The Flame of Attention
"From the unreal, lead me to the real. From darkness,
lead me to light. From death lead me to immortality."
— J. Krishnamurti —
I think there is a way of understanding the whole process of birth and death, becoming and decaying, sorrow and happiness. We see around us this continual becoming and decaying, this agony and transient pleasure, but we cannot possibly understand this process outside of ourselves. We can comprehend this only in our own consciousness, through our own ''I'' and if we do this, then there is a possibility of perceiving the significance of all existence.
In oneself lies the whole world, and if you know how to look and learn, then the door is there and the key is in your hand. Nobody on earth can give you either that key or the door to open, except yourself. What is important is not to follow anybody but to understand oneself. If you go into yourself without effort, without fear, without any sense of restraint, and really delve deeply, you will find extraordinary things; and you don't have to read a single book. In oneself lies the whole world, and if you know how to look and learn, then the door is there and the key is in your hand. Nobody on earth can give you either that key or the door to open, except yourself.
We have this problem of existence with all its complexities. There is war, there is violence in our daily lives, there are the religious divisions, there are the divisions caused by priests, by their idea of what god is and so on. There are divisions of nationality, there are the divisions of racial hatreds and so on.
"I want to find out what is the factor in human beings
that brings about this catastrophic activity, war."
I would like to point out that we are not making any kind of propaganda, for any belief, for any ideal or for any organization. Together, we are considering what is taking place in the world outside of us. We are not looking at it from an Indian point of view, or from a European or American, or from any particular national interest.
Together, we are going to observe what actually is going on in the world. We are thinking together but not as one having one mind. There is a difference between having one mind and thinking together. Having one mind implies that we have come to some conclusion, that we have come to certain beliefs, certain concepts. But, thinking together is quite different.
Thinking together implies that you and the speaker have a responsibility to look objectively, non-personally, at what is going on. So, we are thinking together. The speaker, though he is sitting on a platform for convenience, has no authority. Please, we must be very clear on this point. He is not trying to convince you of anything. He is not asking you to follow him. He is not your guru. He is not advocating a particular system, particular philosophy, but that we observe together, as two friends who have known each other for some time, who are concerned not merely about our private lives, but are together looking at this world which seems to have gone mad.
The whole world is arming, spending incredible amounts of money to destroy human beings, whether they live in America, Europe, or Russia, or here. It is taking a disastrous course, which cannot possibly be solved by politicians. We cannot rely on them; nor on the scientists – they are helping to build up the military technology, competing each against another. Nor can we rely on the so-called religions; they have become merely verbal, repetitive, absolutely without any meaning. They have become superstitions, following mere tradition, whether of five thousand years or two thousand years. So, we cannot rely on the politicians who are throughout the world seeking to maintain their position, their power, their status; nor can we rely on the scientists, who each year, or perhaps each week, are inventing new forms of destruction. Nor, can we look to any religion to solve this human chaos.
What is a human being to do? Is the crisis intellectual, economic, or national, with all the poverty, confusion, anarchy, lawlessness, terrorism, and always the threat of a bomb in the street? Observing all that, what is our responsibility? Are you concerned with what is happening in the world? Or are you merely concerned with your own private salvation? Please do consider all this very seriously, so that you and the speaker observe objectively what is taking place, not only outwardly but also in our consciousness, in our thinking, in the way we live, in our actions.
If you are not at all concerned with the world but only with your personal salvation, following certain beliefs and superstitions, following gurus, then I am afraid it will be impossible for you and the speaker to communicate with each other. We must be clear on this point. We are not concerned at all with private personal salvation but we are concerned, earnestly, seriously, with what the human mind has become, what humanity is facing. We are concerned as human beings, human beings who are not labeled with any particular nationality. We are concerned in looking at this world and what a human being living in this world has to do, what is his role?
Every morning, in the newspapers, there is some kind of murder, bomb outrage, destruction, terrorism, and kidnapping; you read it every day and you pay little attention to it. But, if it happens to you personally, then you are in a state of confusion, misery and asking somebody else, the government or the policeman, to save you, to protect you. And, in this country, when you look, as the speaker has for the last sixty years, watching all the phenomena in this unfortunate country, you see the poverty, which never seems to be solved, the over population, the linguistic differences, one community wanting to break away from the rest, the religious differences, the gurus who are becoming enormously rich, with their private airplanes – which you are accepting blindly – you see that you are not capable of doing anything about it. This is a fact. We are not dealing with ideas; we are dealing with facts, with what is actually taking place.
And, if we are to observe together, we must be free of our nationalism. We human beings are inter-related, wherever we live. Please realize this, how serious, how urgent it all is. For, in this country, people have become lethargic, totally indifferent to what is going on, utterly careless, only concerned about their own little salvation, little happiness.
We live by thought. What is the operation, or the process and the content of thinking? All the temples result from thought; and all that goes on inside the temples, the images, all the puja, all the ceremonies, are the result of thought. All the sacred books – Upanishads, the Gita and so on – are the result of thought, the expression of thought in print, to convey what somebody else has experienced or thought about. And the word is not sacred. No book in the world is sacred simply because it is the result of man's thought.
We worship the intellect. Those who are intellectual are seen as apart from you and me who are not intellectual. We respect their concepts, their intellect. Intellect, it is thought, will solve our problems, but that is not possible. It is like developing one arm out of proportion to the rest of the body. Neither the intellect, nor the emotions, nor the romantic sentimentality are going to help us. We have to face things as they are, to look at them very closely and see the urgency of doing something immediately, not leaving it to the scientist, the politician and the intellectual.
So, first of all, let us look at what the human consciousness has become; because our consciousness is what we are. What you think, what you feel, your fears, your pleasures, your anxieties and insecurity, your unhappiness, depressions, love, pain, sorrow and the ultimate fear of death are the content of your consciousness; they are what you are – they are what makes you, the human being. Unless we understand that content and go beyond it – if it is possible – we shall not be able to act seriously, fundamentally, to bring about a transformation, a mutation, in this consciousness.
To find out what right action is we must understand the content of our consciousness. If one's consciousness is confused, uncertain, pressurized, driven from one corner to another, from one state to another, then one becomes more and more confused, uncertain, and insecure; from that confusion, one cannot act. So, one depends on somebody else – which man has done for thousands of years.
"It is of primary importance to bring about order in ourselves;
from that inward order, there will be outward order."
We are always seeking outward order. We want order in the world established through strong governments, or through totalitarian dictatorships. We all want to be pressurized to behave rightly; remove that pressure and we become rather what we are in the present India.
So, it becomes more and more urgent on the part of those who are serious, who are facing this terrible crisis, to find out for ourselves what our consciousness is and to free that consciousness of its content, so that we become truly religious people. As it is, we are not religious people, we are becoming more and more materialistic.
The speaker is not going to tell you what you are, but together, you and the speaker, are going to examine what we are and find out, is it possible to radically transform what we are? So, we are going to observe first the content of our consciousness. Are you following all this? Or, are you too tired at the end of the day? You are under pressure all day long, all the week long – pressure at home, pressure in your job, economic and religious pressure, pressure from government and from the gurus who impose their beliefs, and idiocy, on you. But, here, we are not under pressure. Please realize this.
"We are as two friends talking over together our sorrows, our hurts,
our anxieties, our uncertainty, insecurity and how to find security,
how to be free of fear and whether our sorrows can ever end."
We are concerned about that. Because if we do not understand that and look at it very clearly, we will bring about more confusion in the world, more destruction. Perhaps all of us will be vaporized by an atom bomb. So, we have to act urgently, seriously, with all our heart and mind. This is really very important, for we are facing a tremendous crisis.
We have not created nature, the birds, the waters, the rivers, the beautiful skies, and the running streams, the tiger, the marvelous tree; we have not created them. How that has come about is not, for the moment, under review. And, we are destroying the forests, we are destroying the wild animals; we are killing millions and millions of them every year – certain species are disappearing. We have not created nature – the deer, the wolf – but thought has created everything else. Thought has created the marvelous cathedrals, the ancient temples, mosques, and the images that are in them. Thought, having created these images in the temples, the cathedrals, the churches, and the inscriptions in the mosques, then that very thought worships that which it has created.
So, is the content of our consciousness brought about by thought, which has become so all-important in our lives? Why has the intellect, the capacity to invent, to write, to think, become important? Why have not affection, care, sympathy, and love become more important than thought?
So, first, let us examine, together, what thinking is. The structure of the psyche is based on thought. We have to examine what thinking is, what thought is. I may put it into words but you see it for yourself; it is not that the speaker indicates and then you see it, but in talking over, together, you see it for yourself. Unless we understand very carefully what thinking is, we shall not be able to understand, or observe, or have an insight into the whole content of our consciousness, that which we are. If I do not understand myself, that is, my consciousness, why I think this way, why I behave that way, my fears, my hurts, my anxieties, my various attitudes and convictions, then, whatever I do will bring more confusion. What is thinking to you? When somebody challenges you with that question, what is your response? What is thinking and why do you think? Most of us have become second-hand people; we read a great deal, go to a university and accumulate a great deal of knowledge, information derived from what other people think, from what other people have said. And, we quote this knowledge, which we have acquired, and compare it with what is being said. There is nothing original; we only repeat, repeat. So when one asks, what is thought, what is thinking? we are incapable of answering.
We live and behave according to our thinking. We have this government because of our thinking, we have wars because of our thinking, all the guns, the airplanes, the shells, the bombs, all result from our thinking. Thought has created the marvels of surgery, the great technicians and experts, but we have not investigated what thinking is.
Thinking is a process born out of experience and knowledge. Listen to it quietly, see if that is not true, actual; then you discover it for yourself as though the speaker is acting as a mirror in which you see for yourself exactly what is, without distortion; then throw the mirror away or break it up. Thinking starts from experience which becomes knowledge stored up in the cells of the brain as memory; then from memory there is thought and action. Please see this for yourself, do not repeat what I say. This sequence is an actual fact: experience, knowledge, memory, thought, action. Then from that action you learn more; so there is a cycle and that is our chain.
This is the way we live. And, we have never moved away from this field. You may call it action and reaction, but we never move away from this field – the field of the known. That is a fact. Now the content of our consciousness is all the things which thought generates. I may think, oh, so many ugly things; I may think there is a god in me; which is again the product of thought.
We must take the content of our consciousness and look at it. Most of us from childhood are hurt, wounded, not only at home, but at school, college and university – and later in life, we are hurt. And, when you are hurt, you build a wall around yourself and the consequence of that is to become more and more isolated and more and more disturbed, frightened, seeking ways not to be hurt further; your actions from that hurt are obviously neurotic. So, that is one of the contents of our consciousness. Now, what is it that is hurt? When you say, "I am hurt", not physically but inwardly, psychologically, in the psyche. What is it that is hurt? Is it the image you have, or the picture you have, about yourself? All of us have images about ourselves, you are a great man, or a very humble man; you are a great politician with all the pride, the vanity, the power, the position, which create that image you have of yourself. If you hold a doctorate, or if you are a housewife, you have a corresponding image of yourself. Everyone has an image of himself; it is an indisputable fact. Thought has created that image and that image gets hurt. So, is it possible to have no image about yourself at all?
When you have an image about yourself, you create a division between yourself and another. It is important to understand very deeply, what relationship is; you are not only related to your wife, to your neighbor, to your children, but you are related to the whole human species. Is your relationship to your wife merely sensory, sexual relationship, or is it romantic, convenient companionship? She cooks and you go to the office. She bears children and you work from morning until night for fifty years, until you retire. And, that is called living? So, you must find out very clearly, carefully, what relationship is. If your relationship is based on hurt then you are using the other to escape from that hurt. Is your relationship based on mutual images? You have created an image about her and she has created an image about you; the relationship, then, is between these two images which thought has created. So, one asks; is thought love? Is desire love? Is pleasure love? You may say no, and shake your head, but actually you never find out, never investigate and go into it.
Is it possible for there to be no conflict at all in relationship? We live in conflict from morning until night. Why? Is it part of our nature or part of our tradition, part of our religion? Each one has an image about himself: you have an image about yourself and she has an image about herself, and many other images, her ambition, her desire to be something or other. And, also, you have your ambitions and competitiveness. You are both running parallel, like two railway lines, never meeting, except perhaps in bed, but never meeting at any other level. What a tragedy it has become.
So, it is very important to look at our relationships; not only your intimate relationships, but also you relationship with the rest of the world. The world outside is inter-related; you are not separate from the rest of the world. You are the rest of the world. People are suffering, they have great anxieties, fears, they are threatened by war, as you are threatened by war. They are accumulating vast armaments to destroy each other, and you never realize how inter-related we are.
I may be a Muslim and you may be Hindu; my tradition says, "I am a Muslim." I have been programmed like a computer to repeat "I am a Muslim" and you repeat, "I am a Hindu." Do you understand what thought has done? The rest of the world is like you, modified, educated differently, with different superficial manner, perhaps affluent or not, but with the same reactions, the same pains, the same anxieties, the same fears. Please give your mind, your heart, to find out what your relationship is with the world, with your neighbor and with your wife or husband. If it is based on images, pictures, remembrances, then there will inevitably be conflict with your wife, with your husband, with your neighbor, with the Muslim, with the Pakistani, with the Russian, do you follow? And, the content of your consciousness is the hurt which you have not resolved, which has not been completely wiped away; it has left scars and from those scars you have various forms of fears which ultimately lead to isolation.
Each one of us is isolated, through religious traditions, through education, through the idea that you must always succeed, become something. And also beyond our relationship with each other, intimate or otherwise, we are inter-related whether you live here or anywhere else in the world. The world is you and you are the world. You may have a different name, different form, different kind of education, different position, but inwardly we all suffer, we all go through great agonies, shed tears, are frightened of death, and have a great sense of insecurity, without any love or compassion.
So how do you listen to this fact? That is, how do you listen to what is being said? The speaker is saying that you are the rest of mankind, deeply; you may be dark, you may be short, you may put on saris, but those are all superficial; but inwardly the flow, whether I am an American, a Russian or India, the flow is the same. The movement of all human beings is similar. So you are the world and the world is you, very profoundly. One has to realize this relationship. You understand I am using the word "realize" in the sense that you must be able to observe it and see the actual fact of it.
So from that arises the question: how do you observe? How do you look at your wife or your husband, or your Prime Minister? How do you look at a tree? The art of observation has to be learned. How do you observe me? You are sitting there, how do you look at me? What is your reaction? Do you look at the speaker, thinking he has a reputation? What is your reaction when you see a man like me? Are you merely satisfied by the reputation he has which may be nonsensical - it generally is – by how he has come to this place to address so many people, by whether he is important and what you can get out of him? He cannot give you any government jobs, he cannot give you money because he has no money. He cannot give you any honors, any status, any position, or guide you, or tell you what to do. How do you look at him?
Have you looked at anybody, freely, openly, without any word, without any an image? Have you looked at the beauty of a tree, at the flutter of its leaves? So, can we learn together how to observe? You cannot observe, visually, optically, if your mind is occupied – as most of our minds are occupied – with the article you have to write next day, or with your cooking, your job, or with sex, or occupied about how to meditate, or with what other people might say. How can such a mind, being occupied from morning until night, observe anything? If I am occupied with becoming a master carpenter, then I have to know the nature of various woods, I have to know the tools and how to use them, I have to study how to put joints together without nails, and so on. So, my mind is occupied. Or, if I am neurotic, my mind is occupied with sex, or with becoming a success politically or otherwise. So, how can I, being occupied, observe? Is it possible not to have a mind so occupied all the time? I am occupied when I have to talk, when I have to write something or other, but the rest of the time why should my mind be occupied?
Computers can be programmed, as we human beings are programmed. They can, for instance, learn, think faster and more accurately, than man. The can play with a grand chess master. After being defeated four times, the master beats the computer four times, on the fifth or sixth time the computer beats the master. The computer can do extraordinary things. It has been programmed. Do you understand? It can invent, create new machines, which will be capable of better programming than the previous computer, or a machine that will be ultimately "intelligent." The machine will itself, they say, create the ultimate intelligent machine. What is going to happen to man when the computer takes the whole thing over? The Encyclopedia Britannica can be put in a little chip and it contains all that knowledge. So, what place will knowledge then have in human life? Our brains are occupied, never still. To learn how to observe your wife, your neighbor, your government, the brutality of poverty, the horrors of wars, there must be freedom to observe. Yet, we object to being free because we are frightened to be free, to stand alone.
You have listened to the speaker. What have you heard? What have you gathered, words, ideas which ultimately have no meaning? Have you seen the importance for yourself of never being hurt? That means never having an image about yourself. Have you seen the importance, the urgency, of understanding relationship and having a mind that is not occupied? When it is not occupied, it is extraordinarily free, it sees great beauty. But the shoddy little mind, the second-hand little mind, is always occupied about knowledge, about becoming something or other, inquiring, discussing, arguing, never quiet, never a free unoccupied mind. When there is such an unoccupied mind, out of that freedom comes supreme intelligence – but never out of thought.
Essence of the Teachings
"These are not my words; they are the words of the Master who taught me. Without Him, I could have done nothing, but through His help I have set my feet upon the path. You also desire to enter the same path, so the words which He spoke to me will help you also, if you will obey them. It is not enough to say that they are true and beautiful; a man who wishes to succeed must do exactly what is said. To look at food and say that it is good will not satisfy a starving man; he must put forth his hand and eat. So to hear the Master's words is not enough, you must do what He says, attending to every word, taking every hint. If a hint is not taken, if a word is missed, it is lost forever; for He does not speak twice."
Excerpt From At the Feet of the Master
The core of Krishnamurti's teaching is contained in the statement he made in 1929 when he said, "Truth is a pathless land. Man cannot come to it through any organization, through any creed, through any dogma, priest or ritual, not through any philosophic knowledge or psychological technique. He has to find it through the mirror of relationship, through the understanding of the contents of his own mind, through observation and not through intellectual analysis or introspective dissection."
Man has built in himself images as a fence of security—religious, political, personal. These manifest as symbols, ideas, beliefs. The burden of these images dominates man's thinking, his relationships and his daily life. These images are the causes of our problems for they divide man from man. His perception of life is shaped by the concepts already established in his mind. The content of his consciousness is his entire existence. This content is common to all humanity. The individuality is the name, the form and superficial culture he acquires from tradition and environment. The uniqueness of man does not lie in the superficial but in complete freedom from the content of his consciousness, which is common to all mankind. So he is not an individual.
Freedom is not a reaction; freedom is not a choice. It is man's pretence that because he has choice he is free. Freedom is pure observation without direction, without fear of punishment and reward. Freedom is without motive; freedom is not at the end of the evolution of man but lies in the first step of his existence. In observation one begins to discover the lack of freedom. Freedom is found in the choiceless awareness of our daily existence and activity. Thought is time. Thought is born of experience and knowledge which are inseparable from time and the past. Time is the psychological enemy of man. Our action is based on knowledge and therefore time, so man is always a slave to the past. Thought is ever-limited and so we live in constant conflict and struggle. There is no psychological evolution.
When man becomes aware of the movement of his own thoughts he will see the division between the thinker and thought, the observer and the observed, the experience and the experiencer. He will discover that this division is an illusion. Then only is there pure observation which is insight without any shadow of the past or of time. This timeless insight brings about a deep radical mutation in the mind.
Total negation is the essence of the positive. When there is negation of all those things that thought has brought about psychologically, only then is there love, which is compassion and intelligence.
Why Don't You Change?
— J. Krishnamurti —
"After all, life is what? It is one global unity movement. So, in the same way, our consciousness is common to all mankind. Now, if I radically change, surely to fix the rest of the consciousness of man, now why don't you change?"
Who Are You?
Crisis in Consciousness
"Peace can exist only when we have no conflict in ourselves."
Question: How can we solve our present political chaos and the crisis in the world? Is there anything an individual can do to stop the impending war?
Krishnamurti: War is the spectacular and bloody projection of our everyday life, is it not?
War is merely an outward expression of our inward state, an enlargement of our daily action. It is more spectacular, more bloody, more destructive, but it is the collective result of our individual activities. Therefore, you and I are responsible for war and what can we do to stop it? Obviously the ever-impending war cannot be stopped by you and me, because it is already in movement; it is already taking place, though at present chiefly on the psychological level. As it is already in movement, it cannot be stopped. The issues are too many, too great, and are already committed. But you and I, seeing that the house is on fire, can understand the causes of that fire, can go away from it and build in a new place with different materials that are not combustible, that will not produce other wars. That is all that we can do. You and I can see what creates wars, and if we are interested in stopping wars, then we can begin to transform ourselves, who are the causes of war.
An American lady came to see me a couple of years ago, during the war. She said she had lost her son in Italy and that she had another son aged sixteen whom she wanted to save; so we talked the thing over. I suggested to her that to save her son she had to cease to be an American; she had to cease to be greedy, cease piling up wealth, seeking power, domination, and be morally simple – not merely simple in clothes, in outward things, but simple in her thoughts and feelings, in her relationships. She said, "That is too much. You are asking far too much. I cannot do it, because circumstances are too powerful for me to alter." Therefore she was responsible for the destruction of her son.
Circumstances can be controlled by us, because we have created the circumstances. Society is the product of relationship, society changes; merely to rely on legislation, on compulsion, for the transformation of outward society, while remaining inwardly corrupt, while continuing inwardly to seek power, position, domination, is to destroy the outward, however carefully and scientifically built. That which is inward is always overcoming the outward.
What causes war – religious, political or economic? Obviously belief, either in nationalism, in an ideology, or in a particular dogma. If we had no belief but goodwill, love and consideration between us, then there would be no wars. But we are fed on beliefs, ideas and dogmas and therefore we breed discontent. The present crisis is of an exceptional nature and we as human beings must either pursue the path of constant conflict and continuous wars, which are the result of our everyday action, or else see the causes of war and turn our back upon them.
Obviously what causes war is the desire for power, position, prestige, money; also the disease called nationalism, the worship of a flag; and the disease of organized religion, the worship of a dogma. All these are the causes of war; if you as an individual belong to any of the organized religions, if you are greedy for power, if you are envious, you are bound to produce a society which will result in destruction. So again it depends upon you and not on the leaders – not on so-called statesmen and all the rest of them. It depends upon you and me but we do not seem to realize that. If once we really felt the responsibility of our own actions, how quickly we could bring to an end all these wars, this appalling misery! But you see, we are indifferent. We have three meals a day, we have our jobs, we have our bank account, big or little, and we say, "For God’s sake, don’t disturb us, leave us alone". The higher up we are, the more we want security, permanency, tranquility, the more we want to be left alone, to maintain things fixed as they are; but they cannot be maintained as they are, because there is nothing to maintain. Everything is disintegrating. We do not want to face these things, we do not want to face the fact that you and I are responsible for wars. You and I may talk about peace, have conferences, sit round a table and discuss, but inwardly, psychologically, we want power, position, we are bound by beliefs, by dogmas, for which we are willing to die and destroy each other. Do you think such men, you and I, can have peace in the world? To have peace, we must be peaceful; to live peacefully means not to create antagonism. Peace is not an ideal. To me, an ideal is merely an escape, an avoidance of what is, a contradiction of what is. An ideal prevents direct action upon what is - which we will go into presently, in another talk. [not on this website] But to have peace, we will have to love, we will have to begin, not to live an ideal life, but to see things as they are and act upon them, transform them. As long as each one of us is seeking psychological security, the physiological security we need – food, clothing and shelter – is destroyed. We are seeking psychological security, which does not exist; and we seek it, if we can, through power, through position, through titles, names – all of which is destroying physical security. This is an obvious fact, if you look at it.
To bring about peace in the world, to stop all wars, there must be a revolution in the individual, in you and me. Economic revolution without this inward revolution is meaningless, for hunger is the result of the maladjustment of economic conditions produced by our psychological states – greed, envy, ill-will and possessiveness. To put an end to sorrow, to hunger, to war, there must be a psychological revolution and few of us are willing to face that. We will discuss peace, plan legislation, create new leagues, the United Nations and so on and on; but we will not win peace because we will not give up our position, our authority, our money, our properties, our stupid lives. To rely on others is utterly futile; others cannot bring us peace. No leader is going to give us peace, no government, no army, no country. What will bring peace is inward transformation which will lead to outward action. Inward transformation is not isolation, is not a withdrawal from outward action. On the contrary, there can be right action only when there is right thinking and there is no right thinking when there is no self-knowledge. Without knowing yourself, there is no peace.
To put an end to outward war, you must begin to put an end to war in yourself. Some of you will nod your heads and say, "I agree", and go outside and do exactly the same as you have been doing for the last ten or twenty years. Your agreement is merely verbal and has no significance, for the world miseries and wars are not going to be stopped by your casual assent. They will be stopped only when you realize the danger, when you realize your responsibility, when you do not leave it to somebody else. If you realize the suffering, if you see the urgency of immediate action and do not postpone, then you will transform yourself; peace will come only when you yourself are peaceful, when you yourself are at peace with your neighbor.
J. Krishnamurti Bio
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