadays with the popular element of "a soul" thrown in; name-and-form is our body and mind (or the way we think), contact is just contact, feeling is just feeling (and so on), birth is just birth, aging-and-death is just aging and death. In that case, to break the cycle, we have to end consciousness, end the body-mind, end all contact, end all feeling -- which makes a kind of sense if DA is describing rebirth and the escape from its cycle. If each link is a definition of "what" then it does seem fairly clear we're talking about at least two lives because we have a birth represented with consciousness and name-and-form, and then we get another birth with jati.

But if, instead, what's being defined is "where" (to look) then we are looking for a particular sort of consciousness that is "in what goes on in our awareness and perception". It is not the whole of consciousness, but something contained in consciousness (or -- as they seemed to see it back then -- a particular sort of consciousness, a subset of total consciousness). In this way of looking at it, the senses are not simply there as the passively used equipment that came along with birth into name-and-form, but are an active field being driven by what came before, a field we can study to see how they are driven, and what sort of use they are being put to (not all uses are problems). Contact is a field we can study to try to identify *which* contacts are a problem -- and this is true of all of them really -- because if we're talking "where" not "what" then it's not that we have to do away with all consciousness to interrupt the process, it's only a certain kind of consciousness.

This is why we have to look at the field: to see whether what's growing at any given moment is weeds or something good for us.

Feelings, too: if feelings are defined as "what" then *all* feelings are the problem (even equanimity? compassion?) but if we're looking at a field of feelings to identify the problem, then it's only certain feelings, and we need to try to see which are causing the problems out of the larger field of "all feelings" (the where).

This is actually the nature of causal chains (DA is, of course, one). The field narrows at each step, so it can't be all consciousness, only consciousness driven by sankhara; not all contacts, not all feelings. Out of any given field, *which* bit of what's growing in the field is the problem is defined by the limitation of all the causes in earlier links.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Sylvester » Wed Jul 17, 2013 9:14 am

Thanks!

The first bit about sankhāra resonates with my current understanding of it in DO.

The 2nd part on the field will require a long rumination. Certainly, I agree think that at different points in one's practice, selective experiences out of the entire pool are dealt with to allow more skillful ones to take their place. Yet, I also get the feel that in the gradual path, the apex requires the cessation of all types of consciousnesses, and not just some.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Wed Jul 17, 2013 4:27 pm

Sylvester wrote:The 2nd part on the field will require a long rumination. Certainly, I agree think that at different points in one's practice, selective experiences out of the entire pool are dealt with to allow more skillful ones to take their place. Yet, I also get the feel that in the gradual path, the apex requires the cessation of all types of consciousnesses, and not just some.

Since the Buddha most certainly must have gotten to that apex, if anyone ever had, would you then say that post-awakening he had no consciousness? Unless you're defining consciousness as something other than what we register on medical equipment, I'd find that a very odd way of looking at the remainder of his life. I would say he was more conscious -- more awake -- than anyone else.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Alex123 » Wed Jul 17, 2013 7:07 pm

nowheat wrote:Since the Buddha most certainly must have gotten to that apex, if anyone ever had, would you then say that post-awakening he had no consciousness?:


I believe that apex is Nibbana-without-remainder.
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Wed Jul 17, 2013 8:29 pm

Alex123 wrote:I believe that apex is Nibbana-without-remainder.

I'd accept that as one definition of "apex" if Sylvester does, but that doesn't answer the question about consciousness, especially since my understanding of "remainder" is of no remainder of craving-for-(a certain kind of )existence, and while it may be that that craving creates the consciousness we're talking about, that only serves to make it into a circular answer, because if you see it as I do, that the consciousness thus generated is a subset of all consciousness, then the no-remainder of craving only ends that consciousness; if you see the consciousness in DA as all consciousness, then the craving ends all consciousness. So we're back to the original question.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby reflection » Wed Jul 17, 2013 8:38 pm

Dependent cessation isn't instantaneous. It doesn't say the cessation of craving has the cessation of consciousness as an immediate result, just as birth does not have death as an immediate result.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Wed Jul 17, 2013 9:05 pm

I am just now reading Brian Black's "The Character of Self in Ancient India" (SUNY Press, 2007) and on page 6 he summarizes Harry Falk as saying that "...in the Brahmanas, upanisad refers to the dominant power in a chain of dependency in which the upanisad is the final component in a list, or the final teaching that is the foundation for everything else." What I am proposing is that this is what the Buddha was doing in DA (and elsewhere), though I wouldn't use the word "foundation" for what the Buddha was pointing to as "the final teaching"; instead I'd call it "the most significant factor for liberation" or "the component we have the most control over" as the deepest and less-obviously-stated part.

Black goes on to say: "As such, an upanisad is not immediate or transparent but rather remains concealed and obscure." What I perceive in the texts is that the Buddha very consciously modeled the structure of his teachings on the methods used by the greatest teachers from his culture's heritage, and that this was, in part, what people expected of their teachers, and it follows that this would be a more effective method of spreading the teachings than coming up with something totally new to the culture (as speaking the way we speak now -- which is what we seem to expect from our Buddha -- would be pretty foreign to folks back then).

While the most current thinking of Vedic teachers in any age seems to have had a tradition of secrecy, usually handed down in private along family lines, with only the older bits having leaked out into general culture, the Buddha didn't honor that method, but offered his teachings to anyone who would listen -- he had no secret "teacher's hand" in that he would give his lectures on the deepest aspects of his insight to all comers (even getting his monks to memorize and carry out into the world teachings that Vedic lineages might well have kept to their inner circle). But just because he gave the same talks to anyone who wanted to hear them didn't mean he didn't use the methods of his culture to structure the teaching.

What I propose is that most of those interested in spiritual teachings in the Buddha's time would have understood that when he said: -"Here's a truth for you: there is suffering"- they would have begun asking themselves questions: "What does he mean by suffering? How is he defining it?" When he said he was going to explain dependent arising, and that it begins with ignorance they'd have asked "Which ignorance? And how is he defining that?" And so on for each of the links. They would have *known* he was talking about a field, and they would not have expected (the way we expect) that when he named a link, he was saying enough to actually understand the "what".

Then, having listed the whole set, they'd have recognized the structure (we don't recognize it because we don't have the context) and they'd listen to more talks, and do the practice, and in that way come to see for themselves "the what" of he was saying -- once they'd been directed where to look for it. I'm further proposing that the upanisadic method served his purposes very well, because it would cause people to put the effort into their practice to come to see for themselves what was being pointed out, and this was pretty obviously what the Buddha believed was the only workable method of gaining liberation: direct experience.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Wed Jul 17, 2013 9:08 pm

reflection wrote:Dependent cessation isn't instantaneous. It doesn't say the cessation of craving has the cessation of consciousness as an immediate result, just as birth does not have death as an immediate result.

Thanks, reflection. I always enjoy your posts and have learned a lot from you in the past.

So: Interesting point. So are you suggesting that one does not experience cessation until after death? If not, how do you perceive the process of practice interrupting DA?

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby reflection » Wed Jul 17, 2013 10:06 pm

nowheat wrote:
reflection wrote:Dependent cessation isn't instantaneous. It doesn't say the cessation of craving has the cessation of consciousness as an immediate result, just as birth does not have death as an immediate result.

Thanks, reflection. I always enjoy your posts and have learned a lot from you in the past.

So: Interesting point. So are you suggesting that one does not experience cessation until after death? If not, how do you perceive the process of practice interrupting DA?

:namaste:

Hi nowheat,

I'm happy to hear you learned a thing or two from my replies.

The first one is what I'm suggesting, yes. As I understand, total cessation of consciousness to put it like that, occurs after the death of an arahant. With enlightenment not all the links are ended/cessated, because at least one is quite obvious still to happen: aging & death (the last factor). The Buddha still had to die after he was enlightened so it's not possible to say dependent cessation was 'completed' until that time. There are other factors also obviously still present, like the six senses, contact and feelings.

But, one does experience some cessation before that, because the things the Buddha did end were delusion and the possibility for clinging and craving. When one takes away this delusion that is the central pillar of dependent origination, it all comes crumbling down, but not instantly. "This entire mass of suffering" is not ended until an arahant actually passes away.

Dependent origination on its own also is not instantly. In the suttas it does not say like: when we have this, we have that right away. It says: This is a support for that, or 'with this as a requisite condition arises that'. As I said before, birth leading to death is the most obvious example. When one gets born, one will die. Being born is a requirement for death, but obviously you don't die instantly. :)

To answer the question of how to practice, is the 8 fold path. Not to be the wise guy, but that's the simple answer. The path is the practice and dependent cessation is the result.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby nowheat » Thu Jul 18, 2013 12:00 am

reflection wrote:
nowheat wrote:So are you suggesting that one does not experience cessation until after death? If not, how do you perceive the process of practice interrupting DA?

The first one is what I'm suggesting, yes. As I understand, total cessation of consciousness to put it like that, occurs after the death of an arahant.

With enlightenment not all the links are ended/cessated, because at least one is quite obvious still to happen: aging & death (the last factor). The Buddha still had to die after he was enlightened so it's not possible to say dependent cessation was 'completed' until that time. There are other factors also obviously still present, like the six senses, contact and feelings.

But, one does experience some cessation before that, because the things the Buddha did end were delusion and the possibility for clinging and craving. When one takes away this delusion that is the central pillar of dependent origination, it all comes crumbling down, but not instantly. "This entire mass of suffering" is not ended until an arahant actually passes away.

So then, dukkha continues? It seems to me it must, since there is at least one sutta I can think of in which the Buddha describes every one of the twelve as dukkha, so if any of them have not ceased, there is still dukkha.
Dependent origination on its own also is not instantly. In the suttas it does not say like: when we have this, we have that right away. It says: This is a support for that, or 'with this as a requisite condition arises that'. As I said before, birth leading to death is the most obvious example. When one gets born, one will die. Being born is a requirement for death, but obviously you don't die instantly. :)

I agree that it isn't instantaneous. Nor is it moment-to-moment but I don't see it as exactly "linear" either, though I do understand that if one can get an early link to cease completely the rest will stop functioning too. I understand dependent arising as being a bit like the oxygenation of our bodies: there is an underlying tendency to breathe; there is the process of breathing; there is the visible results of the process of breathing. It doesn't happen instantaneously, each item in the chain is required for the next to continue on; stopping breathing for a moment doesn't make the whole chain collapse once and for all time (just as a moment of no-craving wouldn't make all earlier conditions or later results disappear); and when one stops, not all of it slams immediately to a halt. And yet, each earlier step still needs to be there for the process to continue on, and if you stop any one of them permanently, all the rest will cease. It's not a perfect analogy, but I hope you get the drift.

To answer the question of how to practice, is the 8 fold path. Not to be the wise guy, but that's the simple answer. The path is the practice and dependent cessation is the result.

Which question about practice is that? Are you saying that observing DA is not a part of practice?

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby Sylvester » Thu Jul 18, 2013 5:30 am

Goodness! So much discussed while I was in slumberland.

A Q for nowheat - when you say "field", were you referring to a nidāna or to a type of constituent within the nidāna? I get the sense that you meant the latter from your earlier post -

...Contact is a field we can study to try to identify *which* contacts are a problem

...because if we're talking "where" not "what" then it's not that we have to do away with all consciousness to interrupt the process, it's only a certain kind of consciousness.


On the other hand, this seems suggestive of the former -

They would have *known* he was talking about a field, and they would not have expected (the way we expect) that when he named a link, he was saying enough to actually understand the "what".


Could you clarify?

While I think there is some merit in looking at the teaching on DO as being an exposition on fields (in the latter sense above), I'm not sure if the suttas actually employ such a pedagogy consistently. Looking at SN 12.2 as an exemplar, you might be able to get some of the components of DO explained as attributive/restrictive appositionals which would support the field reading, eg avijjā (ignorance = ignorance about certain things). But, I cannot see how the other components are amenable to a "field" distinction between good/bad etc, when it looks to me to be an exhaustive listing of all possible types of states within that class. Eg saḷāyatana (the 6 sense bases) or even nāmarūpa. It might help if we could actually see a more explicit "field" or restrictive pronouncement, which would be typically prefaced "yaṃ kiñci" or something similar to indicate that intent.

The example of nāmarūpa leads me to wonder if the Buddha's audience brought up on an Upanisadic diet of nāmarūpa would have lensed the enquiry via the "field" method. Certainly, it is not until DN 15 that we actually see the Buddha give a much more sophisticated explanation of nāmarūpa in relation to the 2 types of contact. There, the potential for the field reading is available, as adhivacanasamphassa seems to be the knife's edge that could lead to either wisdom or proliferation.

Re the apex, I'd go with Alex' definition, and add to it the Attainment of Cessation. But we do have a very problematic sutta on the post-awakening possibility of "volition". It's SN 12.51 and that makes the odd declaration that an Arahant cannot abhisaṅkharoti any kind of saṅkhāra whatsoever. This does lend credence to what reflection is hinting at, namely an Arahant's post-Awakening consciousness would have arisen in dependence on a pre-Awakening saṅkhāra. On this, I am largely guided by a boring grammatical view that locative absolutes formed from as/bhu auxillary verbs (such as idappaccayatā's formula) don't function the same way as locative absolutes formed from action verbs.

Of course, one could spill much more ink on what the Buddha meant by abhisaṅkharoti, and whether this was one of those clever digs as the Upanisadic abhisamskaroti. After all, this absence of abhisaṅkharoti is not the monopoly of Arahants - apparently, even Trainees can practise in this manner : AN 4.235.

:namaste:

PS - Re the Black and Falk citation above, do they explain whether the Upanisadic teaching of sequences is one of "sufficient conditions" (ie if you make this karma, you will reap this result)? I've read this said before. And this is an interesting distinction in the Buddha's conception of idappaccayatā as a foil to the Upanisads - the nidānas are not sufficient conditions, but necessary ones (leaving aside the later Abhidhamma attempts to distinguish hetu from paccaya).
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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby reflection » Thu Jul 18, 2013 9:19 am

nowheat wrote:...

That indeed means there is still suffering. Suffering/dukkha is of multiple types, one of them is bodily pain, which the Buddha himself had a lot in his back. But on another scale things that are impermanent are per definition dukkha. As it says in one way or the other in various places in the suttas:
"Now is what is impermanent painful or pleasant?" — "Painful, venerable Sir."

Now I wouldn't translate it with 'painful' here, but the idea is clear. The life of an enlightened being is impermanent, and so in that light it is also a form of dukkha - albeit a very subtle one.

I agree a moment of not craving doesn't stop the rest of the chain. Also I think you will agree that not all feelings give rise to craving and so the link feeling-craving is not instantly or a necessary condition. In my eyes it says, as long as there is feeling there is the possibility of craving (if there is still delusion). This means we don't crave all the time after every feeling, but obviously dependent origination is not ended there.

I'd say understanding dependent origination is a part of right view, a part of the four noble truths, so it is to be understood. But it isn't a practice in itself just as other parts of right view are not a practice - dukkha for example is not a practice. You can't observe all dependent links, but you can imply and understand the connections. The connections are what's most important. As I said before, the links are not instantaneous so they don't have to occur right here. But they do make the connection: from the arising of this comes the arising of that. So one understands for example, that when they die and they are still clinging, there will be new existence and new birth. One doesn't have to observe that right now to know this will be the case. The obvious one again is the link birth-death. You don't have to die now to know that you will die one day, and that the cause of this was you were born.

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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Jul 18, 2013 9:24 am

reflection wrote:
nowheat wrote:...

That indeed means there is still suffering. Suffering/dukkha is of multiple types, one of them is bodily pain, which the Buddha himself had a lot in his back. But on another scale things that are impermanent are per definition dukkha. As it says in one way or the other in various places in the suttas:
"Now is what is impermanent painful or pleasant?" — "Painful, venerable Sir."
Don't stop with the quote here. Give us a bit more so we can see the context of what is being said.
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: the great rebirth debate

Postby reflection » Thu Jul 18, 2013 9:28 am

tiltbillings wrote:
reflection wrote:
nowheat wrote:...

That indeed means there is still suffering. Suffering/dukkha is of multiple types, one of them is bodily pain, which the Buddha himself had a lot in his back. But on another scale things that are impermanent are per definition dukkha. As it says in one way or the other in various places in the suttas:
"Now is what is impermanent painful or pleasant?" — "Painful, venerable Sir."
Don't stop with the quote here. Give us a bit more so we can see the context of what is being said.

I copied it from here:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nymo.html

Another sutta in this light is:
"There are these three forms of stressfulness, my friend: the stressfulness of pain, the stressfulness of fabrication, the stressfulness of change. These are the three forms of stressfulness."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


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Re: the great rebirth debate

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Jul 18, 2013 9:38 am

reflection wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:I copied it from here:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nymo.html
When that passage is taken in its fuller context, you cannot say this: "The life of an enlightened being is impermanent, and so in that light it is also a form of dukkha - albeit a very subtle one," unless you are stating that an arahant is still regarding the khandhas in terms of delusional self.
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: the great rebirth debate

Postby reflection » Thu Jul 18, 2013 9:41 am

tiltbillings wrote:When that passage is taken in its fuller context, you cannot say this: "The life of an enlightened being is impermanent, and so in that light it is also a form of dukkha - albeit a very subtle one," unless you are stating that an arahant is still regarding the khandhas in terms of delusional self.

Hi tilt,

I would appreciate if you could clarify your view a bit further. Obviously I don't see it that way, so I can only guess to what your point is.

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