Of Jedi Knights and Santoshi Mata

Of Jedi Knights and Santoshi Mata

The 1977 movie Star Wars IV: A New Hope mentioned the Jedi knights for the first time, and they were instantly popular. They have remained the central theme of subsequent movies as well as novels and games based on that franchise. Although these knights are entirely fictional, it seems that their creator, George Lucas, has based them on a hodgepodge of religious perspectives. The movie franchises were spectacularly successful and thus now you have a group of fans calling themselves followers of Jedi-ism. With the arrival of the internet, this new religion got to spread rapidly and now has thousands of followers. Followers acknowledge the movies as fiction but recognize religious truths in various statements made throughout them, specifically those referring to the Jedi and the Force. If the West can create a new religion from Hollywood, should Bollywood be left behind? Certainly not! A whole two years before Star Wars, Bollywood launched the career of a new goddess —SantoshiMaa! Many do not bother at all that her story has no scriptural basis whatsoever! This new goddess has remained popular. This may be the first time that a new divine personality, her story, her rites and rituals (vrata) and the perceived benefits of becoming her devotee — all of these are derived from the movie script alone! Let us try to understand what drives a person to this kind of worship. We all have a particular type of faith. Now who is to decide whether this faith is good or bad? Kåñëa Kåñëa explains in the Bhagavad-gétä that one’s faith is considered good, passionate or ignorant according to one’s...
Where Friendly Talks Failed

Where Friendly Talks Failed

At a particularly important point in his life, Arjuna decided that his friendship with Kåñëa was  actually causing him a lot of problems. Of course, the problem was not of Kåñëa’s doing. It was Arjuna who was not able to derive  proper advantage of being so close to Kåñëa. Arjuna was shirking his duty as a warrior. Even though the Päëòavas were wronged and this was a just fight, he was overwhelmed with compassion when he saw all the assembled soldiers on both sides. Lord Kåñëa tried to pacify Arjuna and encouraged him to regain his composure, but in the end Arjuna simply cast aside his weapons and held his  head in grief. If both of them were such close friends, why was Kåñëa smiling when Arjuna was in such distress? This is one of the pivotal  moments of this divine narration, Bhagavad Gita. A child, for example, may be crying in distress, but the father is in complete knowledge of the situation and is therefore quite composed. This simple everyday event throws light on the foundations of Vedic culture – the guru-çiñya relationship. The guru-çiñya (teacher-student) relationship in spiritual life is slightly different from its counterpart in the material world. In our mundane world, the student may have no reverence for his teacher, and it perhaps does not matter. But in spiritual matters, the disciple has to very carefully choose his spiritual master, and the spiritual master in turn has to impart knowledge to a competent disciple. Arjuna’s objections in the first chapter of the Bhagavad-gétä were not successful in  gaining transcendental knowledge. But by  rejecting even an...
Four Sobering Thoughts on PK

Four Sobering Thoughts on PK

These are the four most prominent objections raised by the movie PK, and we have tried to address them: 1.PK says it is OK to deride Vedic gods. Poking fun at Vedic gods and goddesses:The Vedas teach that our material world is produced from intelligence.There is a concrete plan behind it. Vedic vision organizes all meaning andinformation in the universe into a hierarchy of consciousness and control.Living entities known as devas or demigods, direct all the activities ofmaterial nature. Far more advanced than us humans these devas reside ontheir own planets in the universe, with facilities, life spans, andpleasures far exceeding what humans can conceive of. Among the demigodgroups there are gradations of power and control. Some devas controlrelatively minute functions of nature, and some have massive portfolios.They have upadevas (sub-demigods) and many others under them too.“Who has seen the devas?”is the modern challenge. The Vedic reply wouldbe “Who today has the qualification to see?” Uniformity of observationalcapacity is never assumed in the Vedas. Knowledge, information isstate-specific; hence, the necessity of both acquiring the correct trainingand living the prescribed life style. Only then, is real knowledge revealed.In the present, Kali-yuga, the Age of Quarrel and Hypocrisy,the devas are notvisible due to the degradation of human beings and thus they keep themselvesout of human perception. 2. PK does not tell us the science behind Deity-worship. The confusion created by Vedas telling us to worship stone idolsThe Vedas teach that whatever we see is energy. And this energy has itssource, the Supreme Energetic One, or God. In the Bhagavad-gétäLord Kåñëa explains how everything is manifested from His own energy. Therefore whenGod...
Nine Processes Of Devotional Service

Nine Processes Of Devotional Service

In the Vedic scriptures devotional service unto Shree Krishna is described as joyfully performed and everlasting. This service is divided into nine processes: Hearing the name and glories of the Supreme Personality of Godhead; Chanting His glories Remembering the Lord Serving the Lord’s feet Worshiping the Deity Offering prayers unto the Lord Acting as the Lord’s servant Making friends with the Lord and Surrendering oneself fully to the Lord. shravaëam: Hearing of the holy name of the Lord is the beginning of devotional service. Although any one of the nine processes is sufficient, in chronological order the hearing of the holy name of the Lord is the beginning. Indeed, it is essential. As enunciated by Lord Shree Caitanya Mahäprabhu, by chanting the holy name of the Lord, one is cleansed of the material conception of life, which is due to the dirty modes of material nature. When the contamination is cleansed from the core of one’s heart, one can realize the form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Mahäräja Parékñit became perfect by hearing about Kåñëa. Kértanaà: A devotee can very peacefully chant the holy name of the Lord by behaving humbler than a blade of grass, being tolerant like a tree and offering respects to everyone, without expecting honor from anyone else. Such qualifications make it easier to chant the holy names. The process of transcendental chanting can be easily performed by anyone. Even if one is physically unfit, classified lower than others, devoid of material qualifications or not at all elevated in terms of pious activities, the chanting of the holy name is beneficial. An aristocratic birth,...
From fear to hope, Ushering a new era of change

From fear to hope, Ushering a new era of change

One day after giving a lecture I was sitting on a wooden bench under a Kadamba tree in the forest, watching a butterfly.It looked such a beautiful creation of God. She was drinking nectar from flower to flower and I was chanting my mantra. “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare” very softly and very peacefully. I felt a million miles away from the city of Mumbai. Suddenly through the iron gates three of our students ran after me. I can practically hear their hearts pounding. One of them told me that this student was just riding in a train and there was a bomb blast. He saw some bodies hanging with blood streaming.  There were businessmen and laborers. There were women running with little babies screaming and crying. There were also beggars. There was no differentiation. As they were speaking and explaining this to me, I got a phone call. I ran upstairs and answered. He was one of the leaders of Bhaktivedanta Hospital. He said, “You should see the scene here”. It is horrible. Practically every minute, bodies are being brought in by ambulances, by rickshaws, on people’s backs. All our beds are full and practically the entire floor space of the Hospital every inch is covered with whether injured or dead bodies. This was July eleventh 2006. It was announced officially that 209 people died and about 700 were injured. Thousands of people lost loved ones and millions were terrorized. There were seven blasts in seven trains in a matter of eleven minutes. I reflected and remembered the...

Failures As Stepping Stones To Success

My spiritual master used to say that it is a principle that failure is the pillar of success. But it can be applied to our spiritual lives. One very famous speaker has said that “Success is going from failure to failure to failure, without losing ones enthusiasm.” We really never fail until we give up trying; trying, with determination and with enthusiasm. Vision means to see the invisible, to feel the intangible and to achieve the impossible. Actually challenges or failures can be stepping stones or stumbling blocks on the road to success. It is all a matter of how we look at it. You can see a glass as half empty, or you can see a glass as half full. One will bring you enthusiasm, the other will bring you discouragement. We can apply that principle to every aspect of our life. But what is of real importance is to know that we are dong the right thing. We learn from our mistakes. A mistake is only a mistake if we fail to learn from it. Real leaders make many, many mistakes, but they do not repeat them. They learn from them, they remain enthusiastic; they remain determined for the goal. Actual champions in every situation are always focused on their goals. They make goals; and losers make excuses. Our life is what we make of it. Failure is a very minor stumbling block on the road to success. Failures build character. Pressure is something, which only comes to one who earns it. We should respect pressures as an honour. We cannot be successful unless we have the...
Dying to Live

Dying to Live

The German philosopher Hegel spoke very strongly of the principle “Die to live” which is very much in harmony with the essential knowledge of the Bhagavad-Gita and the Vedas. Die to live – if you want to live in truth, you will have to die as you are in your present state of consciousness. Material illusory consciousness is one of exploitation, and real consciousness of the soul is a consciousness of service. Death to the ego is a process; it is the most important process that it is the very basis of all spiritual paths. Just like purifying gold. When you put gold in fire, the fire burns away all the gross coverings, and the longer the gold is in fire, the more its original, natural shine manifests. It becomes more and more and more beautiful. Sandalwood is another example – the more you press sandalwood or rub sandalwood, the more its natural, beautiful fragrance is manifested.  From one point of view, we can understand that theoretically we are the eternal soul, part of God. We are eternal servants of God. However, in our life and in the process of purification, in the process of making actual progress, there will be many challenges and obstacles that are threatening and fighting against the principle of what we want to achieve. However, if we, with proper integrity and proper spiritual direction, pass through those obstacles, they bring about realization. There is theoretical knowledge and through the process of overcoming so many obstacles on the path, we develop realization. In order to make progress on the spiritual path, in order to properly...

Conflict Resolution

Conflict is the very nature of this material world. Even cells within our bodies are in conflict. The subtlest of all elements of creation is the false ego. And all other elements are both evolving as well as resting upon the false ego. What is the false ego? It is the false sense of identity. The Bhagavad Gita explains that besides these eight gross and subtle elements there is another nature, a spiritual nature which is the source of consciousness, the source of life. And that is our real identity: that we are spirit souls. We are conscious beings. “I am this body and all the designations of this body are me. I am man or woman, I am black or red or yellow. I am American, or Indian, or Pakistani or Russian. I am Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Christian, and Buddhist. I am rich, I am poor”. These are all temporary designations.  They are not really the self, because they all change. The body is constantly changing. When you were an infant baby, you looked completely different.  In your youth your body grew and as an adult you saw further change.  Our spiritual master used to say that if you throw a stone in a pond it creates circles that expand to the end of the pond. If every stone is thrown in the same central place, all the circles will flow out harmoniously. If you throw many stones in different parts of the pond, each will have their center. Therefore all the circles will collide. The water will become chaotic. Unless human beings understand our common relationship with...

The Missing Photograph

What do you see in this photograph? Do you not see a happy family – mother and two lovely children. Does it ever occur to you. that there is something missing here ? Well, to many so-called educated people this is exactly how they see the world around them. They see mother nature and they are in awe about her capacity to produce everything in such variety. People also see humans, animals, reptiles, plants, birds and an almost endless array of creatures. These are the ‘children’ of ‘mother’ nature. It is mentioned in the Vedas that this mother provides bodies for her children in four ways – eggs, seeds, perspiration and embryos. Birds are born from eggs, trees and plants are born from seeds, some species like bugs are born from perspiration and humans are born from embryos. In this way eighty four lakh varieties of material bodies are available for the living entity. How does one get a material body? It’s simple. Material thoughts generate material bodies. And confined in a material body it is just assumed that one will be forced to think in material terms and thus the process goes on and on. There is simply no escape. No, wait! There is still one face missing in our photograph. The father. How can a mother give birth to a child without the seed provided by the father. But some scientist can claim that I am not able to see the father, therefore I am presuming that either nature is producing on her own or that the father is dead. Even in the most modern industrial plants...

The Most Popular Person | No God Up There

Over a 100 million in attendance, a mini-city springing on the banks of the confluence of three rivers,over 30,000 police personnel to give security, miles and miles of power cables, sewage pipelines and a budget of 1200 crore rupees. Unbelievable as it sounds, and all this for just forty days. No, this is not a political protest, rock concert or shopping extravaganza. In fact, in these days of religious and spiritual consciousness on the wane, nothing, absolutely nothing compares with this spectacular Vedic event. We are discussing the Kumbha-mela, dubbed the largest gathering of humanity on this planet. The exact historical origin of this gathering is a subject matter for scholars and empiricists to wrangle about, but when I visited the Mela on February 17, I was convinced that the Lord remains the most popular person – ever. I was not present during the busiest bathing dates, but yet I was very impressed with what I saw. Let me relate a personal incident. I was watching a group of pilgrims enter our camp and I saw that they were in front of our dismantled dioramas depicting Lord Vishnu saving the life of Gajendra the elephant. To my surprise, the group started to offer obeisance to those dioramas. I asked myself, “What is this that sustains their faith?” It seems that this is what is wrong with Hinduism today. People appear to just flock anywhere where salvation is promised. And especially at the Kumbha-mela, just one dip in the icy cold waters promises you mokse (liberation) from all your sins. But what could be the real reason behind this ancient...

Why do we hate?

“No one is born hating another because of the color of his skin/ his background/ or his religion. People must learn to hate/ and if they can learn to hate/ they can be taught to love/ for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”  – Nelson Mandela Nelson Mandela was born in racist South Africa. The then apartheid regime discriminated between whites and non-whites. The whites- only government declared some areas of the nation as the exclusive property of the white population and all other color groups were segregated and given their separate areas. Mr. Mandela dared oppose this discrimination and was labeled a terrorist and jailed for nearly three decades. Somehow, he prevailed, and after he was set free, he was elected the leader of the nation in the first elections in which all racial groups were allowed to cast their votes.lt is interesting to note that Mr. Mandela asserts that we need to be taught to hate. In today’s times it is not unusual to see a Palestinian mother say that she hopes that her children will continue to hate the Israelis and continue their struggle, or, as in the latest case of terrorism on US soil, the Boston Marathon bombings, where two American brothers of Chechen descent vented their hatred for all things American by planting two pressure-cooker bombs near the marathon event. In fact, one of the two brothers had let go of an ethnic Chinese taxi driver saying that, “We won’t hate you because you are not American.” Thus in this age it is easy for nations to hate other...

End of the world Predictions

  According to some calculations the world was supposed to end on the 20 December 2012 (20-12- 2012)!It was a Mayan (old South America) theory. Perhaps the numbers arranged in this fashion had something to do with this prediction. Anyway, if you are still reading this in the New Year 2013 then it is obvious that the world did not end. And you are ready to face the daily grind in your specific part of the cosmos. Talking about predictions, the Vedas are pretty clear about what is certainly going to be our lot in this particular age. The great sage Vyasadeva recorded a number of predictions in his Srimad-Bhagavatam, the essence of all Vedic knowledge. In a previous article written for this magazine Ravindra Svarupa Dasa described this event: “In his meditation, Vyasa sees a future of unrelieved horror unfold before him. He sees Kali-yuga, the age of iron, begin and bring with it universal deterioration. The decay is so deep-rooted that matter itself diminishes in potency, and all our food progressively decreases in quality as well as quantity. Vyasa sees the effects of chronic malnutrition on generation after generation; he watches it gradually diminish their span of life along with their brain power; no one can escape the progressive drop in intelligence and ability to remember. The harassment of hard times upon an increasingly witless populace hastens its moral and spiritual decline. People begin to slaughter animals for food; they become more and more enslaved by drugs; they lose all sexual restraint. These habits further their physical and mental deterioration. Vyasa watches them sink deeper and deeper...

Grandma’s Wisdom

A few days ago, my good friend Pranav, who is an avid trekker, shared this story with me. He hasled many groups into forests and hilly areas in many parts of India. On one such trek in a village in Maharashtra, they were attempting to begin their trek, when an old grandmother stopped them in their tracks and inquired about their plans. When she heard that they were about to spend most of their time on the mountaintop, she said that they wouldn’t find any proper facility for food or water. So she immediately decided to feed the entire group of fifteen some hot food before they began their walk. Although there was a murmur of protest, she did not pay any heed and proceeded to ask a few other ladies to help her. Within a short time, grandma was serving piping hot rice and vegetables to this group. Everybody was amazed at their service attitude and when they offered to compensate her, grandma wouldn’t listen at all. She flatly refused to accept even a token payment. Gradually the group made its way up the forest path and reached the top. There they were approached by a local shepherd who asked one member of the group whether they have any sliced bread. He explained that it was for his son who was rather fond of it. Since there were no shops around, he had surmised that these city folks should be sure to have some with them. As Pranav watched, the shepherd was simply brushed aside by the group, saying that they did not have any (although some were...

In Search Of Lost Love

The most incredible discovery of my life was the simple truth that all our desires have a single origin – forgetfulness of love that is dormant within our hearts. Finding   love is our greatest need because it brings true fulfillment in life. Love can empower us to be instruments of a positive change within this world beyond our imagination. Some years ago, I met Mother Teresa at Calcutta. She told me that the greatest problem in the world is hunger. Not hunger of the belly but hunger of the heart. People are lonely; people are emotionally starving and trying to fill it with so many other things. But the only thing that could nourish the heart is love for God. She told me that she knows some of the wealthiest people of the world living in New York, London, Sydney, Los Angeles etc. She saw them as starving people. And the greatest service, greatest welfare activity one can do in this world is to feed the hunger of the heart with God’s love. We have to have pure motivation in order to do so. We mistake temporary pleasures to be love. This mistaking of temporary sensations of the world lies at the very core of human conditions. These flickering sensations are like a mirage. A person who is in the desert is searching desperately for an oasis of water. But in that desperation due to longing and hopefulness, sometimes a mirage appears. It appears that that mirage can quench our thirst but all we get is a mouthful of hot sand in the end. So what is real love?...

Unity is Strength

Tonight’s topic has been pondered, reflected, and pursued since time immemorial –  how to create unity within this world?  One of the greatest powers in all fields of life is unity. But there is a fundamental problem, that there are so many diversified distinctions between living beings.  Everyone has their own conception of their identity, and this creates a natural conflict amongst those who look different, think different, or act different. There has always been conflict between the castes, not only in India but all over the world; it may go by different names.  There is the educational class, there is the administrative class, there is the working class, and there is the class of trade and agriculture.  There has always been distinctions and conflict between nationalities, between races, between religions, between generations of people’s ages, between sexes, between philosophers. On practically every level of the world, there is reason for conflict.  Even with a family, there’s the older brother and the younger brother that creates conflict because everyone has their separate, independent interests. There is an example:  if you throw a stone in a clear pond of water, wherever that stone falls it will create a circle and that circle will expand, expand, and expand.  If you put another stone and throw it into another part of that water, it will create another center, and from that center more and more the circle will get bigger and bigger.  However many different places you put stones, there will be different circles, and they will all collide and create a tumultuous situation in the water.  However, if you put every...

How To Achieve Self-confidence

Self-confidence is a very essential ingredient for success in any field of life. Without such confidence we are afraid to take risks. We also don’t have the courage to explore higher horizons in our capacity to perform our deeds within this world. Real self confidence is not based on our achievements or our successes in this material world but it is based on the fulfillment of who we are, what our purpose is and what we represent to ourselves, our families and to the world around us. If a person has such self confidence then he can generate confidence and faith in others .Actually to fail is not much of a loss, to lose one’s character & integrity is a major loss to our inner life. A person with proper disposition and attitude is willing to accept even major failures in the eyes of the world in order to preserve the high values that he or she believes in .If we’re willing to sell our ideals, our ethics, our character, our integrity, to sell our soul for the adoration of this world then our so called self confidence will be built on a foundation of sand. It has no real substance and it can bring us no real fulfillment. Six Common Indicators of Low Self Esteem Low self esteem really means a lack of really finding fulfillment within one’s inner life. 1. People with low self esteem like to gossip. Why? Because that’s what gives them pleasure. They do not have any substance inside. Whereas people who are actually self confident they speak of their ideals in life not...

Who is Famous?

In the Srimad-Bhagavatam we read about the story of Kardama Muni and his marriage with Devahuti. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Vishnu had consented to appear as the son of this saintly couple, in order to teach the science of self-realization. This particular avatara (incarnation) of the Supreme Lord is known as Lord Kapila and his science is famous as sankhya-yoga. Some time before the appearance of the Lord, Brahma comes to the ashrama of Kardama Muni and informs mother Devahuti as follows: “Your son will be the head of all the perfected souls. He will be approved by the acaryas expert in disseminating real knowledge, and among the people He will be celebrated by the name Kapila. As the son of Devahuti, He will increase your fame.” (Bhagavatam 3.24.19) I found it curious enough to do some investigation. Why would the Lord appearing as someone’s son increase the fame of that particular devotee? What follows are some observations gleaned from the Vedas. Fame is described in the Vedas as one of the original potencies, or shaktis, of Lord Krishna. His fame is eternal and ever-increasing. His lilas or pastimes enhance his fame furthermore. But there is one outstanding quality in the Lord: He is more happy to see His devotee becoming famous than Himself. Our first example is of Bhishmadeva. Although it was easily possible for him, Lord Krishna made Bhishmadeva famous by speaking to Yudhisthira Maharaja and relieving him of his distress. Yudhisthira was very much aggrieved due to the slaughter of many millions of soldiers on the battlefield of Kuruksetra. No greater an authority than...

Selling your Body?

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In form and while moving, how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In appearance, how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon among animals! – William Shakespeare Meet Mr. Steve Sewell from Cumbria, UK. At 58, unemployed and with a wife and two children to support, he tried to auction himself on the internet auction site eBay. But no one raised his starting bid from 99p (about Rs.90). He had listed his human body under Engineering Goods and described it as “some wear to moving parts, surface finish worn.” Since no one bid he has relisted himself. In case someone decides to sell himself in the black market then this is what one can expect for his body parts: human hair – Rs.4000, blood – Rs.1200 – Rs.4000, two eyeballs – Rs.9600, scalp – Rs.3600, skull with a full set of teeth – Rs.7200 (providing the jaw is in perfect condition and arthritis-free, a teetotaller’s liver – Rs.96000, human heart Rs.720,OOO. With recent successes in hand transplant procedure, a hand and a forearm could fetch you Rs.24000 and skin without tattoos goes for Rs.16000 for the full two meters. There is only one catch: as you would be making your body available after you die, you are probably worth more dead than alive! There is only one thing that the black marketers have missed consciousness. This is what the Vedic literatures like the Bhagavad-gita have pointed out as the real self. The eita defines consciousness as “that...

What Next?

It was quite a remarkable sight: a small boy standing beside his middle aged father, and his elderlygrandfather standing next. For some reason, I found this sight interesting. It evoked some philosophicalthoughts in me. A few decades ago, the same grandfather was also a small kid, running and playing around. He thengrew up, fathered a child and took responsibilities. And now the same person has grown older and iswitnessing the activities of the latest generation. What’s so great about this? One may wonder; everyone passes through these stages. That’s part of life.But even though it’s part of life, most of us fail to perceive one very important principle: the immutableimperishable spark of consciousness that enlivens the body. The body, as we see, is continuously changing-from boyhood to adulthood to old age. The mind and the intelligence of the person alsochange. With time, one grows physically, mentally and intellectually. But all throughout, the person’s identity remains the same one retains the same name and other personal detailsal most always.. Faced with this information, a thoughtful person starts thinking: Who is the real person is it the body orsomething beyond it? Does everything finish at death with the end of the body, or do we continue toexist in some form or the other? If yes, what determines our new body? The process of accepting a new body is known as reincarnation. The Bhagavad-gitti explains this phenomenon in great detail. Dehino ‘smin yatha dehe kaumaram yauvanam jara/ tatha dehantara- praptir: “As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, thesoul similarly passes into another body...

Stop Worrying Start Living

Worry in this world is caused due to a lack of inner spiritual fulfillment. The foundation of a building cannot be seen from outside. Externally we only see the architecture, furniture, marble etc. But it is the foundation that holds it up and gives it strength.   Thus our mind is stable when it has a strong spiritual foundation. Storms may come in the form of reversals, but if we have that foundation of inner fulfillment we deal with it with a very clear and practical mind therefore they do not disrupt us. There could be numberless reasons for which we keep on worrying. We may be worried about our health, wealth, loved ones, friends, what happened yesterday or what is going to happen tomorrow, the environment or world politics. The nature of this world is that we have to face birth, old age, disease and death. Everything is always changing. The biggest problem is that we want to control our environment. However, the eternal reality is that you and I are not the controllers. To some degree we do have influence but ultimately things are out of our control. So to the degree we are attached to any thing or anyone on this worldly platform there will be worries. Attachment brings worry. During the monsoon rains a puddle of water gets bigger but during the dry season all the water dries out. It is very much affected due to rains. But the ocean whether it is the dry season or the monsoon rains it remains the same. What is the difference – the puddle has no depth. Therefore it’s...
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