The Five Spiritual Powers
Dhamma Talk Edited by
Edited by June Gibb
Listening to a Dhamma talk can be a very profitable experience because there are five benefits to be gained namely:
5. Have peace of mind.
This is because the Dhamma teaching of the Buddha is cool like cool water, refreshing and cool. When we read or listen to the Dhamma teaching, we will feel cool, calm, and peaceful.
While listening to a Dhamma talk, it is essential for us to be attentive and
receptive. Do not try to memorize everything the speaker says. Just
concentrate on listening. Be attentive to the sound of his voice that flows
into our ears. Think of what he is saying. What we understand, we will
remember. What we do not understand, we will not remember. But that doesnít
matter. It is impossible to remember everything each time we listen because the
speaker covers a wide range of topics. We should just listen. What we
understand will be useful for us. When we understand something profoundly we
will say ďI see!Ē By listening repeatedly, again and again, we can gain better
understanding of things previously not understood by us, and consequently
eliminate doubts in our mind, and help us gain a correct view of the world.
Practicing meditation at a temple is like going from one place to another place. When we travel from home to this temple, we need transport to get us here. Likewise when we wish to move from this point of our lives to a better one, because we are not satisfied with our present conditions and status, we need the Dhamma teaching of the Buddha to get us there. If we think we deserve something better than what we have now; or wish to be a better person, because right now we are not morally upright; or want to make more merits or punna, to be happier; then we must practice bhavana or mental development as practiced and taught by the Buddha.
In order for our mind to develop to a higher level, it needs fuel to get there, just like a car, which needs fuel to move around. It needs gasoline to drive the engine, oil for lubrication, water for cooling, distilled water for the battery, and many other kinds of oil. If any of these things is missing, it will not run smoothly or deliver us to our destination. While driving, if there is not enough water to cool the engine, it will overheat and stop running. Without gasoline, it will not run. Without lubricating oil, the engine will stop running.
Likewise, for us to go from our present status to a higher and better one, namely, to be morally upright and wise, we need the fuel of Dhamma or the five spiritual powers to get us there. They are as follows:
We need these five spiritual powers to lead our mind to a better place, to
heaven, to nibbana, just like the Buddha and his noble disciples did. They
all used these spiritual powers to propel their mind to achieve their goals.
Conviction or faith is belief in the Buddha, the Dhamma or teaching, and the Sangha or noble disciples. We believe that the Buddha was an enlightened being, an arahant or pure one, whose mind was free of defilement or kilesa, as opposed to a puthujjana or ordinary worldling like all of us, who have not yet realized any of the four stages of enlightenment. We still have greed, hatred and delusion, which subject us to dukkha or suffering. An arahant, on the other hand, no longer has any kilesa or spiritual defilement namely, greed hatred and delusion. He is therefore free from all forms of suffering, because the causes of suffering have all been eliminated. This is what the Buddha had achieved. He then taught it to others, to humans and devas or inhabitants of the heavenly realm.
Teaching to human beings is something we can comprehend since the noble disciples were all human beings. They took up his teaching and eventually attained enlightenment and became arahants like him. There is no doubt about this. But teaching to devas or inhabitants of the heavenly realm is something else. I donít know if you believe in devas or not. They are transparent and cannot be seen with our naked eyes. They can only be seen with spiritual eyes that can be developed by meditation. When the Buddha meditated, he used his spiritual powers to communicate with heavenly beings. That was the way he taught the devas.
Every day the Buddha performed five daily duties. In the afternoon he taught Dhamma to the laity, just as you are being taught today. In the evening he taught Dhamma to the monks. Late at night during meditation he taught Dhamma to the devas. In the morning before going out for alms, he would use his spiritual eyes to see whom he should bless first, someone who would quickly understand the Dhamma teaching and realize any one of the four stages of enlightenment, or someone who was about to pass away. Then he would go on his alms round. This was his daily activity during the remaining forty-five years of his life.
Teaching Dhamma to interested persons is therefore the primary goal of Buddhism. Whoever follows the Dhamma teaching will benefit from it immensely. This is the task of the Dhamma and the Buddha, who had tirelessly and selflessly worked for the benefits of others. If we truly believe in his enlightenment, then we will not question his teaching. Faith in the Buddha will therefore lead to faith in the Dhamma teaching that taught us to cultivate good, avoid all evil, and cleanse our mind. This is the path to real happiness and liberation. If we believe in the Buddha, we will believe that his Dhamma teaching is correct and precise. Nothing can surpass it. Even if we are very rich and have millions, we will never find true happiness because it is not about wealth, not about possessions or people. If you have a girl friend or a boy friend, do not think that will make you truly happy. At first you might feel delighted but after a while things begin to change. New becomes old. Sweet becomes bitter. Nothing remains the same. This is the law of nature.
People who are wealthy and have everything that money can buy are not truly happy because the things they have cannot give them true happiness. As we all well know, during the time of the Buddha, there were millionaires who gave up their money, kings and princes their throne, for a life of a recluse because they believed in the Dhamma teaching that taught real happiness was in the mind that has no kilesa or defilement. We are not happy and afflicted by all sorts of suffering is because of the kilesa. Greed, hatred, and delusion are constantly agitating and disturbing our mind. They make us feel uneasy, discontent, insatiate, and lusting for more and more. This is the work of the kilesa. If we can get rid of them, then there will be nothing to agitate and push us to crave for this and that, to go here and there, and to lust for lots and lots of money so we can buy lots and lots of things to make us feel happy. But this kind of happiness is very short-lived before boredom sets in. Familiarity breeds boredom. After we own these things for a while, we get tired of them and want other things. This is the nature of unending lust. No matter how much we have, it is never enough.
Dhamma therefore teaches that true happiness does not depend on having money to buy things because everything in this world is transient, full of stress, and not under our control. We may think that having this or that will make us happy. But after having it for a while, we will get tired of it. When it becomes old, damaged, breaks down, or leaves us, we will feel dejected. Therefore, please remember that everything in this world that we see, hear, taste, smell, and touch, is impermanent. They will surely leave us one day. When we lose something that we love dearly, it will make us very sad indeed.
Because of this, the Buddha left all his possessions to become a monk in search of the real kind of happiness that doesnít depend on external things such as wealth, fame or praise, the happiness that derives from peace of mind, devoid of the kilesa. When the kilesa are subdued, the mind becomes tranquil, content, at ease and happy. But when the kilesa is active, the mind is set on fire. We look mean and ferocious when we are angry or greedy. Our facial expression reflects our state of mind. But when the kilesa is subjugated, the mind radiates love, compassion, peace, charity and forgiveness. This is what happens when the mind is rid off of all the kilesa. It experiences the supreme bliss.
We should therefore have faith in the Dhamma teaching and the noble disciples who help propagate it, like all the Ajahns whom we believe to be arahants or noble ones, who have all attained the highest goal of Buddhism, nibbana. They have practiced correctly according to the Buddhaís instruction until all of the kilesa are entirely eliminated from their mind, becoming noble disciples, and imparting punna or merits and benefits to their faithful followers, who will get to hear their teaching of the way to the extinction of suffering, and when they faithfully follow this teaching they will eventually achieve the highest goal of Buddhism, becoming arahants or pure ones.
This is the real purpose for going to the temples, to cleanse our mind and free it from the kilesa or defilement. We should not go to the temples to pray for a son or daughter, a husband or wife, his or her fidelity or to have good children. These things cannot be had by request. It is up to their good or bad kamma that makes them good or bad. What they have become today are the results of what they did in the past. It is our bad kamma or delusion that makes us cling to them. If we are wise, we will detach from them. We will be a lot better off living alone. When we are attached to them, we will be worried and anxious by wanting them to be good, be nice, be kind to us, but they are not. What can we do? We can only suffer. Therefore, we should not go to the temples to pray for this or that but to listen to the Dhamma teaching that will guide us to the true happiness that doesnít require us to pray or beg from anyone.
Buddhism doesnít teach people to beg, it teaches people to act. Attahi attano nato, we are our own refuge. Do not just light up three joss sticks and pray or beg for this or that. It just doesnít work that way. If it does, then Thailand would prosper by just selling a lot of joss sticks. We wouldnít have to do anything else except produce them. We only have to buy joss sticks, light them up, and pray for millions of baht that would come floating our way. Our country is now experiencing an economic downturn because of our begging; just think of the national debts that we have accumulated as a result of our immoral and unethical ways of doing things. We have all pitched in, plundering our national assets and turned our country into what it is today. Still we keep begging for more, but it will never work. What we have to do is to work hard and produce more.
This brings us to the second of spiritual powers, exertion or viriya. If we want to achieve the lofty goal of Dhamma practice we must be diligent and hardworking. We must come to the temple regularly to give alms, maintain the precepts or sila, listen to Dhamma talks, and make as much merit as we possibly can. Donít be lazy. The more we sow, the more we will reap. If we donít put in the effort, we will reap nothing. No one can do it for us, not even the Buddha or his noble disciples. They can only point us the way, instruct us on how to realize the goal. This goal is not to be materially wealthy, but spiritually wealthy. We should be rich with morality, charity, spiritual happiness and contentment. This kind of wealth can never be stolen from us, unlike the worldly possessions. Our husbands and wives can be taken away from us. Our children and our property can be seized. But the real wealth within ourselves can never be stolen from us by anyone.
Meritorious actions or kusala-kamma are truly our possessions. They will protect us; make us happy and content, now and in the future. When we die, we will go to sugati or a happy destination, not to apaya-bhumi or state of deprivation, the four lower levels of existence into which we will be reborn as a result of our past unskilful actions namely rebirth in hell, as a hungry ghost, as an angry demon, or as a common animal. If we could maintain all the meritorious actions such as keeping the five precepts and giving to charity, we would at the least be reborn as a human being endowed with beauty, brain and wealth, and suffered no hardship or injury because we were led by our skillful actions. Without these meritorious actions, we would go to a lower level of existence, to be reborn as an animal such as a cat, a bird, or a buffalo. Such is the consequence of not doing meritorious actions. This is the law of Dhamma, the truth.
Therefore, if we want to improve ourselves, go to a happy destination or sugati, a good existence, a noble plane of existence or ariya-bhumi, we must be diligent and persistent in doing meritorious or skillful actions. We must strive in maintaining our ethical and moral purity, not allowing it to slip away, and push to have more of it. For example, if we now keep the five precepts, we must not slide back but should keep more precepts, going from the five precepts to the eight, ten and eventually to the 227 precepts practiced by the monks or bhikkhu, which is a good and right thing to do.
We must also work hard in preventing ourselves from doing more unwholesome and unskillful actions that we have already discarded. For example, in the past we used to be erratic and emotional. Now we are calm and rational. People may say bad things about us, but we donít mind, we can forgive and forget. We can now manage our anger and keep it under control, not allowing it to reappear. If we still possess any other unwholesome qualities like holding grudges or being stubborn, we should also strive to eradicate them. We should be rational, rather than being greedy, hateful and delusional. What we havenít yet discarded we ought to do. What we have already eliminated we must not allow to return. In other words, we must strive to cultivate good, avoid all evil, and cleanse our mind. This is what is meant by exertion or viriya, the second spiritual power.
To begin we must first have faith or saddha. When we have faith in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, we will then have the courage to do what they taught us to do because we know that there will only be good consequences. People who donít have faith will have doubts about rebirth in heaven or hell, about whether we are being falsely led to believe in performing meritorious and skillful actions without reaping any benefits in return. Maybe itís better to go out and have fun, enjoying ourselves by drinking and getting drunk. There is no such thing as hell to fall into. Surely itís better than sitting here with our eyes closed and going hungry because we abstain from our evening meals. If we think like this, it means we are skeptical. We have no confidence in the Buddhaís teaching.
On the other hand, if we believe that by maintaining the eight precepts in which we have to abstain from having our evening meals, though it may cause us hunger pain and hardship, we know that it will be better for us in the end. The Buddha and his noble disciples have already proved it. They could vouch for us that these actions are good and will make us truly happy. When we believe this, we will put in the effort to do meritorious and skillful actions like coming to spend a day and night at the temple on every observance day, which occurs about once a week. In the past, we never came to the temple. But once we start coming and get to listen to the Dhamma talks, we start to see the benefits. We gain something that we never had before, namely Dhamma, which is unlike all other material things, such as automobiles. We can see these motor vehicles with our naked eyes, but not so with Dhamma because it is spiritual. It gradually seeps into our mind. We might not feel anything at all although we might have been coming to the temple for a long time. But Dhamma continues to slowly infiltrate. Then one day, suddenly there is calmness in our mind. We will then realize that this is what we have come to the temple for all along.
Maybe in the future we might encounter some crisis, go through unpleasant situations such as losing our loved ones. If we have the Buddhaís teaching to reflect on, we could remain calm and peaceful, rather than being afflicted with sorrow and lamentation to the point of not being able to eat or sleep, because the Buddha has told us that parting from our loved ones is a natural occurrence. It happens to everyone. It is not unusual. There is no need to be sad or tearful. We are still alive. Life goes on. We should maintain our composure and not fall prey to depression. If we could do this, we would see the benefits of the Dhamma teaching. In the past we came to the temple without knowing why we came. But when we run into trouble the Dhamma teaching that we have heard before could help get us out of our predicament and ease us out of our suffering, we would then appreciate immensely the value of the Dhamma teaching, would be a lot more diligent in our practice, and would want to do more meritorious actions like giving to charity.
Why do people give to charity or keep the training precepts? We might ask ourselves. Itís because it makes them feel good and help them in time of crisis. If we havenít done it before we might not appreciate it. To find out we just have to do it. Just keep doing it until we reap the results. It is like planting trees. We donít expect trees to bear fruit right away. When we plant durian or mango trees, we have to wait five to ten years for them to bear fruit. Itís the same with making merits, keeping the precepts or listening to Dhamma talks. It doesnít come to fruition instantly. It takes time. What we have to do is to have faith in the Buddhaís teaching and apply it untiringly. The fruits of our labor will come in due course.
The third spiritual power is mindfulness or sati. If we want quick results from our practice we need mindfulness. We must always be mindful of what we do because mindfulness controls the mind. The mind is like an automobile and mindfulness its driver. If the driver has no mindfulness like when he is drunk, he would not be able to drive safely. He would probably unknowingly run through a red light at an intersection. Without mindfulness we will not be able to stop our mind when we want to. Without mindfulness to rein it in we could go mad and do things that normal people dare not do. We could go berserk and eventually be incarcerated in a mental asylum because we have lost touch with reality. We have lost our mindfulness or sati. Mindfulness is therefore essential in the performance of meritorious and skillful actions such as giving to charity, maintaining the precepts or sitting in meditation.
Having mindfulness to control the mind is like tying a monkey to a tree. If it were not put on a leash it would go everywhere causing a lot of troubles. On the other hand, if itís tied to a tree, it couldnít go far. At first it might struggle to free itself. After a while, it would get tired and stop struggling. It is subdued. Similarly, we can use mindfulness to control our mind. When we get angry or become greedy, if we have mindfulness, we would be able to stop our anger and greed.
Mindfulness is therefore extremely essential and useful. When we lose our mindfulness, we would be like cars without brakes. We would misbehave and cause a lot of troubles for ourselves. People wouldnít respect or admire us but get sick of us. They would think that we are insane because we would do or say whatever we like without giving consideration to what is right or proper. We are driven by our whims and fancies. People wouldnít like to be associated with us. Itís therefore imperative for us to have mindfulness if we want to excel and become a good and respectable citizen.
Having mindfulness means we must always be mindful of our actions. We must be mindful of what we do or say. Our mind must always be in the present, here and now, not drifting away to some other place. If it does, we wouldnít be aware of what we are doing. For example, if our mind is thinking about something else while we cut meat or vegetables, we might cut our fingers instead. This is because we have no mindfulness. If we do we would know all the time what we are doing. Without mindfulness, we wouldnít be able to thread the needle because our mind is drifting here and there. But when we have mindfulness to control the mind, we would be able to do it easily.
Mindfulness is a very valuable tool that should be earnestly developed. One way to do this is to mentally recite Buddho. Buddho, Buddho at all times. Whatever we do, just think of Buddho. Concentrate on it. Do not let the monkey or our mind run away. Tie it to a tree. That tree is Buddho. If we could restrain our mind, it would eventually calm down and realize samadhi or concentration, not wandering here and there but stay put, here and now, like this glass of water that was placed here. It is still here and not going anywhere. Similarly, if we use mindfulness to control our mind, we would be able to concentrate and remain still. Once that happens, we can accomplish many things.
Therefore, apart from having faith, exertion and mindfulness, we must also have concentration or samadhi. What should we concentrate on? Well, we should concentrate on doing good deeds. Normally, it is not easy for us to do this. Why? Itís because our mind tends to drift with our emotions. On days when we feel charitable and want to make a charitable contribution, we would do it. On other days when we donít have that feeling, we wouldnít do it. But when we have samadhi or concentration, we would be doing good deeds all the time. Refraining from doing evil would also be easy to do because the mind is now primed by samadhi to do it. We would then be always concentrating on refraining from doing evil and cultivating good deeds. To be successful in our endeavor, we must therefore have concentration or samadhi.
Itís therefore imperative to meditate on a regular basis, at least once or twice a day. After we get up in the morning, wash our face and brush our teeth, we could start with some chanting. Itís a form of meditation. If we could do it for half an hour or an hour, it would help calm the mind down. The mind would stay put, not wandering around. If we donít like chanting, we could meditate by mentally recite Buddho, Buddho, Buddho. Do it as long as we possibly can, half an hour, an hour, or two hours. This is the way of training the mind to keep still with the aid of mindfulness. If we meditate without mindfulness, the mind will drift away. While chanting, if we also think of some other things, it means that the mind is not concentrating nor being mindful.
For example, while we chant arahanta samma sambuddho, etc, and also think of what weíre going to do today, it means we are not being mindful. We are chanting but our mind is also thinking about something else. This will not yield the desired result. The mind will not stay put. To keep it still, we must be only mindful of what we are chanting. If we chant arahanta samma sambuddho, then arahanta samma sambuddho must be the only thing on our mind. Donít let other things in. Our mind must be focused on only one thing. If it is, it will stay put. If there are two or three things on our mind, it will wobble, drifting back and forth, unable to keep still or calm down. It will become restless. This restlessness is caused by the defilement or kilesa such as love, hatred, boredom and the like. They will upset us, making us unable to do good, for example today we planned to go to the temple to make some merits, but when we saw something not to our liking it put us off and we decided then and there not to go. This could happen because our mind is not set. We have no samadhi. So we should keep on meditating.
We can meditate all the time no matter where we are or what we do. We can do it while driving. Just donít close your eyes. While driving, we can recite Buddho, Buddho, Buddho in our mind while concentrating on driving. This is also a form of meditation. While eating, concentrate on eating; reading, concentrate on reading; working, concentrate on working. We donít have to wait until we can go to the temple, to a quiet place, or to sit in front of a Buddha image, in order to meditate. That will be too late. Why? Itís because the kilesa are always active and ever present. Greed and hatred can pop up anywhere, anytime. They donít wait until they get on the stage to reveal themselves. They donít operate that way. Whenever we see something greed or hatred can pop up right away. To fight them, we must use Dhamma. To stop them, we must use mindfulness and samadhi.
Fighting the kilesa is a 24/7 job, from the time we get up in the morning until the time we fall asleep. We must always be on guard, be mindful all the time of our thoughts. Is it about greed or anger? If it is, we must use mindfulness to stop them. We must remind ourselves that they are not good. They are like fire. When we hate, become greedy or lustful, we are setting our mind on fire. When we are not greedy or hateful, we would feel cool and at ease. Greed and anger can only be stopped by mindfulness. We must therefore strive to develop mindfulness and meditate all the time. When we have free time, instead of looking at comic books or fashion magazines, we should mentally recite Buddho, Buddho, Buddho. Our mind will be cool, happy and relaxed. It will focus on doing good like meditating and developing samadhi or mental stability that will assist in our quest for the noble goal of spiritual purity.
Finally the fifth and last of the spiritual powers that will assist us in our spiritual advancement is wisdom or panna. To have wisdom is to be wise as opposed to being ignorant. The difference between the wise and the ignorant is that the ignorant become street sweepers and dish washers, while the wise get better jobs, working in air-conditioned offices, giving orders. This is because they are educated, smart and knowledgeable. They know what should be done and what should not be done. Those who donít know how to type, for example, will have to wash dishes, mow the lawn, or sweep the streets instead, because this kind of work does not need a lot of knowledge or wisdom. To be able to work in a specialized field, one has to be capable and knowledgeable.
In Buddhism however, the emphasis is on knowing about suffering or dukkha, about the four noble truths or ariya-sacca namely, suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path of practice leading to the cessation of suffering. Usually when we are unhappy we donít know what causes it. But one who possesses wisdom or panna will know right away that the mind is on fire. Right now as we sit here quite comfortably, if someone does something that bothers us, we can no longer remain calm. If we donít have wisdom, we will not know that we are suffering. If we have wisdom acquired from regularly listening to Dhamma talks, we will know that when we feel ill at ease, we are suffering.
Mental suffering or stress has its origin, not from the external but from within the mind itself. Its causes are the three cravings or tanha namely, craving for sensuality, for becoming, and for not-becoming. Craving for sensuality is our lust for visible objects, sounds, aromas, flavors and tactile sensations, such as beautiful clothes and other material objects. When we lust for them it would stir up restlessness right away. When we see advertisements on the television for some products with tantalizing offers and the telephone number to call, we would immediately make that call. We could not remain still because the mind has been set on fire. Itís now afflicted with suffering.
Craving or lust for becoming is another form of suffering or stress. If we think that there is a possibility for us to become a prime minister, we would not be able to remain indifferent. We would have to go out campaigning for votes. We couldnít just stay at home and let it all happen by itself. On the other hand, if we have no desire to become a prime minister, we could sit back and do nothing and be spared the suffering or stress that come with the race. We would be happy from our contentment
Suffering or stress occurs in the mind. Its origin, the three cravings, also comes from the mind. If we have no craving, we wouldnít be afflicted with suffering or stress. When we are full from a meal, we couldnít take another bite, even if itís our favorite dish. Thatís because we donít have any craving for food. But if we were hungry because we havenít eaten for a day or two, we would devour even plain rice and a banana, let alone our favorite dish, because of our lust for food. When we are restless we are being consumed by stress. If we can stay put, we would be happy. Suffering or stress is therefore in the mind. The origin of suffering is also in the mind. Stress or suffering has to be quelled in the mind. The tool to achieve this is also in the mind namely magga or the path of practice leading to the cessation of suffering. What is magga? Mindfulness and wisdom or sati and panna as mentioned before are the components of magga along with faith, exertion and samadhi. We just have to realize that our craving causes our suffering or stress. Once we do all we have to do is to give up our craving. For example, we are already full from a meal but still crave for more, especially when we see some tantalizing dish on an advertisement. The mind wants to run to the refrigerator to grab some more food. If we are mindful of our thoughts we could tell the mind that we have just finished eating. If we eat again, we would get fat and gain weight, the cholesterol would be higher, the blood pressure would increase, and we would die sooner. This thought would stop us and put a brake on our craving. When the craving has been eliminated, the mind would become calm and peaceful.
In Buddhism this is wisdom. All things in this world are impermanent and bring suffering or stress. Donít be attached to visible objects, sounds, aromas, flavors, tactile sensations, wealth, status, praise, and sensual pleasures that we treasure so much. When we acquire wealth we feel so happy. But in the eyes of the wise they are the source of unhappiness if they are more than what is needed for our existence. When we have more than we need they become a mental liability causing restlessness and anxiety, driving us to spend and spend, and to acquire more and more, locking us in this vicious circle of acquisition and spending, never ever find peace of mind and contentment.
Donít ever think that wealth, status, praise, and sensual pleasures can bring true happiness, because itís transient, it comes and goes. When we get rich, we feel happy. When we become poor, we are unhappy. When all the money is gone, there could be no greater suffering. But if we, like monks, were used to living without money, we would not suffer. Life can go on with just having enough to eat each day. Use your head and come to the realization that true happiness comes from contentment, no more greed, hatred, delusion, no more craving for sensuality, for becoming, and for not-becoming, no more craving to become a lieutenant, a general, a director, a Miss Universe. If we want them, we would have to go after them. If we donít, we could stay put and be truly happy.
The origin of all sufferings or stresses is the three cravings. To get rid of
them, we must use wisdom or panna in order to make us realize that they donít
give us true happiness. True happiness is in the mind, the mind that has
quelled all the cravings. If we possess the five spiritual powers namely,
faith, exertion, mindfulness, concentration and wisdom, we would have the
tools to eliminate the kilesa and vanquish suffering or stress from our mind.
Please develop these five spiritual powers as much as you possibly can then
true happiness would eventually be your possession.
Source : http://www.kammatthana.com
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