Showing posts with label Zen. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Zen. Show all posts


The Sutta About Bahiya, Part 2 (Feb 12, 2005)

The Sutta About Bahiya, Part 2 (Ud. I.10)

So we continue on with Bahiya’s meeting with the Buddha and the Buddha’s response to Bahiya’s urgent pleading to teach him how to truly enter the Great Way of freedom and happiness. Remember that although Bahiya has sought out the Buddha as a result of deep doubt and the realization that he is neither free nor practicing in a manner that will lead to freedom, he is nonetheless completely ripe to receive a teaching that will utterly transform him. He has dropped literally everything, emptied himself of everything except his completely focused urgency for awakening. The Buddha meets his simple openness with a simple and powerful response: 

“Bahiya, this is how you should train yourself: Whenever you see a form, simply see; whenever you hear a sound, simply hear; whenever you taste a flavor, simply taste; whenever you feel a sensation, simply feel; whenever a thought arises, let it be simply a thought. Then “you” will not exist; whenever “you” do not exist, you will not be found in this world, another world or in between. That is the end of suffering.”

There are at least two approaches to understanding this teaching. The first is to follow closely just what the Buddha says; that this is an approach to training the mind and training one’s life; a teaching to be practiced and worked with as a process. Bahiya gets it in one deep jolt which he swallows whole, digests instantly and is fully awakened.

Most of us have to work at this as a practice for a very long time, and yet we don’t know how long Bahiya worked at his in order to come to this place, available for this encounter. And it doesn’t really matter whether we have gradual cultivation and sudden awakening, or sudden awakening followed by gradual cultivation. In fact both are not only true, together they encompass the whole of the life of practice-realization.

So the Buddha speaks to Bahiya, but he is also speaking directly to us. Each of us is Bahiya being told, “Please train yourself like this.” What does this mean and how are we to do it? First we have to understand what it means to just hear, just see, simply taste, simply feel, just sense. The key, of course, is in the word “simply” or “just.” For example, we could look at the tree outside the window. Maybe we look over and see the tree and think, “That’s an oak tree.” Or we look at the sky and wonder if it’s going to snow, and how much and will I be able to get out of here at the end of retreat. We smell the aromas coming from the kitchen and wonder about lunch and how much longer until we eat and won’t it be great to have a break. Seeing, hearing, sensing, tasting, smelling is followed quickly by the felt sense of pleasant or unpleasant which is following by thinking which often involves some form of aversion, desire or confusion and then the mind takes off with its own story about all of this. We are suddenly far away from the present moment and the substance of our real life. This is often the recipe for suffering rather than freedom and joy. This is the act of separation and not, I suspect, what the Buddha meant when using the word “just.” “Just” means what is there when there is no image, thought or memory between us and our immediate, direct experience of the content of this present moment. The Buddha is inviting us to encounter the moment-to-moment content of our life exactly as we find it, which is just like this. Our life in this moment is not necessarily how we want it to be, think it should be or imagine how it might be. It is always, just exactly the way it is. Always just this. The sensation in the back, the rustling sound of someone moving has its own life, its own quality, its own definition that is not what we think about it or imagine it to be. When there is the absence of all of the mind-stuff that conditioning, memory and experience put between the observer and what is observed; when there is just the seeing, hearing and so on without separation, then there is intimacy. There is no “you” or “me”, there is just THIS! Then, drop the “just” and drop the “This” and what do you have?

When there is no “me” and “mine,” no “you” which fractures the natural wholeness of Life then we have cut to the root in a very direct way of that which divides and separates; the inherent tendency of thinking to identify with itself and break things apart. Someone once said that the most fatal of human delusions is to believe our own thinking. So when in the hearing there is only what is heard, just complete intimacy with hearing, then there is no place for thinking to arise and if it does there is no-one to identify with it.

But please do understand that the gateway to the wonderful simplicity and wholeness of Life in this moment is through what stands before us right now. If there is fear, judgment, irritation, a fogginess in the mind… whatever is here now, it is also just THIS!

And things get really interesting when we begin to apply this to living relationships in our daily living. Sitting here in these really quite simplified conditions which are carefully constructed to limit complexity is a very different environment than getting up at 3am with a sick or frightened young child; or being criticized by a partner, or being stuck in traffic and running late for an important appointment. And yet the practice is exactly the same. How we train our selves in exactly the same. Life, wherever and however we find it, is just like this, and our work is to increasingly meet it fully and directly. Meeting fear, loneliness, grief and despair with full and complete attention. This is the work of learning to love Life as it is, rather than as I want it to be. This is a steep practice.

Now during our sitting practice, especially on retreat, this comes up for us with great frequency and can be the occasion to refine our skill in wholeheartedly attentive. For example, when we’re sitting for extended periods like this the body has lots of sensations that it produces, many of them registering as unpleasant. Rather than meeting them directly as just sensation and leaving them alone, we often allow thoughts to arise which then can become a story which can often resemble a Stephen King novel in terms of its potential to disturb us. This is the “practice” of suffering not liberation. When we do this in our daily lives when we are not held by the rules and structure of retreat practice, we typically then come up with ways to escape from these self-created mini-hells. Most of these escapes are not very helpful and usually result in their own form of suffering. Eating late at night avoids the feeling of loneliness, but may result in later self recrimination, and so on. The mind generates a story in reaction to something unpleasant, doesn’t like the story and then tries to find ways to escape from itself. And we wonder why we feel a bit off and out of focus and in conflict so much of the time! 

The way of practice, the way to train ourselves, is simply by learning to be with what is, exactly as-it-is, allowing this moment to express itself fully and completely in this vast and spacious field of awareness and then to flow back from whence it came; endlessly arising and passing away, time without end; clouds coming and going through a vast and empty sky. One could say that seeing is our true and natural state. Hearing is our true and natural state. Seeing, hearing is awakening. We awake to the moment of the breath, the sound of the fan. This awakening is an active, dynamic, moving condition. When in the seeing there is only the seen, that split between self and other is gone and there is no room for suffering to arise. “We” don’t do anything, because in that timeless moment of no-thought and complete union there is “no-one” to do. There is no past, present or future because when there is just this, there is no time which is the creation of thought.  You are not found in the future, the past or the present because in this place of no separation, no coming and no going, there is no “you” created by the thinking mind. The moment might hurt like hell, but there is no one there to make a problem out of it.

Now, of course, this too is not a static state but one in which “we” are always moving in and out of. Life is always calling us to wake up to “just this” because “this” is always new, unique, fresh. Life is continuously asking us if we will meet It now, in this form of anger, fear, betrayal, sorrow, joy, happiness; always presented in a slightly different expression. This is why we call this work the “practice” of awakening. We may have significant “experiences” of this where there is deep clarity and letting go which may seem momentary or which may seem to last “a long time.” A dear friend of mine says that she is becoming increasingly distrustful of “awakening” experiences, and in a way she is completely correct. Because one of the dangers in these openings is that we turn them into trophies we collect and experiences reified in memory that support the ego in ways that increase self-centeredness and the self that acquires, strives and separates. On the other hand, they are important as an indication of what is possible and they do over time deepen and enhance our capacity for freedom and love by re-defining who “we” are. The balance here is the observation of Hui-neng, the 6th ancestor of Zen in China: “As far as Buddha Nature is concerned, there is no difference between a sinner and a saint. One moment of awakening and an ordinary person is a Buddha. One moment of delusion and a Buddha is once again an ordinary person.” And so it goes.

Let me try to give you an example of how this works. I had started my drive down here yesterday and was listening to a CD by Allison Kraus. For those of you not familiar with her, she’s a wonderful singer backed up by some very talented musicians, but she can sing some really, really sad songs. So I was driving along starting to be affected by the music, feeling sadder and having some pretty sad thoughts, (which as we all know is just really helpful!) and there was a simple awareness that my body had begun to slump a bit. You know how we begin to kind of collapse into our selves physically when we are sad, and the breathing began to feel short and constricted. But in that simple awareness, without “me” doing anything at all, the breath lengthened a bit, the body expanded a bit, my vision opened up a bit and suddenly into seeing came the sight of so many trees covered with ice from the recent storm and absolutely ablaze with the reflected sunlight. Through all of this there was no thinking. There was just sensing, just seeing and in that timeless moment the mind was completely awake and suddenly out of intimacy with sadness and into complete intimacy with the next THIS. It didn’t last long, I suppose, but mind and body were in a different condition as a result, and I decided to turn off Allison and just drive for awhile. Note that the dharma gate for this was the awareness of sadness and the simple meeting of it with no attempt to make it different in any way. Also note that there is nothing particularly extraordinary about any of this. It is just about attention to the ordinary mind states, feeling, sensing, seeing that make up what we call living. We don’t have to go looking somewhere else for this.  We just have to begin to appreciate the fact that we have all we need right here and now for waking up and being free.

This takes us to another way to understand the Buddha’s teaching to Bahiya and to us and it is as an invitation to spacious and choiceless awareness.  We can practice with each of the sense doors, we can work with the hindrances and so on in this direct, simple and intimate way, and we can also open up everything at once. See, hear, sense, touch, taste; everything happening all at once with no discrimination, preference or choice. Every sense door completely open, welcoming, receptive, alert, completely alive.  So that listening is with the whole body/mind; every pore of our skin, every hair on the body, one whole receptive, alive field of listening. In this there is no “who”, is there? No “me” listening, is there? Check it out for yourself. It may be a little slippery to catch, because when “you” are only hearing, seeing, touching, tasting, smelling; there may not be anyone there to record or reflect on the experience; no “you” there! See what happens when you notice there is separation from what is; when the mind is wanting this to be some other way than just how it is. What happens in that moment of just seeing separation? What happens when you’ve traveled down the mind road and there is a sudden seeing of that? Was there a “you” in that moment of awareness? What if seeing is awakening? What is hearing is awakening? What if it is just as simple and as obvious as that? Then you might wonder what you are doing here on this retreat! What happens if there is just awareness of that thought? This is the practice of awakening, but it might be more accurate to say that it is really awakening which is practicing us!

In any case, we have a wonderful opportunity during the rest of this retreat to continue this ongoing practice of awakening and self-knowing. Being called back to our true self, to simple awareness, by sound, sight, smell, touch, mood, sensation, by the fresh unique call of each moment of our life as it unfolds in what ever way it does. When “you” are not there, then the call and response are happening in complete harmony and with complete ease. And when there is struggle, conflict or suffering then that too is happening and can also be known simply as, just this. Nothing excluded; a place at the table for each of these many beings which show up. Fear sits beside hope which sits beside sadness which sits across from joy which is next to anger which is next to love and so on. They come, hang around for as long as they do and are then back on their way, if “we” are not there to block their journey. When there is just this, then the host of awareness and the guest of whatever is visiting are in complete harmony.


 Mr C:

Huangpo said all that is needed is to cease attachment and stop ruminationSkylinens Snoovatar

12:56 AM

Soh replied: 

huang po also said "It is the sudden realization that there is neither Buddha nor sentient beings, neither subject nor object.", "A perception, sudden as blinking, that subject and object are one, will lead to a deeply mysterious wordless understanding; and by this understanding will you awake to the truth of Zen.", and so on

At the time of his enlightenment, Zen Master Huangpo said, "When I hear the sound of the bell ringing, there is no bell, and also no I, only ringing-sound."

many other zen masters said likewise, such as, (excerpts from )

Zen master Munan said, “There is nothing to Buddhism—just see directly, hear directly. When seeing directly, there is no seer; when hearing directly, there is no hearer.”

>Shidō Munan (至道無難, 1602-1676) was an early Tokugawa Zen master mostly active in Edo. He was the teacher of Shōju Rōjin, who is in turn considered the main teacher of Hakuin Ekaku. He is best known for the phrase that one must "die while alive," made famous by D.T. Suzuki.


Another Zen Master said,

'You get up in the morning, dress, wash your face, and so on; you call these miscellaneous thoughts, but all that is necessary is that there be no perceiver or perceived when you perceive—no hearer or heard when you hear, no thinker or thought when you think. Buddhism is very easy and very economical; it spares effort, but you yourself waste energy and make your own hardships.'

(Foyan Qingyuan, in Instant Zen, p 70)

so a key insight is the insight into anatman, no self, for zen enlightenment

zen is not simply a state of suspending mental concepts, it requires an awakening, a satori, a seeing into the nature of mind, empty of self and luminous

or said in another way,

"The process of eradicating avidyā (ignorance) is conceived… not as a mere stopping of thought, but as the active realization of the opposite of what ignorance misconceives. Avidyā is not a mere absence of knowledge, but a specific misconception, and it must be removed by realization of its opposite. In this vein, Tsongkhapa says that one cannot get rid of the misconception of 'inherent existence' merely by stopping conceptuality any more than one can get rid of the idea that there is a demon in a darkened cave merely by trying not to think about it. Just as one must hold a lamp and see that there is no demon there, so the illumination of wisdom is needed to clear away the darkness of ignorance." - Napper, Elizabeth, 2003, p. 103"

 Zen masters on Anatman and No Mind

A monk asked, ‘Master, why do you say that mind is Buddha?’

Mazu said, ‘To stop babies from crying.’

The monk said, ‘What do you say when they stop crying?’

Mazu said, ‘No mind, no Buddha.’

Zen master Munan said, “There is nothing to Buddhism—just see directly, hear directly.  When seeing directly, there is no seer; when hearing directly, there is no hearer.”

>Shidō Munan (至道無難, 1602-1676) was an early Tokugawa Zen master mostly active in Edo. He was the teacher of Shōju Rōjin, who is in turn considered the main teacher of Hakuin Ekaku. He is best known for the phrase that one must "die while alive," made famous by D.T. Suzuki.


Another Zen Master said,

'You get up in the morning, dress, wash your face, and so on; you call these miscellaneous thoughts, but all that is necessary is that there be no perceiver or perceived when you perceive—no hearer or heard when you hear, no thinker or thought when you think. Buddhism is very easy and very economical; it spares effort, but you yourself waste energy and make your own hardships.'

(Foyan Qingyuan, in Instant Zen, p 70)


At the time of his enlightenment, Zen Master Huangpo said, "When I hear the sound of the bell ringing, there is no bell, and also no I, only ringing-sound."


The myriad forms of the entire universe are the seal of the single Dharma. Whatever forms are seen are but the perception of mind. But mind is not independently existent. It is co-dependent with form.

- Zen Master Mazu


“But how could one [even] gain the ability to know that it is no-mind [that sees, hears, feels, and knows]?"

"Just try to find out in every detail: What appearance does mind have? And if it can be apprehended: is [what is apprehended] mind or not? Is [mind] inside or outside, or somewhere in between? As long as one looks for mind in these three locations, one's search will end in failure. Indeed, searching it anywhere will end in failure. That's exactly why it is known as no-mind."”

“At this, the disciple all at once greatly awakened and realized for the first time that there is no thing apart from mind, and no mind apart from things. All of his actions became utterly free. Having broken through the net of all doubt, he was freed of all obstruction.”

Doctrine of No Mind by Bodhidharma, see and

Dissolving the Mind


Though purifying mind is the essence of practicing the Way, it is not done by clinging at the mind as a glorified and absolute entity. It is not that one simply goes inward by rejecting the external world. It is not that the mind is pure and the world is impure. When mind is clear, the world is a pure-field. When mind is deluded, the world is Samsara. Bodhidharma said,

Seeing with insight, form is not simply form, because form depends on mind. And, mind is not simply mind, because mind depends on form. Mind and form create and negate each other.  …  Mind and the world are opposites, appearances arise where they meet. When your mind does not stir inside, the world does not arise outside. When the world and the mind are both transparent, this is the true insight.” (from the Wakeup Discourse)

Just like the masters of Madhyamaka, Bodhidharma too pointed out that mind and form are interdependently arising. Mind and form create each other. Yet, when you cling to form, you negate mind. And, when you cling to mind, you negate form. Only when such dualistic notions are dissolved, and only when both mind and the world are transparent (not turning to obstructing concepts) the true insight arises.

In this regard, Bodhidharma said,

Using the mind to look for reality is delusion. 

Not using the mind to look for reality is awareness.

(from the Wakeup Discourse)

So, to effectively enter the Way, one has to go beyond the dualities (conceptual constructs) of mind and form. As far as one looks for reality as an object of mind, one is still trapped in the net of delusion (of seeing mind and form as independent realities), never breaking free from it. In that way, one holds reality as something other than oneself, and even worse, one holds oneself as a spectator to a separate reality!

When the mind does not stir anymore and settles into its pristine clarity, the world does not stir outside. The reality is revealed beyond the divisions of Self and others, and mind and form.  Thus, as you learn not to use the mind to look for reality and simply rests in the natural state of mind as it is, there is the dawn of pristine awareness –  knowing reality as it is, non-dually and non-conceptually.

When the mind does not dissolve in this way to its original clarity, whatever one sees is merely the stirring of conceptuality. Even if we try to construct a Buddha’s mind, it only stirs and does not see reality. Because, the Buddha’s mind is simply the uncompounded clarity of Bodhi (awakening), free from stirring and constructions. So, Bodhidharma said,

That which ordinary knowledge understands is also said to be within the boundaries of the norms. When you do not produce the mind of a common man, or the mind of a sravaka or a bodhisattva, and when you do not even produce a Buddha-mind or any mind at all, then for the first time you can be said to have gone outside the boundaries of the norms. If no mind at all arises, and if you do not produce understanding nor give rise to delusion, then, for the first time, you can be said to have gone outside of everything. (From the Record #1, of the Collection of Bodhidharma’s Works3 retrieved from Dunhuang Caves)


From Bendowa, by Zen Master Dogen

Question Ten:

Some have said: Do not concern yourself about birth-and-death. There is a way to promptly rid yourself of birth-and-death. It is by grasping the reason for the eternal immutability of the 'mind-nature.' The gist of it is this: although once the body is born it proceeds inevitably to death, the mind-nature never perishes. Once you can realize that the mind-nature, which does not transmigrate in birth-and-death, exists in your own body, you make it your fundamental nature. Hence the body, being only a temporary form, dies here and is reborn there without end, yet the mind is immutable, unchanging throughout past, present, and future. To know this is to be free from birth-and-death. By realizing this truth, you put a final end to the transmigratory cycle in which you have been turning. When your body dies, you enter the ocean of the original nature. When you return to your origin in this ocean, you become endowed with the wondrous virtue of the Buddha-patriarchs. But even if you are able to grasp this in your present life, because your present physical existence embodies erroneous karma from prior lives, you are not the same as the sages.

"Those who fail to grasp this truth are destined to turn forever in the cycle of birth-and-death. What is necessary, then, is simply to know without delay the meaning of the mind-nature's immutability. What can you expect to gain from idling your entire life away in purposeless sitting?"

What do you think of this statement? Is it essentially in accord with the Way of the Buddhas and patriarchs?

Answer 10:

You have just expounded the view of the Senika heresy. It is certainly not the Buddha Dharma.

According to this heresy, there is in the body a spiritual intelligence. As occasions arise this intelligence readily discriminates likes and dislikes and pros and cons, feels pain and irritation, and experiences suffering and pleasure - it is all owing to this spiritual intelligence. But when the body perishes, this spiritual intelligence separates from the body and is reborn in another place. While it seems to perish here, it has life elsewhere, and thus is immutable and imperishable. Such is the standpoint of the Senika heresy.

But to learn this view and try to pass it off as the Buddha Dharma is more foolish than clutching a piece of broken roof tile supposing it to be a golden jewel. Nothing could compare with such a foolish, lamentable delusion. Hui-chung of the T'ang dynasty warned strongly against it. Is it not senseless to take this false view - that the mind abides and the form perishes - and equate it to the wondrous Dharma of the Buddhas; to think, while thus creating the fundamental cause of birth-and-death, that you are freed from birth-and-death? How deplorable! Just know it for a false, non-Buddhist view, and do not lend a ear to it.

I am compelled by the nature of the matter, and more by a sense of compassion, to try to deliver you from this false view. You must know that the Buddha Dharma preaches as a matter of course that body and mind are one and the same, that the essence and the form are not two. This is understood both in India and in China, so there can be no doubt about it. Need I add that the Buddhist doctrine of immutability teaches that all things are immutable, without any differentiation between body and mind. The Buddhist teaching of mutability states that all things are mutable, without any differentiation between essence and form. In view of this, how can anyone state that the body perishes and the mind abides? It would be contrary to the true Dharma.

Beyond this, you must also come to fully realize that birth-and-death is in and of itself nirvana. Buddhism never speaks of nirvana apart from birth-and-death. Indeed, when someone thinks that the mind, apart from the body, is immutable, not only does he mistake it for Buddha-wisdom, which is free from birth-and-death, but the very mind that makes such a discrimination is not immutable, is in fact even then turning in birth-and-death. A hopeless situation, is it not?

You should ponder this deeply: since the Buddha Dharma has always maintained the oneness of body and mind, why, if the body is born and perishes, would the mind alone, separated from the body, not be born and die as well? If at one time body and mind were one, and at another time not one, the preaching of the Buddha would be empty and untrue. Moreover, in thinking that birth-and-death is something we should turn from, you make the mistake of rejecting the Buddha Dharma itself. You must guard against such thinking.

Understand that what Buddhists call the Buddhist doctrine of the mind-nature, the great and universal aspect encompassing all phenomena, embraces the entire universe, without differentiating between essence and form, or concerning itself with birth or death. There is nothing - enlightenment and nirvana included - that is not the mind-nature. All dharmas, the "myriad forms dense and close" of the universe - are alike in being this one Mind. All are included without exception. All those dharmas, which serves as "gates" or entrances to the Way, are the same as one Mind. For a Buddhist to preach that there is no disparity between these dharma-gates indicates that he understands the mind-nature.

In this one Dharma [one Mind], how could there be any differentiate between body and mind, any separation of birth-and-death and nirvana? We are all originally children of the Buddha, we should not listen to madmen who spout non-Buddhist views.

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Blue Cliff Record, Case #89
Yunyan asked Daowu, “How does the Bodhisattva of Great Compassion (Guan Yin) use so many hands and eyes?”
Daowu said, “It’s just like a person in the middle of the night reaching in search of a pillow.”
Yunyan said, “I understand.”
Daowu said, “How do you understand it?
Yunyan said, “All over the body are hands and eyes.”
Daowu said, “What you said is all right, but it’s only eighty percent of it.”
Yunyan said, “I’m like this, elder brother. How do you understand it?”
Daowu said, “Throughout the body are hands and eyes.”
Yin Ling, Jayson MPaul and 10 others


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    Was reminded of what John Tan said more than 10 years ago:
    ""Hi Jax, Despite all differences we may have about lower yanas, no practices needed, Absolute… I really appreciate your zealous attempt to bring this message into view and I agree with you wholeheartedly on this aspect of “transmission”. If one truly wants this essence to be “transmitted”, how can it be otherwise? For what that is to be passed is truly of different dimension, how can it be adulterated with words and forms? The ancient teachers are extremely serious observing and waiting for the right condition to pass the essence unreservedly and wholeheartedly. So much so that when the essence is transmitted, it must boil the blood and penetrate deep into the bone marrow. The entire body-mind must become one opening eye. Once open, everything turns “spirit”, mind intellect drops and what’s left is aliveness and intelligence everywhere! Jax, I sincerely hope you well, just don’t leave trace in the Absolute. Gone!""
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  • Soh Wei Yu
    Another quote by John Tan in 2013,
    "You must have a keen eye, every cell must turn alive and "spirit", get it? The phases of insights are analogous to energy channels, every passing through must make you more marvelous till you become one creative expression, one mighty alive action, one spirited activity"
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  • Max Ng
    Listen to this song can reach nirvana?
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    • Soh Wei Yu
      Max Ng Nice song. I dunno what's the lyrics hehe but if you listen while contemplating "in the heard just the heard with no you in terms of that" like the Buddha taught Bahiya, Bahiya almost instantly attained nirvana even though he only met the Buddha for the first time. So yes it's possible. But of course not everybody gets it first time.
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  • Collin Wong
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  • Cheng Chen
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  • Jayson MPaul
    This is a great expression of what keeps coming up through practice. How all is just the body of Avalokiteshvara. Every sensation is the many hands and eyes
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