Light Enlightenment ____
Chapter Nine. A Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Throughout inconceivable kalpas
vigorously cultivate all practices
in order to cross over all living beings.
This is the great immortal’s strength.
People who study the Buddhadharma don’t have the strength of persevering vigor. Their vigor only lasts about five minutes then they get tired and sloppy. That’s why we keep turning in the six paths—coming and going; going and coming back again. Sometimes people fall into the hells; sometimes they become hungry ghosts; sometimes they aree animals; sometimes they get born in the heavens; sometimes they become asuras; and sometimes they get to be people. But it’s not so easy to become a human being. Once, when Shakyamuni Buddha was in the world, he picked up a handful of earth and asked his disciples: “Tell me, is there more dirt in my hand or on the earth?” His disciples said, “Obviously, the dirt in the Buddha’s hand is much less than the amount on the great earth. It’s perfectly clear.” The Buddha said, “Do you realize that the number of beings who are able to obtain a human body are like the amount of dirt in my hand compared to the amount of dirt everywhere else on the earth. The dirt on the earth represents those beings who have lost a human body.”
We’ve been lazy for an incredible number of kalpas and we haven’t been vigorous when it comes to the Buddhadharma. We harbor doubts and so when we encounter the Proper Dharma we still don’t know that we should cultivate it. But when we encounter a deviant teaching we take a knife and sharpen our heads to a point and drill right into it. We knock ourselves out being vigorous over it. The Buddha wasn’t like that. Throughout inconceivable great kalpas, he would vigorously cultivate all practices. He was vigorous every moment. Throughout the six periods of the day and night he was persistently vigorous in cultivating all Dharma-doors in order to cross over all living beings. The Buddha wanted to save living beings, so he set out and accomplished Buddhahood. After he became a Buddha, he had the power which he needed to teach and transform living beings. This is the great immortal’s strength. The “Great Immortal” refers to the Buddha.
The guiding master subdues the multitudes of demons,
he is courageous, strong, and invincible.
Within the light he proclaims the wonderful meaning.
He is this way because of his kindness and compassion.
The guiding dmaster subdues the multitudes of demons, the “Guiding Master” refers to the Buddha. He is a guide for living beings. He leads those who are deviant back to the proper. He leads those who are evil back to the good. He leads those who are wrong back to the right. He keeps them from going down wrong paths and leads them down the proper path. He leads living beings to end birth and cast out death. He leads living beings to leave to end birth and cast out death. He leads living beings to leave the darkness and return to brightness. He leads living beings to forsake the extremes and cultivate the middle. You could also say that he leads them from the phenomena to the noumenon. All of these are the strengths of the Guiding Master. This Guiding Master is Shakyamuni Buddha.
Before he accomplished Buddhahood, he subdued the multitudes of demons. At the time when the Buddha was accomplishing Buddhahood, the Demon King Papiyan became really afraid. He sai, “Ah, one more person is becoming a Buddha and so the Buddha’s strength is increasing by one and the demon’s strength is decreasing by one.” Papiyan mustered up all of his spiritual penetrations in order to destroy the Buddha’s karma in the Way. He got together all his demonic following. There were demonic citizens, demonic soldiers, demoniic women, and all the others. They surrounded the Bodhimanda and filled up the place. Their aim was to give the Buddha trouble. They wanted to destroy the Buddha’s karma in the Way. But at that time, the Buddha had entered the Unconquerable Compassionate Mind Samadhi, and emitted the white hair-mark light which shone in all directions. And from within the white hair-mark he emitted all kinds of bright light. In all these different kinds of light there manifested transformation Buddhas. The light shone as far up as the Heaven of the Thirty-three and as far down as the Avici hells.
Since the Buddha had entered the Compassionate Mind Samadhi, a great state of concentration, the light from his white hair-mark penetrated the hells. At that time all the demon kings, demon children and grandchildren, the retinues of demons, the demon soldiers, and the demon citizens felt that they couldn’t open their eyes. They couldn’t even lift up their heads, they appeared to be old and haggard, on the verge of death. In that shape they couldn’t fight and so they retreated.
Next, Papiyan sent three demon women who were extremely beautiful and enticing. They were supposed to disturb the Buddha’s concentration, but the Buddha kept emitting light from his white hair-mark and illumining the hells with it. Then the demon women looked at each other and saw that they too had turned into ugly old bags. Impurities were constantly flowing from their nine apertures. Their noses ran with snot, matter was in their eyes—they were filthy. Each was hugging a dead child in her arms and behind them trouped a bunch of demon women, also on the verge of death. When they saw themselves in this way, each brought forth great shame. They wanted to vomit at their own stench and ugliness. How could they have supposed that they could make trouble for the Buddha? Thus, the Buddha subdued the multitude of demons by using all kinds of spiritual penetrations.
He is courageous, strong, and invincible. The Buddha has great wisdom, great patience, and great courage. Within the light he proclaims the wonderful meaning. The Buddha emitted light which flowed from his white hair-mark. His spiritual penetrations and wonderful functions were inconceivable. All of the heavenly demons, those of outside ways, and the demon king Papiyan were subdued by him. He is this way because of his kindness and compassion. The Buddha subdued the demons but he didn’t do it by fighting back. He used the Compassionate Mind Samadhi. He entered this supreme samadhi and subdued the multitudes of demons by following the way of kindness and compassion.
Using the mind of wisdom
to smash all afflictions and obstacles,
in one thought he could see all.
This is the spiritual power of the Buddha.
Using the mind of wisdom, This is referring to the wisdom in the minds of all Buddhas. They use the strength of that wisdom to smash all afflictions and obstacles. Living beings have 84,000 kinds of afflictions, and so the Buddha spoke 84,000 Dharmadoors to counteract them. We should transform the afflictions and obstacles into the mind of wisdom. The Buddhas have that mind of wisdom and so they can smash through living beings’ afflictions and obstacles. When living beings’ obstacles and afflictions are transformed, then they tally with the wisdom of all Buddhas. Why is it that all living beings aren’t Buddhas? It’s because of their obstacles and afflictions. As soon as you can transform your afflictions your wisdom will appear. In one thought he could see all. Just a single thought is replete with 84,000 Dharmadoors, and within a single thought you can transform the 84,000 obstacles and afflictions. Where does the power to do this come from? This is the spiritual power of the Buddha. It’s thee great spiritual powers of the Buddha that are able to help and support you. All you have to do is wish to change from the bad to the good; to turn from what is small and go towards what is great; to cultivate all Dharma doors. Then you can have this kind of response.
He beats the proper Dharma drum
to enlighten those in the lands of the ten directions,
so all are caused to go towards Bodhi.
The power of self-mastery can achieve this.
He beats the proper Dharma drum. This is a metaphor for speaking the Dharma. There is a huge drum in the heaven which can be heard anywhere in the Triple Realm. But the drum referred to here isn’t a real drum. What’s meant is that when the Buddha turns the great Dharma Wheel it’s as if he is beating a big drum. So, the expression “beating the Proper Dharma Drum” refers to turning the great dharma Wheel. Why is the Proper Dharma Drum beaten? In order to enlighten those in the lands of the ten directions. This word “lands” means countries—a sea of lands like dust motes. By beating the Proper Dharma Drum one can enlighten living beings in the lands of the ten directions.
There are lots of different kinds of enlightenments. One enlightenment is that when you eat too much your stomach will really hurt. Another is that if you drink too much wine you will get really confused. Yet another is that if you look at too many things, then after a while you won’t be able to see clearly. To enlighten all living beings in the lands of the ten directions is to cause them not to sleep. Enlighten can mean to wake up. It doesn’t just mean to become a Buddha. You may not have gotten to that level yet. So all are caused to go towards Bodhi. All living beings are caused to bring forth the Bodhi mind. By whose strength does this come about? It comes from self-mastery, and you could say that it means the Buddha’s strength. There is no place where the Buddha is, and no place where he isn’t.
The power of self-mastery can achieve this. The Buddha is able to do this because of the spiritual power of self-mastery. He has the power to enlighten all living beings.
The monastery should be thrifty and save money. If there are ways to do this then we should think of ways to save money. Vegetables are being donated and we should use them all. We shouldn’t say “we won’t use this” and send it back. This is totally not in accord with the Dharma. The person who watches over the kitchen doesn’t have the authority to tell people that we want this or we don’t want that. Whatever is brought we should use. If things are spoiled, then of course you shouldn’t use them, but all the vegetables that are good should be used. If you don’t cook it one way, then you should cook it another. You don’t have to use the lettuce for salad all the time; you can cook it. But you don’t have to cook it for a long time. Just have the water boiling and toss it in and then take it right out. Then it’s really good to eat. One thing that is really nourishing is spinach and it’s very good for vegetarians.
Whenever anyone brings something, no one should say that we don’t want it. The Sangha should receive the offerings of the people no matter where the offerings come from. You can’t say that we don’t want these offerings. Whatever should be eaten we should eat. And whatever is impossible to eat shouldn’t be eaten. If you don’t follow this principle you really don’t understand the Buddhadharma. You haven’t made any progress at all in your cultivation. You must not be that way. It is not at all in accord with the principles of Buddhism.
His state is indestructible and has no boundary,
and he can roam throughout billions of lands
toward existence he has no attachment
and he is comfortable like the Buddha.
His state is indestructible and has no boundary, In this passage, “indestructible” also has the meaning of unmoving. The Buddha’s basic substance doesn’t move and his boundless states are all indestructible. He’s not like us, who can’t be in two places at the same time. The Buddha remains unmoving in the Bodhimanda and yet can completely pervade the Dharma Realm. He doesn’t move from beneath the Bodhi tree, the Way place of his Dharma body. And he can roam throughout billions of lands. Although he doesn’t move from the Bodhimanda—his original substance doesn’t move—he’s able to go to limitless and boundless billions of Buddhalands. He manifests a body and goes to those places. Towards existence he has no attachment. Although the Buddha completely pervades the Dharma Realm, his original substance remains unmoving. It isn’t that in addition to existence there is yet another existence.
Existent and yet not existent.
Not existent and yet existent.
Therefore, one shouldn’t become attached to existence or non-existence. True emptiness is being unattached while in existence. And wonderful existence is being unattached to emptiness. So, “no-attachment” means that one doesn’t get attached to emptiness or existence. And he is comfortable like the Buddha. If you can be without attachment to emptiness or existence, then you’ll be able to attain all self-mastery, which is the same level of attainment as the Buddha.
All Buddhas are like empty space,
ultimately and eternally pure.
By always remembering to bring forth happiness,
all of ones vows are completed.
All Buddhas are like empty space, The Buddha’s Dharma body has no appearance. Although it is said to have no appearance, still an analogy can be made to empty space. Empty space fills all places. In a place that is occupied with some kind of substance, emptiness hasn’t decreased. And in places that aren’t occupied with anything, emptiness doesn’t increase. It is neither deficient nor in excess. “Not deficient” means that it isn’t lacking anything. “Not in excess” means that thedre isn’t too much. It isn’t increased or decreased, not produced or destroyed, not defiled or pure. That’s the kind of state we’re discussing. Empty space has no appearance and the Buddha also has no appearance. Therefore, it’s said:
A person who wishes to know the state of the Buddha
Should purify his heart until it’s like empty space.
If you want to know the state of the Buddha, then you must first purify your own heart until it’s like emptiness. Therefore, the text says, “All Buddhas are like empty space.” This means that all those who have been certified to the fruition of Buddhahood are the same as empty space. They are ultimately and eternally pure. “Ultimately” means they are always pure. There’s a verse that says:
The Buddha is like the clear cool moon,
Which constantly roams throughout emptiness.
If the water in the minds of living beings is pure
Then Bodhi will be reflected within it.
“The Buddha is like the clear cool moon”/The Buddha is the same as the pure cool moon up in empty space. “Which constantly roams throughout emptiness.”/The moon is forever roaming around in empty space. “If the water in the minds of living beings is pure”/ If the water of wisdom in living beings’ minds is pure, “then Bodhi will be reflected within it.”/ Then Bodhi, the enlightened Way, will naturally manifest in it. It is the same as when the moon reflects in a thousand pools. If the water of wisdom in your mind is pure, and if your self-nature is pure, then the Buddha’s light will illumine your mind.
The text continues, by always remembering to bring forth happiness, / “Always remembering” means that there is never a time when one forgets. One’s every thought is of the Buddha, which causes one to be very happy. One is always happy. All of ones vows are completed./ When you remember that the vow power of all Buddhas is already complete, it causes your every thought to bring forth happiness.
Within each hell
one passes through limitless kalpas.
In order to cross over living beings,
one can endure all that suffering.
When the Bodhisattva walks the Bodhisattva Way he doesn what is most difficult. From an ordinary point of view, a Bodhisattva practicing the Bodhisattva Way appears quite stupid. If he were not, then why would he choose to undergo suffering himself in order to come and teach and transform living beings? But no matter what kind of suffering there is, he can endure it. He goes through it. He undergoes intense suffering even to the point of enduring the suffering due living beings. If the Bodhisattva weren’t stupid, then why would he take such a big loss for himself? He doesn’t benefit himself in anything he does. But he doesn’t do this because he’s stupid. A Bodhisattva has great wisdom. Because he has great wisdom, he wants to completely cross overe all living beings, and cause all of them to have wisdom too. Therefore, he wants to forsake himself for the sake of the multitudes. He forsakes his own small self in order to bring living beings’ great selves to accomplishment. When you walk the path of the Bodhisattva, you benefit yourself and benefit others. In doing this you don’t want to fear any kind of suffering. The Bodhisattva receives suffering just as if he were eating candy. He undergoes suffering as if there were no suffering to undergo. Even more, he wants to undergo suffering for the sake of all living beings. This is one kind of suffering that’s worthwhile. Moreover, the Bodhisattva thinks that:
To endure suffering is to end suffering.
To enjoy blessings is to exhaust blessings.
He thinks of it in this way and so he represents living beings and undergoes suffering on their behalf. He transfers all of his bliss to all living beings in the Dharma Realm. The merit from this kind of open and unselfish action has no end. It is completely public spirited and it benefits all living beings.
Think about how so many Bodhisattvas come to teach and transform living beings without being afraid of the suffering involved, even within each hell./ There is extreme suffering in the hells. The hells are one place that nobody wants to go. A certified Bodhisattva can go to the hells. Why does he go to the hells? He doesn’t go because he has committed offenses. The Bodhisattva goes into the hells and manifests a body to speak the Dharma for all the living beings in the hells. For example, Earth Store Bodhisattva has been in the hells for a long time with living beings who undergo extreme suffering because of their offenses. They are all there together. Why did Earth Store Bodhisattva go to the hells? He’s waiting for the opportunity when he’ll be able to cause those living beings to wake up, and cause them to bring forth the Bodhi mind. He doesn’t jst do this for one or two days, or one or two years, and then quit. He isn’t like us, who do something for five minutes and then don’t want to do it any more. We don’t want to endure suffering, but Earth Store bodhisattva passes through limitless kalpas./-- a long period of time—in the hells, in order to cross over living beings, He wants to teach and transform living beings, liberate them, and cause them to leave suffering and attain bliss, so they will end birth and cast off death. One can endure all that suffering. He is able to be patient with the living beings in the hells who have to patiently endure their suffering.
The Bodhisattva teaches and transforms living beings, but he never considers himself high and others low. He doesn’t have false notions about the existence of people or of the self. He uses the four Dharmas of Attraction to gather in and cross over living beings. What are the four Dharmas of Attraction? They are:
- kind words
- beneficial practices
- same occupation
Giving : The Bodhisattva forgets himself for the sake of teaching and transforming living beings. He gives all the benefit that he has coming to him to living beings in order to bring them to accomplishment. The Bodhisattva gives both his inner and his outer wealth. Outer wealth includes gold, silver, jewels, countries, cities, wives, and children.
Gold makes everybody happy. Why is it that everybody gets so excited over it? It’s because there isn’t very much of it. Therefore, lots of people get really confused over gold. People also get really greedy over lapis lazuli and crystal, because these stones are also jewels and so they’re really expensive. The seven gems make everybody happy, and so the Bodhisattva gives them away. If there is someone who wants them, then the Bodhisattva gives them to this person. He gives people pearls, diamonds, and all kinds of valuable objects. But when he gives, he doesn’t retain a mark of giving. The substance of the three wheels are empty. What is meant by the substance of the three wheels being empty?
- The thought of one who gives is empty.
- The thought of one who receives is empty.
- The thought of that which is given is empty.
Although you give, you should be apart from the mark of giving. Don’t be attached to it. Once the Bodhisattva gives something then that’s that. He would never say, “Do you know the temple at such and such a place? Well, I built it. Do you see that bridge? Well, I built it. Did you know that?” He’d never advertise for himself. He’d never wear a sandwich-board or put on a campaign. As soon as a Bodhisattva does something then that’s it. It’s over. He doesn’t think about it. He forgets it.
- Kind words: A Bodisattva cultivating the Bodhisattva path would never use rude or cruel words to scold or ridicule people. Nor would he talk about people’s faults. A Bodhisattva isn’t like that. The Bodhisattva, at all times is always kind and protective towards living beings. And so he speaks with kind words. He speaks to living beings in such a way that it causes them to be really happy. But he doesn’t use love, which is emotional and based on desire. It’s not really such a wonderful thing. However, you should use kind words when you speak to people.
- Beneficial practices: You should benefit living beings in their practices.
- Same occupation: This means that you take on the same work as living beings in order to cross them over. If a Bodhisattva wants to cross over a scholar then be becomes a scholar. He does this in order to influence scholars. When the Bodhisattva wants to cross over a business person, then he transforms into a business person in order to cause him to bring forth the Bodhi mind. When he wants to cross over a laborer, then the Bodhisattva manifests as a laborer and works for people. When he works he doesn’t want a lot of money. Just a little food is enough. When a Bodhisattva wants to cross over a farmer then he manifests as a farmer in order to teach him. When the Bodhisattva sees that the causes and conditions of an official are ripe, he manifests as an official in order to teach and transform him.
So, someone thinks, “Does that mean that a Bodhisattva would transform into a dog in order to teach and transform that kind of living being?” Yes, a Bodhisattva would do that. Most people think that dogs are lowly, but the Bodhisattva will become a dog when he wants to teach and transform a dog. After his transformation he teaches and transforms the dog and causes it to bring forth the mind for Bodhi. When he sees that a dog is ready he’ll become a dog to teach him. Take a look at shakyamuni Buddha. In a former life he manifested as a Deer King. If he would transform into a deer why wouldn’t he also transform into a dog? He would even manifest as a mouse or an ant in order to teach and transform them. He also wants to cause ants to bring forth the resolve for Bodhi. Even though honey bees can poison people with their sting, nevertheless, the Bodhisattva manifests as a bee when he wants to teach and transform them. He becomes a bee and tells the other bees that they should be repentant because they sting people. And the other bees say, “Oh, we were wrong in stinging people and causing them so much pain.” After they repent, then the Bodhisattva speaks Dharma to them saying, “Good, you see that you were wrong. Now if you recite ‘Na Mwo Amita Buddha’ and produce good roots. And after they’ve planted good roots then in the future they will have the opportunity to become Buddhas.
Thee Bodhisattva will manifest in the bodies of all living beings in order to teach and transform them. Some people ask, “Aren’t Bodhisattvas really high and lofty?” No, Bodhisattvas aren’t high or low, big or small, or good or bad. A Bodhisattva isn’t anything. Because a Bodhisattva wants to become a Buddha, he doesn’t have a self. He doesn’t have any afflictions, joys, or sorrows. He doesn’t have anything. A Bodhisattva is someone whom you are always able to see. He is also someone whom you can’t see. If you don’t recognize him then even if you see him you won’t know it. But if you recognize him then even if you don’t see him, you do. All you have to do is recognize him.
He has no regard for his body or life,
as he constantly protects all Buddhadharmas.
His mind has no self and so he is compliant.
And so he is able to obtain the Way of the Thus Come One.
This verse refers to how the Buddha gave up his body and life for kalpa after kalpa. In his cultivation, the Buddha gave up his body and life. He had no regard for his body and life in his protection of the Buddhadharma.
People who cultivate should return the light and reverse the illumination and ask themselves, “Do I cultivate the Way like the Buddhas of the past did? Am I willing to take my own body, nature, and life and use them to seek the Unsurpassed Bodhi Way and to protect the Buddhadharma?” There isn’t even a tiny dust mote in this world that isn’t a place where the Buddhas of the past gave up their bodies and lives.
When the Buddha cultivated on the causal ground he gave up his body and life for a half a verse. Would we be willing to give up our bodies and lives in order to protect a Sutra? What were the causes and conditions that led the Buddha to give up his body and life for a half a verse?
When Shakyamuni Buddha was on the causal ground cultivating theWay, he was seeking the Buddhadharma everywhere. He cherished no regard for his body or life in his search for the Buddhadharma. One day, a Rakshasa ghost recited two lines of a verse. But he only recited half of it. What was the verse that he recited?
All activities are impermanent,
Characterized by production and extinction.
Things are continually produced and then destroyed; destroyed and produced.
When Shakyamuni Buddha heard this he said, “Oh that’s Buddhadharma, but you didn’t speak the second half. Would you speak it so I can hear it?”
The Rakshasa said, “So you want to hear the rest? I don’t have any energy left to recite with. I need a person to eat. If you can give me your body to eat, then I’ll speak the rest of the verse for you.”
Shakyamuni Buddha said,”Fine, you recite the verse for me, I’ll carve it on that tree, and then you can eat me. Is that okay?”
The Rakshasa ghost said, “That’s okay. After I recite, then I’ll eat. But why do you want to carve it on a tree?”
Shakyamuni Buddha said, “Because after I listen then I’m going to give you my body to eat. I want to carve it on a tree so that people in the future will be able to see this verse and bring forth the Bodhi mind and cultivate. They’ll be able to use this verse in their cultivation.”
The Rakshasa ghost said, “Okay, you’re really not bad. Now listen while I recite.
When production and extinction are ended,
Tranquil stillness is bliss.
Okay, now hurry and carve it on the tree!”
Shakyamuni Buddha got a knife and carved it into the tree so that people in the future could know of the verse.
All activities are impermanent,
Characterized by production and extinction.
When production and extinction are ended,
Tranquil stillness is bliss.
Then the Rakshasa ghost said, “Okay, can I eat you now?”
But Shakyamuni Buddha said, “No, wait a minute.”
The Rakshasa ghost said, “Wait for what? Is it the case that you aren’t going to let me eat you? You’re backing out.”
Shakyamuni Buddha said, “No, I told you that I’d give you my body to eat. I won’t go back on my word. I’ll give it to you. I said that I wanted to carve the words into a tree, but in time the words will wear away. After a while the wind and rain will cause the verse to disappear. So it’s not permanent. Just wait a minute while I carve the verse into this rock, and then I’ll give you my body to eat. What do you think, is that all right?”
The Rakshasa thought about it for a minute and said, “Fine, do what work you have to do and get it done.”
Then Shakyamuni Buddha carved the verse into the rock, washed his hands and said, “You can eat me now.”
He closed his eyes and waited to be devoured by the ghost. But the Rakshasa ghost wasn’t making a sound. The Buddha opened his eyes and the ghost was gone. He looked up into space and there was the ghost up in empty space. He had turned into his true form, that of a god. The god had just come to test Shakyamuni Buddha to see if he really could give up his body and life.
Shakyamuni Buddha wanted the people of the future to be able to see the verse so he was willing to give up his body and life for the sake of a half a verse. Although he was only being tested by a god, he really would have sacrificed his life for the sake of the dharma. He was willing to go that far to protect the proper Buddhadharma.
So, this verse says, he has no regard for his body or life, All the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the past were that way. They had no regard for their bodies, minds, or lives.
We just discussed the giving of outer wealth. There is also the giving of inner wealth: one’s head, eyes, brain, marrow, skin, blood, flesh, muscles, and bones. Inner wealth—all the things that are inside of the body-isn’t easy to give. But a person who practices the Bodhisattva Way,one who truly cultivates the Buddhadharma, is able to give in this way. If someone wants his head he says, “Okay” and gives it to them. If someone wants his eyes, he gives them to them. And if someone wants his brain he gives it to them. If someone wants his marrow he gives it to them. Those who cultivate the Bodhisattva Way and all the Buddhas use these kinds of awesome bitter practices in their cultivation.
As he constantly protects all Buddhadharmas. Bodhisattvas who practice the Bodhisattva Way constantly protect the Dharma spoken by the Buddhas. Protecting the Dharma is an important as protecting your own body and life. His mind has no self and so he is compliant. Bodhisattvas who practice the Bodhisattva Way have no mark of a self. They have no things that belong to a self. “Compliant” means that they have no afflictions, and are not obstinate. They always have good hopes for everyone. And so he is able to obtain the Way of the Thus Come One. By being that way, devoid of a self and compliant in mind, one can certify to the Way of all Buddhas.
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