विशुद्धज्ञानदेहाय त्रिवेदि दिव्यचक्षुषे,
श्रेयः प्राप्तिनिमित्ताय नमः सोमार्धधारिणे॥
viśuddhajñānadehāya trivedi divyacakṣuṣe|
śreyaḥ prāptinimittāya namaḥ somārdhadhāriṇe||
We prostrate, for the sake of attaining shreyas, to the One who adorns the crescent moon on His head, who is of the form of Pure Consciousness established in the Vedas, and who has the divine eye of adhyaatmic wisdom.
I bow to the one who has ear-rings adorned with the shine of moonlight, to Bhavani, to the one who is like a river of nectar to extinguish the scorching of this mortal world.
When Karma doesn’t fructify
We do so many good things. Sometimes, upon failing to get the results of those actions, we assume that the karma is ineffective. We do not think about what went wrong in our carrying out of the karma; instead we develop ashraddha (a loss of trust or faith). While doing the karma, there is shraddha in the person. However, when the expected result is not obtained, then what is to be done? The doctor has given the medicine for curing the illness; but that medicine is not working. Then what does this person say – “This doctor is of no use” – that is the attitude. “Whether this doctor is useless, or have you not done in accordance with his prescription?” – if asked thus, well, the answer is that he had not even listened to what the doctor said attentively. Even if he had heard, he had not acted accordingly. Therefore, simply taking the medicine given by the doctor, and not following any other prescriptions like dietary restrictions given, he was going about as he liked. Thus, his illness was not cured. But he arrived at the conclusion that the doctor was the one who was useless.
पथ्यम् औषधसेवा च क्रियते येन रोगिना।
pathyam auṣadhasevā ca kriyate yena roginā|
Only if a patient keeps up the requisite diet along with the medicines, he gets back his health. If no diet is maintained, if one eats whatever one wants, but continues to take medicine, there is no guarantee that his illness will be cured. In fact, it might increase as well.
Thus, considering this, if we enquire deeply into the way we have performed karma, and if our performance is found to be spotless, but yet the karma has not borne fruit, then it is agreeable to decide that shastra is not correct in prescribing this karma. But this is not how we do it.
In doing any karma, there is an appropriate procedure. If it is punya-karma (a good karma done according to shaastra), then we have to start with a process called puṇyāhavacanam. Why do we do this? It is said – तत्र आदौ स्थलसिद्ध्यर्थम् tatra ādau sthalasiddhyartham – in order to purify the place where we perform this punya-karma. It may be clean of the physical (gross) impurities. In order to cleanse the subtle impurities in that area, like those caused by bhūta-pretas, duṣṭa-śaktis, and as a result of that place being used by people who do not have the qualification to use it, etc. These also have to be cleansed. When we do our karma in a place which is physically as well as subtly clean, then we will get the result of that karma. Otherwise, the results might not come.
In the same way, a person may do a lot of Bhagavad-dhyāna– meditation on Ishwara. He will not know how to do it properly, he will follow some haphazard method told by someone, who has no authority in this subject. Thus, neither the meditation goes well, nor he gets any result. So, he thinks meditation is not useful and keeps himself away from it.
How to do any karma – The attitude of bhakti
Bhagavatpaada Shankaracharya has mentioned in the Shivaananda Lahari
भक्तो भक्तिगुणावृते मुदमृतापूर्णे प्रसन्ने मनः कुम्भे
साम्ब तवान्घ्रि-पल्लवयुगम् सन्स्थाप्य-सन्वित्-फलं
सत्त्वं मन्त्रमुदीरयन् निजशरीरागारशुद्धिं वहन्
पुण्याहं प्रकटीकरोमि रुचिरं कल्याणमापादयन्॥
bhakto bhakti-guṇāvṛte mudamṛtā-pūrṇe prasanne manaḥ kumbhe
sāmba tavānghri-pallavayugam sansthāpya-sanvit-phalaṁ
sattvaṁ mantramudīrayan nijaśarīrāgāraśuddhiṁ vahan
puṇyāhaṁ prakaṭīkaromi ruciraṁ kalyāṇamāpādayan||
Thus – kalyāṇamāpādayan ruciraṁ puṇyāhaṁ prakaṭīkaromi – “being a person who desires for kalyaana (the most beneficial attainment, or moksha) I will perform the punyaaha–karma“, Bhagavatpaada said. By whom is it done? bhakto bhakti-guṇāvṛte – by the one who is a bhakta, who has bhakti.
What is bhakti?
What is this bhakti like? – It is said – सा त्वस्मिन्परमप्रेमरूपा – sā tvasmin paramapremarūpā-Bhakti is the attitude of supreme love towards the Lord. Everyone who is a bhakta has some amount of love for the Lord, but it is limited to the extent that his desires are fulfilled. Like it is said – उपाध्यायश्च वैद्याश्च कार्यान्ते अप्रयोजकाः – upādhyāyaśca vaidyāśca kāryānte aprayojakāḥ – the doctor and the upaadhyaaya are useful only until the job is done. In that category, we put Bhagavaan also. As far as what we desired for doesn’t happen, we go to the Lord and pray to him in the temple. After the desire is fulfilled, one stops going to the temple. Bhakti is not to be like that. How then? It is thus said – sā tvasmin paramapremarūpā. We may love so many things in this world. However, such love for worldly objects is always short-lived. For example, a father may adore his child who is yet a baby. When the child grows up, he begins to ask for things which the father does not want to get him. Thus, there may be an argument between them. This argument can become huge, and the relationship may be completely broken.
Atman is alone the object of love
What is the reason for such worldly love being short-lived? Bhagavatpaada has mentioned the reason that one truly loves only one thing, and love for other worldly things is not real love or prema. What is that thing which one truly loves? He has said – It is that ātmākhyavastu, the Atman, one’s own self. This Atman, the “I”, alone is the object of one’s supreme love, always, it is the paramapremāspada. In and through whatever things one may love, one may desire for, it is not really those things which are loved, but only oneself. We may think that we love our children, but we love them only because doing so gives us happiness. Bhagavatpaada has said:
यस्माद्यावत्प्रियं स्यादिह हि विषयतस्तावदस्मिन्प्रियत्वं
यावद्दुःखं च यस्माद्भवति खलु ततस्तावदेवाप्रियत्वं।
नैकस्मिन्सर्वकालेऽस्त्युभयमपि कदाप्यप्रियोऽपि प्रियः स्यात्
प्रेयानप्यप्रियो वा सततमपि ततः प्रेय आत्माख्यवस्तु॥
yasmādyāvatpriyaṁ syādiha hi viṣayatastāvadasminpriyatvaṁ
yāvadduḥkhaṁ ca yasmādbhavati khalu tatastāvadevāpriyatvaṁ|
naikasminsarvakāle’styubhayamapi kadāpyapriyo’pi priyaḥ syāt
preyānapyapriyo vā satatamapi tataḥ preya ātmākhyavastu|| – Shatashloki
This ātmākhyavastu is desirable to all at all the times. For oneself, one is always desirable. Whatever anyone may think about oneself, but one always thinks and desires the best for oneself. This is the nature of all humans. This love for oneself is only mistakenly placed towards one’s body and mind. It is instead to be recognized as love for that primal source from which one has arisen, which is nothing, but Paramashiva Himself. It is that Ishwara, Paramashiva, who Himself is appearing as the jiva, the individual. Thus, that kind of desire, which one has towards oneself (as an individual, jiva), that has to be placed towards Ishwara. This is the meaning of what has been said in the Shaastra – sā tvasmin paramapremarūpā. Everyone and everything except ourselves will leave us, but we cannot escape our own self.
One question may come to us at this juncture – what about the man who commits suicide? Doesn’t he want to erase himself, get rid of his existence? The correct understanding, however, is that every individual, who commits suicide does so desiring happiness or peace for himself. Moreover, in order that he may remain happy or peaceful, he seeks to get rid of his body too – this is the understanding. Thus, such a love is worthy for the Atman alone, and it is truly had only for the Atman alone. This supreme constant love for oneself is present in any common man. However, such a supreme love has to be directed towards Ishwara, who is the source of everything. The supremacy of this love is that it is ever the same, and having such supreme love for Ishwara means there is no object of love greater than Ishwara.
Thus, if one has such supreme love for Ishwara, then he alone is truly a bhakta. If such a supreme love is not had for Ishwara, then what? Shaastra says – न स भृत्यः स वै वणिक् – na sa bhṛtyaḥ sa vai vaṇik – not a bhakta, but a merchant, a trader. If one claims to be a servant of Ishwara, then one has to have such uncompromising love for Ishwara. Otherwise, one is just like a trader. As long as the buyer gives money, he will sell his goods. If no money is given, then he will also stop his transactions. One should not have such a business-like mindset towards Ishwara.
The attitude of bhakti according to Shivanandalahari
The Shivanandalahari shloka says – bhakti-guṇāvṛte mudamṛtā-pūrṇe prasanne manaḥ kumbhe – characterizing the mind of a true devotee with all its qualifications [When we do a puṇyāhavacanam, a ritualistic purification using water, we use a kalaśa/kumbha, a sacred pot holding sacred water, which is sprinkled to perform the puṇyāhavacanam. The qualities of a mind with bhakti is identified with the decorations of the pot] When we do a punya karma, how must our minds be? It is mentioned here – bhakti-guṇāvṛte – the pot or kalaśa which is used in the puṇyāhavacanam is covered by a thread typically. The sacred pot here is the mind itself – manaḥ kumbhe. How should this sacred pot be decorated? – by the thread which is the supreme love for Bhagavaan – thus, bhakti-guṇāvṛte. The mind which is the sacred pot should be covered by the sacred thread, which is the devotion for Bhagavaan.
What else? – mudamṛtā-pūrṇe – this sacred pot, which is the mind, should be filled with that water, amṛtam, which is contentment itself. Generally in puṇyāhavacanam, the kalaśa is to be filled with either clean water or rice. It cannot be used in a ritualistic way without filling it up with one of these two. Thus, here the mind kalaśa is to be filled with the waters of contentment – muda. One may have crores of money or just have enough to make ends meet, but devoid of contentment or santhosha, even crores of money is not useful. We hear of many powerful people falter from the path of Dharma. Why? – Because there is no contentment in their minds. If contentment is there, then whatever may be the physical situation, one goes through life without affecting others and having mental peace. It is also said – असन्तुष्ठो द्विजो नष्टः सन्तुष्ठो पार्थिवस्तथा – asantuṣṭho dvijo naṣṭaḥ santuṣṭho pārthivastathā – a wise man who understands that the physical body is for the service of Ishwara and Dharma should have santhosha or contentment. Only such a person is fit for performing Dharma, as his mind is kept calm generally. If he doesn’t have santhosha, it is not possible for him to do anything properly as his mind is ever disturbed. If the mind is not kept calm, then there is no possibility of keeping the mind fixed on Ishwara or having the power of discriminating between what is to be done or not to be done. Thus, the bhakta must keep his mind-kalaśa filled with the waters of contentment – mudamṛtā-pūrṇe.
Bhagavatpaada Shankaracharya further mentions another characteristic that should be there – prasanne. Even if there is contentment in the mind, if the mind is fraught with thoughts, then the mind is not prasannam. What is the characteristic prasanna mind? It is one which has- viṣayāntara-saṁcara-rāhityaṁ – the capability of not fixating on any viṣaya, any external objects. When one is sitting for contemplation on Bhagavaan, if the mind is continuously running behind other things, then how can it be prasannam? Therefore, Shankaracharya has said – prasanne.
Now, if it is a sacred pot, generally some tender mango leaves are placed on top of it. Here what is the equivalent thing that is to be placed upon the mind? Bhagavatpaada has said – sāmba tavānghri-pallavayugam – the Lord’s feet, which are like tender leaves, are to be placed firmly upon the mind. What is the meaning of placing the Lord’s feet on the mind? To think is natural to the mind, and instead of thinking about any other thing without utility, the mind has to be engaged in thinking about the Lord and His nature. This contemplation of the mind on the Lord is referred to here as “placing His feet on the mind”. Thus sāmba tavānghri-pallavayugam sansthāpya-saṁvit-phalaṁ. What is the fruit of placing the Lord’s feet in the mind? It is said -saṁvit-phalaṁ. Knowledge of the Atman, which is the ultimate imperishable `attainment’, is the result. Apart from this, if there is any other result, like going to svarga or any other lokās (worlds and experiences), there is always punarāvṛtti , there will be a return from such states. Therefore, the only real attainment to be desired for is ātmajñāna – the knowledge of the Atman.
This ātmajñāna doesn’t have to be placed by us upon the mind here, just as we would place the coconut on the sacred-pot. It comes and sits there of its own accord, provided one abides by what Shankaracharya has said – sattvaṁ mantramudīrayan – ‘by chanting the mantra that “He is I” ‘. What does this mean?
At present, we are under the assumption that `I and the Lord are different’. However, according to Shaastra, even during our regular pūjā time, it is prescribed –
देहो देवालय प्रोक्ता जीवो देवः सनातनः
त्यजेद्-अज्ञान-निर्माल्यम् सोहं भावेन पूजयेत्
deho devālaya proktā jīvo devaḥ sanātanaḥ
tyajed-ajñāna-nirmālyam sohaṁ bhāvena pūjayet
When we are doing pūjā to Bhagavaan, the prescription is – sohaṁ bhāvena pūjayet – “with the attitude of that ‘He is I’ ” – one should have the attitude that the Lord is non-different from one’s innermost Self. This is true for both kinds of meditative pūjā– meditation on the nirguṇa nirākāra Brahman (the Lord understood as being devoid of all qualities and forms), as well as the saguṇa sākāra Ishwara (the Lord understood as being with all qualities and forms). Why is it said so?
When we consider Lord as being nirguṇa nirākāra Brahman, then apart from this Brahman, there is nothing else. Thus, the jīvā, the individual, has no existence apart from the Lord as Brahman, and thus it is clear that such meditation can proceed only based on this oneness. However, the prescription is – sohaṁ bhāvena pūjayet – even when we consider saguṇa sākāra Ishwara. What does this mean? Does it mean that one has to do the arcanā to oneself, take all the sacred offerings, and consume them oneself? Not at all. The idea is, just as you would take care of yourself devotedly, taking care of each of your unique requirements, making sure you are comfortable, similarly one has to do pūjā for the Lord. Sometimes, when people present naivedyam (food offering) to the Lord, it is taken directly from the stove and presented. No diligence is paid to checking whether it is too hot or too cold. But when one oneself proceeds to eat, effort is made to make sure that it is in the perfect temperature. What this implies is that one often has the feeling that the Lord is basically a material thing, an inanimate object. One feels, “This heat cannot harm the Shivalinga, which is inanimate; if there is anything it can harm, it is only my tongue. So there is no problem with presenting the Shivalinga with extremely hot food which is non-palatable”.
This attitude is wrong. It is essential that any food stuff which is to be presented as naivedyam to the Lord must be in the state where it is palatable by oneself. If not, this becomes an example of doing pūjā to the Lord with tāmasī śraddhā [Gita 17.2]. This should not be the case with us. When we say to the Lord, gandhaṁ samarpayāmi – “I offer fragrant sandalwood paste to You”, then the sandalwood should be having such a fragrance that it attracts even ourselves a bit. It should not be that one says gandhaṁ samarpayāmi, but offers a non-fragrant, unworthy, paste, which has not a semblance of quality of sandalwood paste. Some people also do this – they have a mūrti (figurine) of the Lord, and they keep on applying oil to the mūrti, and continue their daily worship of the same. If we touch this mūrti, then our hands themselves become dirty and oily. Should the Lord suffer this when we ourself are cringing? When we are bent on keeping ourselves neat and tidy, should not the Lord also be kept in that way? Such a thought never comes to some people, as the attitude is that Bhagavaan is different from oneself.
And this is the reason why it is said that one has to have the attitude that the mūrti of the Lord is a conscious entity just like me, – sohaṁ bhāvena pūjayet. One should think, “If I am to serve this mūrti in any way, then it should be in the same way as I would serve myself, with care and affection and diligence”. Even if it is offering a coconut, care must be taken to ensure that it has not started to decay inside. This is the attitude to be adopted when the Lord is worshipped as Ishwara, the repository of good qualities. When meditating on the Lord as Brahman, the one without any qualities whatsoever, there no difference at all between the Lord and oneself as a matter of fact. Hence, – sattvaṁ mantramudīrayan – one has to keep in mind this attitude described here.
Then, Bhagavatpaada says – nijaśarīrāgāraśuddhiṁ vahan (purification of the body which is like a house) – if one acts according to the prescription above, then one’s own body and mind will be purified. The water in the sacred-pot can be used for puṇyāhavacana ritual, which is used for purifying a physical place, which provides space for people. After doing this ritual alone, one proceeds to successfully complete a dhārmika karma, as prescribed by the Shaastra. In the same way, if the mind is kept in this way, bound with bhakti and the memory of the Lord, holding that ātmajñāna is the only worthy fruit that is to be attained, remembering that the Lord is a caitanya vastu, a conscious entity, and keeping śraddhā in the fact that our worship of the Lord will bear fruit certainly, then such a mind purifies itself as well as the body which houses- the jīvā.
Holding all these attitudes in mind, If one proceeds to do one’s karma, then the karma, which we do becomes equivalent to karma done after completing the puṇyāhavacana ritual, and only then it becomes successful. If these attitudes are not kept in the mind, then it becomes a waste, just as the Gita says – adeśakāle yaddānam apātrebhyaśca dīyate – if one gives something in charity at an un-sacred place, a place where it should not be given, or at an improper time when it should not be given, then the karma of giving is not fruitful.
Therefore, Bhagavatpaada says in effect that if we have to do some dhārmika karma, we have to purify our own body first. To do this, we should practice the above-mentioned disciplines.
Bhagavatpaada also tells us another thing. If we are facing some difficulty in life, then we go to several places, meet several people, by which we try to get rid of the difficulty. However, we often forget the Lord, who has the power to remove our difficulty in a trice. It is said –
त्वयि सति शिव दातर्यस्मदभ्यर्थितानाम्
चरमचरणपातैः दुर्ग्रहं दोग्धुकामाः
करभमनुसरामः कामधेनौ स्थितायाम्॥
tvayi sati śiva dātaryasmadabhyarthitānām
caramacaraṇapātaiḥ durgrahaṁ dogdhukāmāḥ
karabhamanusarāmaḥ kāmadhenau sthitāyām||
O Shiva, when you are here to bestow on us whatever we desire, we are following other deities stretching hand in begging mood. (This is like) We desire to milk the camel which is difficult to achieve due to kicking with its hinder legs, while we have within our reach, the Kaamadhenu itself (which is capable of bestowing us with whatever we desire).
If we desire milk from the Kaamadhenu [the sacred wishfulfilling cow from the Puraana-itihaasas], then we don’t have to milk it from the Kaamadhenu. Praying to Kaamadhenu alone is sufficient, the Kaamadhenu gives us immediately. The Kaamadhenu even has the capability of giving whatever is desired upon prayer and worship, let alone milk. However, suppose a person, who desires for milk does not have the mindset to approach the Kaamadhenu respectfully and worship Her, but rather approaches a camel which is habituated to kicking, then that would be foolish.
Similarly, when the mind is disturbed, if there is some difficulty, why not go to Parameshwara and pray for relief? Instead of this people roam around by trying to sort out the issue by approaching several people and remedies of several kinds. While this may offer a temporary relief, there is no permanent settlement of the issue. One must therefore approach and surrender to the Lord. Bhagavatpaada has said in the Shivaanandalahari –
योगक्षेमधुरंधरस्य सकलश्रेयः प्रदोद्योगिनो
दृष्टादृष्ट मतोपदेशकृतिनो बाह्यान्तरव्यापिनः।
सर्वज्ञस्य दयाकरस्य भवतः किं वेदितव्यं मया
शंभो त्वं परमान्तरङ्ग इति मे चित्ते स्मराम्यन्वहम्॥
yogakṣemadhuraṁdharasya sakalaśreyaḥ pradodyogino
dṛṣṭādṛṣṭa matopadeśakṛtino bāhyāntaravyāpinaḥ|
sarvajñasya dayākarasya bhavataḥ kiṁ veditavyaṁ mayā
śaṁbho tvaṁ paramāntaraṅga iti me citte smarāmyanvaham||
Generally people say that we must all have a confidante, like a trusted friend or a relative, to whom we can confide our difficulties, who is also a well-wisher and will do us good all the time. However, is this apparent well-wisher himself free from difficulties? If he is not, then how can he help with our situation? How can a doctor who is unable to treat his own sickness cure the same in another? What is the utility in approaching such a doctor? With respect to the ability to get rid of our difficulties completely and for all time, all people are in the same state as such a doctor.
Therefore, the teaching of Bhagavatpaada is to approach and surrender to Bhagavaan, who is yogakṣemadhuraṁdharah – One who can give both yoga and kshema. Yoga means getting something new, and kshema means retaining whatever one has. Bhagavaan has the capability to protect what is there already, and also provide whatever is not available, but very much needed. Bhagavaan has in fact taken an oath in the Gita, –
अनन्याश्चिन्यन्तो मां ये जनाः पर्युपासते
तेषां नित्याभियुक्तानां योगक्षेमं वहाम्यहम्
ananyāścinyanto māṁ ye janāḥ paryupāsate
teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ yogakṣemaṁ vahāmyaham
When such a Bhagavaan is available to us, why should we go to anyone else and kneel before them, when they do not have such a capability of providing to us the solution like Bhagavaan? And even if someone is there with the capability, do they have the heart to help us out? Not always, in fact rarely so. However, Bhagavaan is – sakalaśreyaḥ pradodyoginah – He is ever intent on providing all kinds of benefits to anyone, who has bhakti. He is as though keeping wait all the time, thinking, “Will someone come and ask me for this? Would anyone receive my grace?” What else is needed?
Furthermore, Bhagavaan is dṛṣṭādṛṣṭa matopadeśakṛtinah. He is capable of directing us in the right direction towards fulfilling our desires, whether the desire is for something which is perceivable by us now, or even that which is unperceivable like svarga, etc. So, these hidden goals are also revealed to us by Bhagavaan, and the method to attain them is also mentioned, like jyotiṣṭomena svargakāmo yajeta (by performing the Jyotishtoma yajna, one attains svarga). Also, he reveals unknown means to known ends, like putrakāmo putreṣṭyā yajeta (if one desires a son, one can do the putrakaameshti yaaga). In this way, he is all-knowing and all-powerful in providing us with all benefits and removing our difficulties.
“OK, Bhagavaan is indeed so great and wonderful, but where to find Him?”, if such a question is asked, then the answer given is that He is bāhyantaravyāpinaḥ – He is available everywhere, within and without, and all the time. He is present even within the antahkarana. He is to be recognized so. If one is not recognizing Bhagavaan in that way because of some reason, then one can go to a temple, so that one may get the śraddhā to find the Lord there.
Bhagavatpaada continues – sarvajñasya dayākarasya – Bhagavaan is all-knowing as well as filled with compassion towards removing the suffering of all. Bhagavaan being like this, then what is the need for even going to Bhagavaan and telling Him of our difficulties? Being all-knowledgeable, He knows them all. Being all-compassionate, he is ever intent on removing our difficulties. Such is Bhagavaan indeed – śaṁbho tvaṁ paramāntaraṅga iti me – He is ever our confidante, ever our well-wisher. Other well-wishers, other confidantes, may be there for us today because of some reason, but tomorrow they may suddenly turn over and will not be available to us. But Bhagavaan is paramāntaraṅga – He is the innermost confidante, the indweller Himself. He has declared openly in the Gita – na me bhaktaḥ praṇaśyati – “My devotee will not perish, he will never be misled”. Thus, there is no greater well-wisher, no greater beloved, to us than Bhagavaan. Such a conviction should come.
One need not publicize this devotion, this conviction; it is enough, if it is present in the mind. If it is present, then all that is good will come to us. When we have got the great fortune of being born a human being [because of the discriminative faculty, buddhi], one should approach Bhagavaan, who is the most eligible person to help us, instead of going anywhere else. If we do that, then we will face no lack, no difficulty in our lives. It is for this reason Bhagavatpaada has guided us. Even if we think that Bhagavaan is separate and different from us, Bhagavatpaada has shown us the way to worship Him appropriately. By doing so, all śreyas will be gained by us.
हरनमः पार्वतीपतये हरहरमहादेव।
जानकीकान्त-स्मरणं जयजय राम राम॥
haranamaḥ pārvatīpataye haraharamahādeva|
jānakīkānta-smaraṇaṁ jayajaya rāma rāma||
(This is the English translation of the Anugraha Bhashanam delivered originally in Tamil by 35th Peethadhipati of Sringeri, Jagadguru Sri Abhinava Vidyatirtha Mahaswamigal during 1982 Chennai Vijaya Yatra. The discourse has been translated by Prasad Krishnan and is being reproduced from translator’s blog with permission.)
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