What is the +quot;Guru Issue+quot;? What is the +quot;Guru Issue+quot;? After the departur

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What is the "Guru Issue"? ========================= What is the "Guru Issue"? After the departure of Shrila Prabhupada almost ten years ago in November 1977, it has been questioned who would succeed the founder and spiritual master of ISKCON. Debate has continued up to and including today where it is very much a part of the controversy surrounding ISKCON's new gurus. Why is the guru issue so important? The guru is not a mere ordinary religious teacher but is actually a spiritual authority. There are countless mundane religious men who speculate about the existence and philosophy of God, but only a bona fide guru has the authority to give a religious idea. On the other hand, a bogus guru is materially motivated. One should know who is the bogus and who is the bona fide guru. We would like to thank His Grace Tamal Krishna Goswami for openly addressing this controversial guru issue. He had originally been selected as one of Prabhupada's eleven successor acharyas. However, he has recently stated that such appointment was actually done after the departure of Prabhupada and now admits that such action was a mistake. From what we understand in the Bhagavad-gita (9.30), when a devotee commits an error and admits such mistake, the Supreme Lord Krishna does not at all see such error as serious. All sincere devotees can learn this very valuable lesson from His Grace Tamal Krishna Goswami and remain constantly under the protection of guru and Krishna. Prabhupada's Godbrothers also underwent a very similar form of the guru issue and we can learn how such bona fide spiritual masters in our disciplic succession sometimes leave behind them disciples who act to destroy the disciplic succession. Note the following letter by Shrila Prabhupada about his Godbrothers. Hyderabad 28th April, 1974 Washington D. C. My dear Rupanuga Maharaj, I do not wish to discuss about activities of my Godbrothers but it is a fact they have no life for preaching work. All are satisfied with a place for residence in the name of a temple, they engage disciples to get foodstuff by transcendental devices and eat and sleep. It's interesting to note use of the phrase: "transcendental devices". Ordinarily "transcendental" means in connection with Krishna in pure devotional service. However the use of "devices" means somehow scheming and trickery to gain material comforts such as a "place for residence" or "to get foodstuff". How many religious leaders today are simply bilking the innocent public just to gain material comforts? If Prabhupada's Godbrothers in India were engaged like this, we should not be very much astonished if such "transcendental devices" are sometimes employed by devotees in ISKCON also. They have no idea or brain how to broadcast the cult of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. My guru maharaj used to lament many times for this reason and he thought if one man at least had understood the principle of preaching then his mission would achieve success. In the latter days of my guru maharaj he was very disgusted. Prabhupada is mentioning here that Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta was very much disgusted with his neophyte disciples. It is sometimes portrayed that Prabhupada was very pleased with his leading disciples before he left this world that he actually felt eleven of them competent to become diksha-gurus or initiating spiritual masters. However, there is no evidence to this appointment and His Grace Tamal Krishna Goswami is humbly now trying to rectify this mistake. Actually, he left this world earlier, otherwise he would have continued to live for more years. Still he requested his disciples to form a strong Governing body for preaching the cult of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He never recommended anyone to be acarya of the Gaudiya Math. Even though Prabhupada is a bona fide guru, he was never officially appointed by his guru, Bhaktisiddhanta, as such. Bhaktisiddhanta recommended that a GBC be set up and among his disciples, the successor guru would come out by Krishna's arrangement. That successor guru was Prabhupada. But those who acted to create the successor guru were actually disobeying the order of Bhaktisiddhanta. But Sridhar Maharaj is responsible for disobeying this order of guru maharaj, and he and two others who are already dead unnecessarily thought that there must be one acarya. If gurumaharaj could have seen someone who was qualified at that time to be acarya he would have mentioned. Because on the night before he passed away he talked of so many things, but never mentioned an acarya. His idea was acarya was not to be nominated amongst the governing body. He said openly you make a GBC and conduct the mission. So his idea was amongst the members of GBC who would come out successful and self effulgent acarya would be automatically selected. So Sridhar Maharaj and his two associate gentlemen unauthorizedly selected one acarya and later it proved a failure. This excerpt is important for those persons who have left ISKCON and have now taken shelter within Shridhar Maharaja's camp. They should know that the propaganda spread by Dhira Krishna Swami in favor of Shridhar Maharaja is not actually approved by Shrila Prabhupada. In Chicago, many senior Vaishnavas like Tripurari Maharaja, Jagatguru Maharaja and others have now taken shelter within Shridhar's movement. They should be notified of Prabhupada's instruction within this letter. The result is now everyone is claiming to be acarya even though they may be kanistha adhikary with no ability to preach. In some of the camps the acarya is being changed three times a year. Therefore we may not commit the same mistake in out ISKCON camp. Unfortunately, many of the Prabhupada's so-called successor gurus were prematurely selected and now more and more gurus are being selected by a voting process. Prabhupada warned against this happening and to prevent this from going on, we suggest that the GBC immediately make a clearly written statement to all devotees admitting the errant policy that was enacted after Prabhupada's departure. The importance of such a statement is to make it very clear how this selection of gurus is not bona fide and future generations of devotees shall not make the same mistake again and again. Then they may establish the proper method of how a devotee becomes a guru by researching extensively into the subject matter. Actually amongst my Godbrothers no one is qualified to become acarya. So it is better not to mix with my Godbrothers very intimately because instead of inspiring our students and disciples they may sometimes pollute them. This attempt was made previously by them, especially Madhava Maharaj and Tirtha Maharaj and Bon Maharaj but somehow or other I saved the situation. This is going on. We shall be very careful about them and not mix with them. This is my instruction to you all. They cannot help us in our movement, but they are very competent to harm our natural progress. So we must be very careful about them. Regarding how initiations can be done today in ISKCON, because there is an absence of a fully Krishna conscious devotee, initiations can be done by the following method. Bombay 10th November, 1975 Stockholm My dear Alanath dasa, Please accept my blessings. Upon your recommendation I am accepting the following as my initiated disciples. It is your responsibility as the president of the temple to see that these devotees strictly follow the rules and regulations such as chanting 16 rounds minimum on the beads. You should hold a fire sacrifice and they may hear the mantra from my recorded tape through the right ear. The beads may be chanted on by Hamsadutta. On the recommendation of a bona fide devotee, the initiate accepts the spiritual vows and becomes a disciple of Shrila Prabhupada. Prabhupada's physical presence is not required. If someone thinks that the personal presence of the guru is required, this truism is not supported anywhere in Prabhupada's books. However, to accept a guru and to undergo initiation requires that the initiate be prepared to accept the transcendental instructions of the guru. If he does so, then he is a bona fide disciple in the disciplic succession. There are disciples who do undergo formal initiation in the presence to the spiritual master, yet neglect to execute his instructions. Therefore the actual importance is to follow the instructions, and that we have in Prabhupada's books, tapes, letters, etc. Regarding the controversy that is going on there in Stockholm, what is the reason. This must be considered at a full meeting of the GBC. You may suggest a way to mitigate this difficulty and if it is not accepted, then both of them should resign. I know that Hamsadutta is very expert in selling books but books are not only for selling but also for reading. Now has the GBC become more than Guru Maharaja? As if simply GBC is meant for looking after pounds, shilling, pence. The GBC does not look after spiritual life. That is a defect. It is sometimes said that the GBC is equal to Prabhupada. However from this comment we can understand that only when the GBC is following the policies and instructions of the guru, then they are as good as guru. Prabhupada chastised the GBC severely like this on more than one occasion. All of our students will have to become guru, but they are not qualified. This is the difficulty. Your ever well wisher, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada desired that his students advance far along in spiritual life so that they can become mature devotees with potency to become worthy enough to become gurus. However as late as November 1975, he is lamenting that his students are still not yet on the level of guru. Back to Godhead Editorial Vol. 13 No. 1-2 What Now? How many times have we recently been asked, "Who will succeed His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada as the spiritual leader of the Hare Krishna movement?" And how often have we been confronted with the ominous inquiry, "Will the Hare Krishna movement be able to survive without His Divine Grace?" The reply to Satsvarupa Goswami's query is that the Hare Krishna movement cannot survive without His Divine Grace. Now that ISKCON is suffering from a guru identity crisis, there is every chance that ISKCON will become another mundane religious institution simply by following concocted methods of electing gurus. A religious institution is immediately finished when the acharya's instructions are neglected; and not when the acharya leaves the world. How then will ISKCON--the International Society for Krishna Consciousness--go on? The answer is that our spiritual master has given us a complete arrangement for pushing forward the worldwide Krishna consciousness movement. During his last months in this world, Shrila Prabhupada selected eleven senior disciples to act as initiating gurus who could accept disciples after his disappearance. In this way he insured the continuation of the parampara. This idea was adopted by post-Prabhupada ISKCON. Prabhupada selected eleven men to act as initiating gurus(?) However, there is no way possible that he could have "insured the continuation of the parampara". On the contrary, ISKCON and many of these new gurus are suffering severe reactions for disobeying the orders of Prabhupada by creating gurus and posing as gurus. If such an appointment by Prabhupada were actually true, it would have come with the supreme blessings of Krishna and Prabhupada himself. His Holiness Tamal Krishna Goswami has been very kind to bring this guru issue into the open even after our often strongly worded letters. January 12, 1987 Your Grace, Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Shrila Prabhupada and his disciples. I hope that this letter finds you in good health and in blissful Krishna consciousness. This letter is in regarding my last letter dated 4 January concerning the topics surrounding the proper placement of bona fide gurus within our sampradaya. Dear prabhu, we are very much surprised at the lack of knowledge our devotees are displaying in the matter of understanding who is guru and who is not. Please be aware that a lack of understanding in this matter as displayed by most all the devotees, in all levels does not indicate a healthy situation for ISKCON. Could we reiterate what we have already stated in previous letters? What we are proposing is controversial but is backed up by statements by Prabhupada. Let's begin before the departure of Prabhupada. 1) Satsvarupa asks how initiations will go on after Prabhupada's departure (May 1977). Satsvarupa: Then our next question concerns initiations in the future particularly at that time when you are no longer with us. We want to know how first and second initiations would be conducted. Prabhupada: I shall recommend some of you, after this is settled up. I shall recommend some of you to act as officiating acharya. Satsvarupa: Is that called ritvik-acharya? Prabhupada: Ritvik. Yes. 2) These new initiates would be Prabhupada disciples (June 1977). Tamal Krishna: These men. They can also do second initiation. So there's no need for devotees to write to you for first and second initiation. They can write to the man nearest them. But all these persons are still your disciples. Anybody who would give initiation is doing so on your behalf. Prabhupada: Yes.... So without waiting for me, whoever you consider deserves. That will depend on discretion. Tamal Krishna: Oh yes, discretion. 3) In Prabhupada's final instructions (BTG Vol. 13, 1-2), he states specifically that he did not appoint any leaders which means no one as successor guru(s). "When asked who would succeed him as the leader of the Krishna consciousness movement, Shrila Prabhupada replied: 'All of my disciples will take the legacy. If you want, you can also take it. Sacrifice everything. I--one--may soon pass away. But they are hundreds, and this movement will increase. It's not that I'll give an order: "Here is the next leader." Anyone who follows the previous leadership is a leader.' 4) Despite this clear instruction, Satsvarupa Maharaja in the editorial of the same Back to Godhead issue and in his Lilamrita Volume 6 declared that Prabhupada did select eleven men to succeed him as initiating guru, therefore today there is controversy and confusion. Now in your letter dated 19 November 1986, you did establish that Prabhupada did not appoint gurus but he appointed ritvik-acharyas which is established by the above mentioned line of reasoning. Then you indicated that if gurus were appointed, such appointment was done after Prabhupada's departure. Such appointments as done by GBC are not in line with Krishna consciousness as you have pointed out in your letter dated 27 December 1986. Prabhupada explains that (CC Mad 1.220 Purport), "Mundane votes have no jurisdiction to elect a Vaishnava acharya. A Vaishnava acharya is self-effulgent and there is no need for any court judgement." However in Satsvarupa's new book called, "Guru Reform Notebook" (p. 62), he declares that "The process for deciding who gives diksha must come from the GBC." If you do discuss the matter at any length with any devotee as I have done with the publishing of my book, "The Science of Accepting a Spiritual Master--A Handbook for the Beginning Student of Spiritual Life," you'll find that as many devotees there are, there are that many different ideas, opinions, do-not-knows and confusions as to who is guru and how does one become guru. I again reiterate that this diversity of opinion is not good for the foundation of such a spiritual movement like ISKCON and is typical of pseudoreligious movements which have little or no spiritual potency. It appears that there exists to be a difference of opinion between yourself and Satsvarupa Maharaja as you take the shastrically correct position that the GBC has no jurisdiction to appoint gurus while Satsvarupa holds that GBC intervention is necessary. Simply the research has to be done as found in Prabhupada's books and summarized tightly in our literary attempt. Without authorization, eleven men had accepted the title of guru upon Prabhupada's departure. This was a mistake as Prabhupada did not appoint anyone to act in this manner. In retrospect, this error should be admitted and the proper method of how to become guru very firmly established. Now is the proper time for such action. The question is, how did Prabhupada want his society to continue after his departure? Now we can answer your question of how can the departed guru accept disciples. This is most controversial point of our presentation not because it lacks sufficient evidence but because it requires some transcendental intelligence to comprehend. 1) Prabhupada did not appoint successor gurus. That means that the successor guru would have to come out by the will of Krishna. That method is the same method as was practiced by Prabhupada himself. The successor to Prabhupada would have to display the influence of a Vaishnava guru by the following version of Upadeshamrita (p. 58). "Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has given some practical hints to the effect that an uttama-adhikari Vaishnava can be recognized by his ability to convert many fallen souls to Vaishnavism. One should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of uttama- adhikari. A neophyte Vaishnava or a Vaishnava situated on the intermediate platform can also accept disciples, but such disciples must be on the same platform, and it should be understood that they cannot advance very well toward the ultimate goal of life under his insufficient guidance. Therefore a disciple should be careful to accept an uttama-adhikari as a spiritual master." 2) Therefore not only the originally named eleven men who succeeded Prabhupada, but all of Prabhupada's disciples, could potentially be spiritual master. However, none of them being fully conversant with the philosophy of Krishna consciousness were not qualified to immediately begin to accept disciples other than what is now commonly referred to as the "monitor" guru as explained in "Easy Journey to Other Planets". If anyone were qualified as uttama-adhikari, or fully conversant with the philosophy of Krishna consciousness, he would have detected the flaw in such a succession by the eleven successor acharyas. The fact that such lack of knowledge still remains today is evidenced by the necessity of a "Guru Reform Notebook" which, in and of itself, wrongly suggests that a guru is ignorant. However a true guru, uttama-adhikari is fixed and as stated above, "One should not become a spiritual master unless he has attained the platform of uttama-adhikari." 3) Initiations would go on by the ritvik process. Prabhupada's physical presence is not necessary. Towards the end, he was accepting disciples without his own approval and the new initiates were becoming Prabhupada's disciples simply on the recommendation of the ritvik- acharyas. That process was meant to continue until the successor acharya had appeared. Although it is not natural that the guru does not have a worthy disciple to succeed him, initiations should continue by ritviks until the successor comes out. 4) It is stressed over and over again that one must go to a guru. However, that guru does not necessarily have to be physically present. This is a material consideration. Usually, it is a physically present guru who can guide one personally. However, it is not all-important. It is suggested that one should not take shelter of less qualified gurus but only take shelter of the uttama-adhikari guru. Prabhupada states (CC Concluding Words Antya 5, p. 319), "Physical presence is sometimes appreciable and sometimes not, but vani continues to exist eternally. Therefore we must take advantage of the vani, not the physical presence." And what is diksha? It is not accurately described as a fire sacrifice performed by a physically present guru but it is when the disciple agrees to follow the instructions of the guru--personally present or not, the orders are equally beneficial when obeyed properly. Diksha is defined (Bhakti-sandarbha 868), "By diksha one gradually becomes disinterested in material enjoyment and gradually becomes interested in spiritual life." Why should that not come from an exalted guru like Prabhupada? Simply because he is not personally present does that mean that one cannot have access to his teachings in his books that has been described to be with us for the next ten thousand years? 5) The process shall go on exactly as it states in your letter, "Someone can become Prabhupada's shiksha-disciple when he first joins, reading Prabhupada's books. After he sufficiently understands the books, if he meets a devotee who inspires confidence in him and exemplifies the teachings of the book, he may accept such a devotee as his initiating spiritual master and also accept instruction from him." However, as stated above, this process should only go on if there is an uttama-adhikari devotee who can properly accept disciples. This process can go on without a uttama-adhikari devotee as done at present but should not be encouraged. Rather initiations should go on by the ritvik process until such uttama-adhikari becomes manifest. In summary, therefore, Prabhupada did not appoint gurus and since the GBC should not do so, all initiations done since Prabhupada's departure were done in a errant manner. Consider, for example, my scenario. I joined the movement as you were leaving Chicago in 1980 when the temple moved from Evanston. Instead of searching out a bona fide guru and being taught the science of how to know who is guru, we were automatically given a guru by zone. First it would have been Jayatirtha, then it was to be Acharyadeva, then finally it was Rameshvara; however, we had no idea what were the qualities and character of such a guru. The temple authorities had assured us that he was the topmost servant of Prabhupada, an incarnation of Nityananada and confidant to Radharani. Not knowing better, we did accept such arrangement, however this was indeed bad training and faulty practice and definitely should not be allowed to continue. By calling you as not an uttama-adhikari I did challenge your position. If so, how did you allow this misunderstanding to go on? You are perhaps the most advanced devotee of Prabhupada and it is not at all a fault that you are not quite on the platform of uttama-adhikari. It is my opinion that no one yet is on that most exalted platform of being fully conversant with the science of Krishna consciousness simply by witnessing the present confusion and controversy surrounding this guru issue. Because I have risked my spiritual assets and in the name of Vaishnava aparadha, I may go to hell. We would like you to please chastise us by strong arguments how we have erred in our serious research in which we have spent long hours so that we can make some apology and make advancement in Krishna consciousness. If we are right however, then let us adopt the suggestions and proposals we have outlined in our essay, "Some Practical Suggestion on the Guru Issue" which, in a nutshell suggests that the whole ISKCON society should contain all Prabhupada disciples until that time a highly advanced guru comes out to not only rectify ISKCON, but to see that the interests of Krishna consciousness are impacted on modern society. That's a safe way to see that Prabhupada is put in the center as we have just begun to scratch the surface of the fathomless teachings of his books and lecture tapes. By having everyone study Prabhupada, there is less chance of sectarianism and party spirit to factionalize ISKCON. Please consider this suggestion very carefully as it is quite controversial. I have done this in pursuance of the truth as given by the infallible disciplic succession. Just like the exalted six goswamis who have scrutinized the Vedic literatures to establish the sva-dharma or the occupational duty of people in this age, we have studied Prabhupada's books in order to come to the proper conclusions concerning the guru and topics surrounding him. We are nothing but since we have done this without trying to do any harm or without any pretension, we hope that we have supported the conclusions of the science of Krishna consciousness. If divine truth is effortlessly passed through the ages intact, then there would be no necessity for our writing such book and letters. Just like a weed sprouts up when the devotional creeper gets watered, we see the guru issue as a weed that should be nipped as soon as possible. As Narada warned Vyasadeva in the first canto of the Bhagavatam during Vyasa's despondency, Narada exclaims that any deviation, no matter how slight, is a cause for havoc on the path of devotional service. Declare everyone as Prabhupada disciple. They may remain the eleven acharyas' disciples if they opt for it, but don't encourage it. Let them all drink the nectar of the lotus feet of such a highly advanced guru directly without guilt as this privilege is due them according to the mercy of Krishna. It is their right. This process can go on for many thousands of years if necessary until the successor comes out. If the Gaudiya Matha had initiated on Bhaktisiddhanta's behalf, after his departure, they would have not become the dead or dying branch they are today. A radical departure requires a radical cure. We have presented our case just like a lawyer with various evidences from the lawbooks of Prabhupada. I hope that this attempt to address the guru issue meets with your interest and stimulates some thought. You are an expert judge and have heard our side as well as others now you can render some decision for the good of ISKCON during your meetings with other GBC men. I do realize the extremely controversial suggestions we are proposing but perhaps they only appear incredible due to their simplicity. However, due to extensive and impartial research, all arguments have led us to such conclusions. In other words, the conclusion reached herein has been supported by all angles of shastric vision. Otherwise we would not dare try to lecture anybody like you. Please consider all these points and we hope that you may see fit to reply. Please excuse our strong words and offenses. All glories to you because you have adopted service to Prabhupada as your mission in life. I apologize because sometimes you have to listen to such verbal abuse from belligerents like me. May all the higher authorities bless you in all your endeavors, may Prabhupada be pleased with you always. Sincerely, Vaishnava dasa May 1, 1987 Your Grace, Hare Krishna. Please accept my humble obeisances. Thank you for your letter dated 26 Feb 1987. In your letter, you had mentioned the possibility of sending me the results of the Mayapura ishta-goshthi concerning our proposals on the status of all gurus within ISKCON. I do realize the great deal of controversy that this issue evokes and cannot comprehend what form of reply you would care to make about this matter. As far as I can understand, not much had been resolved at Mayapura about understanding the requirements or the method of selecting gurus within ISKCON in reference to the revealed scriptures or the directives of Prabhupada. As far as I had understood, you have openly stated in your lectures and conversations that Prabhupada did not select anyone to act as diksha-gurus. So, we have suggested to you as chairman of the GBC that devotees may take advantage of Prabhupada's mercy directly by being initiated as Prabhupada disciples under the guidance of the bona fide devotees within ISKCON. This proposal may be further supported by this quote from a letter by Shrila Prabhupada to Dinesh (10-31-69): "Regarding the disciplic succession coming from Arjuna, disciplic succession does not always mean that one has to be initiated officially. Disciplic succession means to accept the disciplic conclusion." As far as we are concerned, we do not simply say that Prabhupada is our guru and neglect the desires and opinions of the contemporary bona fide devotees of Krishna. We are trying our best to try and support the disciplic succession by service and cooperation as far as possible. But when there may be deviation within ISKCON in some areas, then how can we support that? And when we say that Prabhupada is the direct guru for everyone, there is nothing wrong with that. Any guru who comes after Prabhupada must be in perfect agreement with Prabhupada. But how can we understand gurus that have done so many controversial things that they must be disciplined, "bloop" or removed altogether from ISKCON? And now there are more and more new gurus. So what is the qualification of these new and newer gurus? We are simply trying to understand the reasoning of the GBC. I hope that you have time to reply. Please also find enclosed a new publication called the Vedic Advocate; a newsletter that I have started earlier this year. I hope that it meets with your approval. Thanks again for being so kind as to give your attention to these matters. Lord Krishna and Prabhupada have blessed me with your association. Thank you very much. Hare Krishna. Sincerely, Vaishnava Dasa April 27, 1987 Dallas Temple My dear Vaisnava Prabhu, Please accept my obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated January 12, 1987. Rather than going into a lengthy discussion, I feel that you have made a very cogent presentation and I would be prepared to agree with you on a single point: Everyone in ISKCON is Prabhupada's disciples. Rather than trying to discuss the nuances of whether they are diksa disciples, ritvik disciples, siksa disciples, etc., let us be satisfied to come to this mutual agreement: Everyone in ISKCON is Prabhupada's disciple. That does not bar them from being the disciples of others as well. But we should understand that the greatest emphasis has to be laid on the indebtedness that each ISKCON member has to Srila Prabhupada. Although there may be advantages to discussing the finer nuances on each individual's relationship, I think such a discussion would be more profitable if there were a number of people present to add their conclusions rather than a discussion between only ourselves. I do not know whether such a discussion will take place in the future, but I hope that it will. In the meantime, I am certainly embracing this mood of encouraging all devotees of ISKCON to feel their connection with Srila Prabhupada is legitimate and equal, whether they have met him physically and taken initiation from him, or not. The entire issue is how much they take shelter of his instructions. That will actually determine their legitimacy as his disciples. Again I thank you very much for your enlightening words and hope this meets you well. Your servant, Tamal Krishna Goswami We hope that the Vedic Advocate can at least help provide the forum requested by Shrila Gurudeva so that the guru issue can be resolved. As stated by Hanumat Swami in his periodical "Hanuman Express Dispatch": "All that is needed for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing." Our humble request is that devotees give some thought of how to try and resolve the guru issue to the satisfaction of the disciplic succession. --Vaishnava Dasa


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