[1]Yoga-Paths: Siddha Mahayoga SIDDHA MAHAYOGA FAQ Version 1.0, October 1994 Copyright Kur

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[1]Yoga-Paths: Siddha Mahayoga SIDDHA MAHAYOGA FAQ Version 1.0, October 1994 Copyright Kurt Keutzer, 1994 (keutzer@synopsys.com) The author grants the right to copy and distribute this file, provided it remains unmodified and original authorship and copyright is retained.The author retains both the right and intention to modify and extend this document. _________________________________________________________________ TABLE OF CONTENTS: 1. [2]What is kundalini? 2. [3]What does kundalini have to do with spiritual enlightenment? 3. [4]Does everyone agree that kundalini awakening is necessary for enlightenment? 4. [5]So how do I awaken kundalini? 5. [6]What is shaktipat? 6. [7]How does shaktipat work? 7. [8]Who can give shaktipat? 8. [9]Who can receive shaktipat? 9. [10]Are all shaktipat initiations the same? 10. [11]Can one receive shaktipat just by being in the presence of those with awakened shakti? 11. [12]So what happens after shaktipat? 12. [13]What are kriyas? 13. [14]So how do kriyas purify my consciousness? 14. [15]Are these kriyas some sort of self-hypnosis or some sort New Age phenomenon? 15. [16]Haven't a number of well-known teachers have criticized kriyas? They say that kundalini is a force that needs control. 16. [17]What is the philosophy of siddha mahayoga? 17. [18]What is the precise role of the guru in siddha mahayoga? 18. [19]I thought siddha mahayoga was only taught by the Siddha Yoga Dham of America - didn't they trademark the name? 19. [20]What teachers give shaktipat initiation? 20. [21]Where can I learn more? I remember with gratitude those teachers who by their mere intention, glance, word or touch can accomplish what is otherwise obtained only with great effort and difficulty. _________________________________________________________________ 1. What is kundalini? ``Kundalini'' literally means coiling, like a snake.In the classical literature of hatha yoga kundalini is described as a coiled serpent at the base of the spine. The image of coiling, like a spring, conveys the sense of untapped potential energy. Perhaps more meaningfully kundalini can be described as a great reservoir of creative energy at the base of the spine. From a psychological perspective kundalini can be thought of as a rich source of psychic or libidinous energy in our unconsicous. 2. What does kundalini have to do with spiritual enlightenment? First we need a few concepts: In yogic anatomy the sushumna is the central channel and conduit for the kundalini energy that runs along our spine and up to the crown of our head. Along this channel are placed additional channel networks called cakras. These cakras are associated with major aspects of our anatomy - for example our throat, heart, solar plexus, and in turn these aspects of our anatomy are related to aspects of our human nature. For example we have many everyday associations with the heart that do not make sense relative to our physical heart. We say: `` I don't have the heart to tell him.'' ;``Take heart.'' ``She's so kind hearted.'' All of these allude to some sort of subtle functioning associated with the heart area. In many systems of spiritual practice enlightenment is precisely correlated with the kundalini awakening from its slumber at the base of the spine rising through the sushumna and ultimately reaching our crown. When the kundalini is permanently fixed in the crown then enlightenment is achieved. It's not useful to sit with our consciousness fixed in our head and think of kundalini as a foreign force running up and down our spine. Unfortunately the serpent image may serve to accentuate this alien nature of the image. It's more useful to think of kundalini energy as the very foundation of our consciousness so when kundalini moves through the sushumna and through our cakras our consciousness necessarily changes with it. 3. So does everyone agree that kundalini awakening is necessary for enlightenment? This view is held in the diverse literature of Kashmir Shaivism and in other Hindu Tantric literature. It is found in the literature of the Hatha Yogis and the Nath Sampradaya. You will find similar views in many Buddhist Tantric works. In addition this view is held by recent spiritual figures such as Shri Ramakrishna, Swami Sivananda, Paramahamsa Yogananda and Swami Vivekananda and of course by contemporary kundalini yogins themselves. Nevertheless there are some dissenters from this view. These include Sri Chinmoy, Da Free John and Gurdjieff. Then there are many other spiritual practices, such as Zen, Vipassana meditation that consider kundalini irrelevant. 4. So how do I awaken kundalini? Indirectly kundalini can be awakened by devotion, by selfless service, or by intellectual enquiry. Broadly speaking there are two radically different direct approaches to awakening kundalini. One approach requires initiation by a guru and relies upon a technique called shaktipat, or ``descent of shakti.'' This is the approach that will be treated in this FAQ. It is variously called: Siddha Yoga (Yoga of Adepts), Mahayoga (Great Yoga) or [22]Sahaja Yoga (Spontaneous Yoga). The other approach uses intentional yogic techniques . The styles using intentional techniques include Hatha Yoga, Laya Yoga and [23]Kriya Yoga (see Kundalini Yogas FAQ - to be released). 5. What is shaktipat? ``Shakti'' is another word for kundalini and ``pat'' means to descend. Shaktipat is a method by which an individual's kundalini is awakened by the direct intervention of a guru. There are several varieties of shaktipat depending on the facility of the guru and the receptiveness of the disciple. There are a variety of mechanisms for conveying shaktipat. These include: by glance, by word or mantra, by touch or simply by intention. 6. How does shaktipat work? If kundalini awakening is so important how can someone else do it for you? How could a guru overcome my karma? There is a rich literature exploring this point but a couple analogies may help more. Ordinarily it takes a long time to create a fire by rubbing sticks together but if someone else already has a fire then that fire can be used to ignite another fire. Similarly to make a magnet naturally may require thousands of years but if one already has a magnet then a metal can easily be magnetized using the magnet. 7. Who can give shaktipat? To continue the analogy, in theory ``anyone on fire'' can give shaktipat, i.e. anyone who's kundalini is already awakened. The more relevant question is: ``Who *should* give shaktipat?'' There are many opinions on this but at the very least the conveyer of shaktipat should be aware of the movements of shakti in his own body and in the body of the disciple. Giving shaktipat is a science and it is helpful, if not essential, to be instructed in that science. The classical works of Abhinavagupta and the living oral tradition of contemporary masters, such as Swami Shivom Tirth, both indicate that improperly practiced shaktipat initiation can be dangerous both two the disciple to the guru and to the disciple. Using the analogy again, it is easier to light a fire than to light it in such a way that it has a carefully managed burning. Therefore, it is desirable that the guru be empowered to give shaktipat by his own guru and has been trained in an unbroken lineage back to a great master who was fully aware of the science of shaktipat. In this way some quality control is maintained. 8. Who can receive shaktipat? There are even more opinions on this. Some gurus take an attitude of: ``Initiate them all and let shakti sort them out.'' Traditionally teachers were quite selective about who received shaktipat. Sometimes shaktipat was only given to one or two disciples in a generation. Among gurus these days you can see these two extremes of opinion and many other gradations in between. What is clear that some people who have received shaktipat from well-known gurus have apparently only manifested greater neuroses and unhappiness in their lives as a result. See the question regarding kriyas below. 9. Are all shaktipat initiations the same? There are many ways of classifying shaktipat initiations but a method used by Swami Vishu Tirth is very simple and clear. In *shaktopaya* initiations the kundalini shakti of the disciple is awakened by the guru. In *shambhavopaya* initiations the kundalini shakti of the disciple is awakened and led up through the cakras brining a glimpse of the highest realization. Due to the current state of disciples, and contemporary gurus, almost all initiations can be termed *shaktopaya* initiations. 10. Can one receive shaktipat just by being in the presence of those with awakened shakti? There is no doubt that shakti is contagious. The mere presence of a single being whose shakti is strongly active can awaken the shakti of those around him. Similarly being in the presence of many people whose shakti is awakened to some degree can awaken one's shakti. Strictly speaking this is not the same as shaktipat initiation and 11. So what happens after shaktipat? What's the practice? In Siddha Mahayoga once the kundalini is awakened it is considered that the awakened kundalini, being itself an intelligent force, will direct the practice. All that is required is surrender to that force. Then spontaneous purifying movements, called *kriyas*, typically occur. Even to reach the point of simply surrendering to shakti takes some practice for people. Some aids in cultivating surrender are chanting and selfless service. These practices open the heart and make one more susceptible to the influence of shakti. 12. What are kriyas? Kriyas, literally ``activities'', are spontaneous movements that occur after kundalini awakening. The include body activities such as trembling, shaking and spontaneous yoga postures; speech activities such as yelling, or spontaneous chanting and mental activities such as visions. These kriyas eliminate the blocks to kundalini rising within the sushumna. The kundalini removes the blocks to its ascent through kriyas. 13. How do kriyas purify one's consciousness? Blocks, known as *samskaras* or impressions, do not just obstruct kundalini, but they embody attachments, conceptions and other mental afflictions that limit the freedom of our consciousness. Left unattended these attachments lead to actions which only reinforce the attachment. For example if we have impressions of anger then we will manifest anger in our activities which only reinforce our impressions. As kundalini rises it will purify the anger and as a result of the purification process the kriyas will occur. Speaking of kundalini as an intelligent force which manifests its intelligence in particular activities, such as spontaneous yoga postures, to purify the blocks to its progress may sound a little mystical but there is a less mystical way of understanding what that means. In our common language there are many colloquial phrases which allude to the natural state of our body-mind as being ``straight'' or ``upright'' and the unnatural state being ``kinky'' or ``entangled.'' We say positively: ``He's an upright individual.'' ``She's as straight as an arrow.'' We say negagively: ``He's to kinky. He's all tangled up in himself.'' ``She's tangled up in knots.'' There seems to be some subtle awareness of the value of straightness. So it seems to be a good metaphor to view our mind-body continuum as a garden hose and the kundalini as water running through it. If you have a moderately tangled garden house a simple way of making it straight is to increase the pressure of water through it. As you do so the hose will naturally flip around to straighten itself. To an observer it might seem as though the hose itself were intelligent in the way it straightens itself and in fact because the motion of the hose is governed by physical laws it does reflect a deep intelligence. In the same way we don't need to think of the kundalini as an independent autonoumous force cogitating as to what asana, [24]pranayama or verbal activity might purify a block inside us. It seems more useful to think of kundalini as a natural intelligent force whose natural movement untangles the knots which limit its expression. The garden hose analogy makes another point clear as well. Imagine what happens if the hose is very tangled. Turning up the water pressure may be a very dramatic and perhaps even counter-productive process. This seems to be what is happening in a number of cases where individuals, after receiving shaktipat, may have severe mental breakdowns. Thus it does seem to be important for individuals to have a certain level of stability and preparation before receiving shaktipat initiation. 14. Are these kriyas some sort of self-hypnosis or some sort New Age phenomenon? This yoga is at least 1000 years old and is documented in the Kularnava Tantra and in the works of the great Tantric scholar Abhinvagupta and particular forms of kriyas can be found there. Some popular yogis and scholars have doubted the authenticity of this path but none who have done so show any familiarity with the classical literature of this tradition. This approach has gone under many names such as siddha yoga, sahaja yoga, mahayoga or siddha mahayoga. Similar phenomena to kriyas also occur among some Qi Gong students. Spontaneous trembling, shaking, verbal noises, and body movements are common there as well. Nevertheless gatherings of siddha mahayoga practicioners share many of the same characteristics of any other group gathering. Some people will try to fit in by emulating the behavior of those around them. There is no doubt that some people may feel the need to affect kriyas and others will accentuate kriyas that they have. This may not even be conscious behavior. Gurus of this yoga must try to maintain a balance between interfering with the activity of the kundalini as manifested in the kriyas and encouraging the affectation of kriyas because kriyas are seen as ``progress.'' Ultimately the validity of any spiritual tradition rests in its ability to transform the beings of its followers. The real value of siddha mahayoga is in transforming the minds of those who practice it. 15. Haven't a number of well-known teachers have criticized kriyas? They say that kundalini is a force that needs control. Some teachers do speak that way. For example the well known kundalini yoga teacher, Yogi Bhajan, apparently called the process of experiencing kriyas ``jerk yoga.'' Tibetan practicioners of gTummo yoga, Indian practicioners of [25]Kriya Yoga and other noted ``authorities'' on the kundalini yoga process have clearly emphasized to me the importance of carefully controlling the kundalini process and not allowing the kundalini to act uncontrollably. Their sincere words cast doubt on my practice for many years. So why do these teachers say these things? To be an adept of kundalini yoga practices does not imply that you are omniscient. All the information that people like Yogi Bhajan are really conveying is that in their experience in their style of practicing kundalini yoga the kundalini is controlled. I do not believe that they have special insight into other alternative ways of approaching the practice of kundalini yoga. Some people have quite frightening movements in meditation and without prior experience of kriyas the natural reaction is that such a person will almost certainly become physically or mentally unstable. Experienced masters of Siddha Mahayoga, such as Swami Shivom Tirth, have seen it all before and their simple counsel is: ``Do not resist kriyas in any way.'' For the individual who does surrender to the kriyas of kundalini shakti the perspective is radically different from the view espoused by teachers such as Yogi Bhajan. For the individual who spontaneously and effortlessly performs kriyas such as intricate pranayamas, asanas and bandhas during their meditation the intentional exercises of the Hatha yogin are a merely a clumsy mockery of the subtle activity of kundalini. In fact some claim that the entire corpus of Hatha yoga, as well as many of the Qi Gong exercises are simply imitations and classifications of the spontaneous movements of the Siddha Mahayogin. 16. What is the philosophy of Siddha Mahayoga? Perhaps its best to say that contemporary forms of siddha mahayoga have a core of underlying tenets but not a philosophy. These tenets include: the central role of kundalini in the manifestion of the universe and the evolution of the individual and the culmination of the evolution of the individual in a state of complete unity. Different teachers have exposited Siddha Mahayoga in different ways. Swami Muktananda drew on a wide variety of Indian literature but principally relied upon the Shiva Sutras, the Spanda Karikas and other literature of the Trika school of Shaivism. Swami Shivom Tirth has also relied up on the Shiva Sutras to define the different stages of evolution. Both Swami Shivom Tirth and Swami Kriplavananda have used Patanjali's Yoga Sutras for their elucidation of the states of samadhi. All of these teachers are quick to note that the use of these scriptures does not imply that Siddha Mahayoga is a form of Hinduism. Instead the emphasis is that each of us has the force of kundalini within us and having awakened the kundalini our life and religious practice will be enriched. There are really only a few tenets of the practice of siddha mahayoga. The first is that the process begins withshaktipat initiation by the guru. This initiation may begin with a formal request from the disciple and culminate with a formal initiation ceremony or it may occur informally through a impromptu manifestation of the guru's grace in intention, glance, word or touch. Through the initiation the kundalini shakti is awakened and begins to move in the disciples body. The practice then consists of deeply surrendering to the spontaneous manifestations of kundalini shakti, as described above. 17. What is the precise role of the guru in Siddha Mahayoga? The role of the guru is laid out in the text the Shiva Sutras where it says ``gururupaya''; the guru is the means. Because it is the guru who awakens your kundalini the guru is given great reverence in this tradition. The awakening of kundalini that many people struggle, with effort and danger, to accomplish in a lifetime a true guru can accomplish in a few seconds. Nevertheless the role of a guru is to awaken the kundalini within you; then the practice takes place between you and your kundalini. The guru is a facilitator in the process of awakening kundalini not an ongoing intermediary between the disciple and kundalini. 18. I thought Siddha Yoga was only taught by the Siddha Yoga Dham of America - didn't they trademark the name? The Siddha Yoga Dham of America does hold a servicemark on the name of Siddha Yoga but the Siddha Yoga tradition is an ancient tradition. But I read in the newspaper [26]Hinduism Today that some expert professor said that Muktananda invented the name Siddha Yoga. Prof. Muller-Ortega was only objecting to Hinduism Today's contention that Siddha Yoga was a commonly used term. The Professor notes that he could not find the term in a variety of *western* reference materials. He does not contend that the term ``siddha yoga'' was never used before in India. 19. Who gives shaktipat initiation? The shaktipat-centered techniques of siddha mahayoga are taught in a number of ashrams and centers in India, the US and around the world. The following is a list of known centers in the United States and each of these serves as one of the principal seats of the teacher . Although I am no expert or authority on any of these teachers, where I have some first-hand information I thought it would be useful to add it - it may be a bit anecdotal for some tastes. If anyone finds any of the information below is inacurrate please inform me and I will update it. Good luck! Swami Shivom Tirth/Swami Shiv Mangal Tirth Swami Shivom Tirth Ashram 1238 Rt. 97 Sparrowbush, NY 12780 Swami Shivom Tirth is the successor to Swami Vishnu Tirth who wrote the well known reference on siddha mahayoga entitled _Devatma Shakti_. First brought to the United States by the well known Qi Gon teacher Bruce Kumar Frantzis Swami Shivom Tirth discretely visited the United States over the last 20 years. Those who met him were introduced to him by other students or were already his students in India. The majority of Swami Shivom Tirth's students are Indians, either living here or in India but there is a good percentage of westerners as well. Swami Shivom Tirth is now going into retirement to meditate and write. He will no longer give initiations. He has left a few ashrams in India and his named successor, Swami Shiv Mangal Tirth, runs a small ashram in Sparrow Bush, NY where he gives shaktipat to qualified students. Both of these Swamis are now in India and will not return until March 1995. The lineage of these teachers, extending now into its sixth generation is perhaps the longest lived of any of the contemporary teachers of siddha mahayoga. I have had the good fortune to spend a few weeks with these teachers over the last three years and have been personally impressed by the great spiritual purity, the high level of integrity and great depth of practical knowledge of these teachers. Perhaps because of the relative maturity of their lineage these teachers seem to have the fullest understanding of the path of siddha mahayoga among contemporary teachers. Anandi Ma Dhyanyoga Center P. O. Box 3194 Antioch, CA 94531 (510) 757-9361 Anandi Ma is the named successor to S'ri Dhyanyogi Madhusudhanandaji. S'ri Dhyanyogi's precise lineage in unknown to me. He was initiated by a mysterious yogi in Mt. Abu in Rajasthan state that some say was Swami Omananda Tirtha. Anandi Ma lives in Antioch, CA with her husband who was also a student of S'ri Dhyanyogi. Meeting S'ri Dhyanyogi at a very young age Anandi Ma passed very quickly into advanced states of samadhi. Anandi Ma gives shaktipat initation in various locations around the Bay Area. Personally I only attended one of Anandi Ma's lectures but I have a few friends who have known her for many years and vouch for her genuineness and integrity. Swami Chidvilasananda Siddha Yoga Dham of America 1107 Stanford Ave. Oakland, CA 94608 (510) 655-8677 or SYDA Foundation 371 Brickman Rd. PO Box 600 South Fallsburg, NY 12770-0600 (914) 434-2000 Swami Muktananda is the man responsible for the great level of awareness of siddha mahayoga that there is today. Muktananda tapped into a vast storehouse of shakti to give shaktipat to dozens of people at a time. In 1974 I sat crosslegged in a retreat house in Indiananpolis, Indiana with a few new students and a number of disciples from around the world. As Swami Muktananda walked by he stroked my forehead a few times. As he did a blue light streamed down from my forehead and an energy was awakened within me that immediately set my body trembling. In this simple but direct way my kundalini was unmistakenly and irresistably awakened and I joined the thousands of people who were thus introduced to siddha mahayoga. Because of his nearly unrivalled ability to deeply and directly awaken other's kundalini Swami Muktananda's world movement rapidly grew. In particular the Siddha Yoga Dham of America grew quickly around the United States with major ashrams in South Fallsburg, New York and Oakland, California. A young woman known as S'ri Yogini Malti Devi served as Swami Muktananda's translator for many years and shortly before his death in October 1982 Swami Muktananda passed on his lineage to Yogini Malti Devi (who became a renunciant under the name Swami Chidvilasananda) and her brother Swami Nityananda (see below). Unfortunately much controversy hung over this movement from Swami Muktananda's last days and a very critical article was published in CoEvolution Quarterly in Winter 1983, one year after Swami Muktananda's death. After Swami Muktananda was succeeded by Swami Nityananda and Swami Chidvilasananda controversy continued and Swami Nityananda admitted to conduct that was inappropriate for a Swami and spiritual leader. On November 3, 1985 in a public ceremony Swami Nityananda formally renounced his status as a renunciant and was removed from his position within SYDA. Later in the press (The Illustrated Weekly of India, March 16-22, 1986) Swami Nityananda contended that his abdication was due to his own concern that resistance to Swami Chidvilasananda's wishes might cause further dissension and even bloodshed. Be that as it may the brother and sister now run independent groups. Swami Chidvilasananda runs the prospering SYDA and Swami Nityananda runs a small center in Pine Bush, New York. Personally I have never been able to reconcile the many problems and controversies surrounding these teachers and SYDA with my own direct experience of Swami Muktananda. All I know is that Swami Muktananda gave me a great gift and I am grateful. I also know there are many others who feel similarly and there are others who feel a great deal of animosity toward SYDA. Swami Nityananda Shanti Mandir Pine Bush, NY (914)-744-6462 I do not know at what time Swami Nityananda began to teach again but he now has a center in Pine Bush and he gives intensives around the country. Swami Cetanananda Nityananda Ashram P. O. Box 13310 Portland, OR 97213 (503) 231-0383 Swami Rudrananda (born Albert Rudolph) was an American disciple of Swami Nityananda who received sannyas diksa (initiation as a swami) from Swami Muktananda. Swami Rudrananda later broke with Muktananda. Swami Cetananda (born Michael Shoemaker) was the closest disciple of Rudrananda and ran his ashram in Bloomington, Indiana. Swami Rudrananda died unexpectedly in an airplane crash in late1973 and Michael Shoemaker began to pick up the threads of Swami Rudrananda's various ashrams. Having decided to take sannyas Michael Shoemaker received sannyas diksha from Swami Muktananda and was named Swami Cetanananda. Swami Cetanananda moved his prospering ashram first from Bloomington, Indiana to Boston, Massachusetts and most recently to Portland, Oregon. I only was able to attend one lecture by Swami Rudrananda but found him to be a man of immense power and after visiting Swami Cetanananda on a few occassions I can personally attest to the fact that Swami Cetanananda carries the same power and intensity. Swami Cetanananda has worked hard to express the practical down-to-earth wisdom of his teacher within the vast theoretical framework of the philosophy of Trika S'aivism. While possessed of great shakti, my own understanding of Swami Cetanananda teaching is that is not strictly one of siddha mahayoga because some intention is employed in the use of certain pranayama practices and kriyas are not so freely expressed. Nevertheless it does employ shaktipat and is a close relative of siddha mahayoga. Yogi Amrit Desai Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health P. O. Box 793 Lenox, MA 01240 (413) 637-3280 Swami Kripalvananda was initiated by a mysterious yogi named Dadaji who disappeared shortly after Swami Kripalvananda's shaktipat initiation. Swami Kripalvananda went on to meditate 10 hours a day for over 30 years until his death. He passed on the ability to convey shaktipat initiation to his student Yogi Amrit Desai. Ironically it appears that Yogi Amrit Desai found that conveying shaktipat to his students did not necessarily lead to a graceful advance of their evolution and many negative qualities emerged. Yogi Amrit Desai in his book Kripalu Yoga, Book I speaking of giving shaktipat states: ``At first thsis seemed to be the answer to my intense desire to share my blissful experience with others. For a while I closely observed all those who expeienced prana awakening through contact with me, and who had many ecstatic meditative experiences of spontaneous osutres and other involuntary movements. However, those people consistently exposed to prana shakti (energy) also experienced so much intense emotional catharsis and physical purification that it affected their ability to carry out their normal daily responsibilities. They were often moody and irritable, and also found that theiur sexual energy became overactive. Therefore I discontinued giving shaktipat, realizing that such prana awakening, which in fact is an early stage of Kundalini awakening, was premature for them.'' I do not know if he ever changed his position. In my next revision I hope to include information on Swami Shambhavananda and Swami Savitripriyananda. If anyone has information on other teachers of siddha mahayoga I will be happy to receive it and add it. 20. Where can I learn more? Good introductory survey: White, John (Editor) (1990). Kundalini - Evolution and Enlightenment. New York: Paragon House. Selected works by the teachers mentioned. These are available from the respective centers. (I am aware that each of these teachers has published numerous works): Chetanananda, S. (1991). Dynamic Stillness. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Rudra Press. Desai, Yogi Amrit (1990) Working Miracles of Love. Lenox, MA: Kripalu Yoga Fellowship Madhusudanasji, Dhyangyogi (1978). Light on Meditation. Muktananda, Swami (1989b). From the Finite to the Infinite (First ed.). Volumes I &II, South Fallsburg, NY: Siddha Yoga Dham of America Foundation. Tirtha, Swami Vishnu (1980b). Devatma Shakti (Fifth ed.). Rishikesh: Yoga Shri Peeth Trust.


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