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Advanced Stages Of Mantra Meditation

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Advanced Meditation: How To Do a Purashcharana

Like a shaft of light that dispels the shadows of a darkened room, the practice of mantra meditation illumines the space of the mind. Mantras embody higher states of consciousness. In meditation, mantras pervade awareness with their presence, influencing the mind altogether differently than the senses, memory, or imagination. Each repetition of a mantra infuses the mind with the mantra’s protective and illuminating power. With practice, the forces of mind and mantra unite. The Shiva Sutras, a tantric text of Kashmir Shaivism, says, “chittam mantrah” (through deep identification with the Self enshrined in a mantra, the mind becomes the protecting presence of the mantra). In this sense, the mind is not merely transformed in meditation—it is transfigured.

Achieving such subtle levels of awareness is a gradual process and the long-range goal of a wide array of yoga practices. One of the most powerful methods for seamlessly integrating mantra and consciousness is to undertake a purashcharana. In this systematic practice, you repeat a mantra a specific number of times each day for a set period; a single purashcharana can last months or even years. By deepening your meditation practice in this way, a purashcharana magnifies the energy of your mantra, removes the impediments obstructing spiritual progress, and profoundly purifies the mind.

Prerequisites to Practice

In order to begin a purashcharana, you should be well established in the fundamentals of mantra meditation. As a beginning student, you likely learned how to sit, breathe, and rest awareness on a single focus. You may have worked with a universal mantra such as so’ham, the restful sound of the breath, and later received a personal mantra from a qualified teacher through initiation. Or you may have selected one of the great Vedic mantras (for example, the Gayatri or the Maha Mrityunjaya mantras) for daily practice.

The process of holding a mantra in your awareness and repeating it with one-pointed focus is called japa. In regular japa practice, as well as the amplified practice of purashcharana, you can keep track of the number of mantra repetitions you have completed by using a mala. Even though a mala has 108 beads, one round is counted as 100 repetitions, making it easy to keep track of your practice.

Experience with a mantra in meditation helps it flow more smoothly. A well-practiced mantra will surface effortlessly in your mind, like an enchanting melody. It recites itself. The pace of a well-rehearsed mantra becomes more rapid—fast enough that you may no longer articulate the mantra’s syllables clearly, yet your attention rests in the pulsing of the mantra and the feeling inherent in its sound. This combination of effortless recitation and rapid pulsing is called ajapa japa.

Usually, it is best to have practiced your mantra and acquired some facility with ajapa japa before attempting a long purashcharana. But sometimes, a purashcharana is precisely the way to gain a closer relationship with your mantra. Your enthusiasm, your teacher’s counsel, or perhaps your need for a more disciplined practice can draw you to undertake a purashcharana, and similarly, your enthusiasm and determination will sustain you until you complete it.

How to Undertake a Purashcharana

Purash means “next” or “forward” and charana means “step” or “course.” A purashcharana is “the next step forward” in practice—a means of taking your meditation to a new level.

The basic technique in a purashcharana is to complete a specified number of mantra repetitions each day for a predetermined period of time. Traditionally, a full purashcharana for any mantra is 100,000 repetitions multiplied by the number of syllables in the mantra. Many personal mantras have five or six syllables, yielding 500,000 or 600,000 total repetitions. The Gayatri mantra has 24 syllables, so a complete purashcharana would entail 2.4 million repetitions, allocated over as many years as you might need to complete the practice at a reasonable pace.

But even a much shorter practice can be deeply satisfying. In many world traditions, 40 days is a standard period for taking on a practice. If you have never done a purashcharana before, a 40-day practice is a manageable and satisfying step forward. If you’re feeling more ambitious, you might take on a purashcharana of 125,000 repetitions by committing to 10 rounds a day for 125 days.

With any of these practices, the number of repetitions completed each day is determined by your mental and physical capacity. The amount of time required to complete a round of your mala depends on the length of your mantra and the speed at which you recite it. If your mantra is relatively short and you have had enough experience with it that it flows quickly, then one round may take only a couple of minutes to complete. But longer mantras, such as the Maha Mrityunjaya mantra, will take more time, especially at first.

Technical details about the length of a purashcharana can sound mechanical, but the essence of the practice is both more subtle and more profound. Far from being a race to the finish, a purashcharana opens a dialogue with life. The discipline of completing each day’s practice requires constancy and planning. This creates tapas, or spiritual heat—the means for purification and transformation.

Your resolve is not just about completing a set number of mantra repetitions but about using your practice as a means for bringing your spiritual goals to life. Over the course of practice you’ll become more aware of your interests, your moods, how you spend your time, and your defenses and resistances. This will help you align with your higher aspirations. A purashcharana can be used as a means of atonement, a strategy for making amends, or for changing what you find upsetting in life. And because a purashcharana is woven into your daily schedule (“When will I eat?” “When will I meditate?”) you will find yourself making different lifestyle choices—forming helpful new habits and dismissing unproductive ones.

From Start to Finish

Each purashcharana begins with asankalpa, or a mental resolve, to complete the practice unselfishly and without expectation. A sankalpa is an intuitive commitment which arises from a deeper part of yourself than your analytical mind. It allows you to trust that your undertaking is the right thing to do and that it is filled with the energy necessary to complete it.

When should you begin the practice? Tradition suggests that certain junctures in time—notably spring and fall, full moons, Thursdays, and early mornings—favorably support your inner resolve when embarking on a purashcharana. The most critical element, however, is the guidance of your teacher or your personal determination that a purashcharana practice is right for you. Then, either your teacher or your internal calendar will guide you to an auspicious moment, and you can set your sankalpa and begin.

When you’ve completed your total intended repetitions, you can perform a homa—the key traditional practice for concluding a purashcharana. This involves offering an additional 10 percent of your entire practice into a ritual fire (havan) or into the internal fire residing at your navel center. For example, a purashcharana of 10,000 repetitions would conclude with offering 1,000 additional repetitions into the fire. Homa offerings are an expression of love and gratitude, a recognition that the presence of your mantra surrounds you in the natural world as well as pulsing within you, and a final demonstration of selflessness that brings your practice to a meaningful close.

Overcoming Obstacles

Patanjali, the great codifier of yoga, identifies nine impediments (antarayas) that weaken concentration and distract us from our spiritual purpose. As you examine the list, you may recognize stumbling blocks that are particularly troublesome in your practice. According to the Yoga Sutra (1.28–9), all these obstacles can eventually be eliminated through mantra repetition: “Through the practice of japa and absorption in the presence of God, inward consciousness is refined and realized, and the impediments to self-realization are removed.” This is the essence of self-purification.

During the course of your purashcharana one or more of these impediments may surface to strongly challenge and undermine your resolve. You may become frustrated or disillusioned. But if you stay the course, the power of your mantra will gradually diminish the imbalance. The antarayas are symptoms of an unsteady mind, and japa—especially in the intensified form of a purashcharana—serves as the deep-acting remedy. For instance, in order to dissolve doubt—one of the most destructive impediments—you need to strengthen the mind and supply it with direct experience. This is precisely what a purashcharana does. As mind and mantra merge, the appeal to a source of higher wisdom resolves the lower mind’s tendency to vacillate.

Finding Faith

Earlier we noted that the term purashcharana could be defined as a step forward in one’s practice. The term also has a second, more devotional, meaning. In the traditional view of a purashcharana, it is the mantra itself that is brought forward. Just as you honor a distinguished person by seating him at the front of a gathering, you position a mantra in the forefront of your life by doing a purashcharana. The mantra then serves as a guru, an inner guide—it leads, nourishes, and protects.

Understanding a purashcharana as a devotional act helps us encounter a different dimension of ourselves—our faith. In every spiritual tradition faith is venerated as a vital component of inner life. In a penetrating verse of the Bhagavad Gita (17.3), Krishna tells Arjuna that “Persons are made of faith, and whatever is one’s faith, that indeed one is.” Both Patanjali and the Buddha placed faith at the top of a list of preconditions for enlightenment, followed by vitality, mindfulness, one-pointed concentration, and wisdom. St. Paul famously wrote of “faith, hope, and love.”

“Faith,” Krishna says in the Gita, “is in accordance with the purity (sattva) of one’s nature.” Since purification lies at the heart of a purashcharana practice, it is naturally faith-building. However, acquiring a deep level of faith takes time. We are all in training. In order to expand our faith, we need to cultivate an emotional engagement with our practice.

Meditate with a cheerful heart—with optimism that your practice will benefit you and others; this will naturally strengthen your inner resolve.

Here are some helpful suggestions: Meditate with a cheerful heart—with optimism that your practice will benefit you and others; this will naturally strengthen your inner resolve. Trustfully surrender to the practice you have embraced, and let life unfold naturally from that space. Cultivate a devotional relationship with your mantra—a sense that you trust the mantra and offer your shortcomings to its presence.

According to the Shiva Sutras, only “a zealous, careful, and diligent approach brings about union with the mantra.” As you meditate, grasp the mantra firmly but not rigidly in your awareness, and let the living sound of the mantra fill the space of your mind. At the same time, soften your mental grip on the mantra and recite it as if it is your own thought and not simply a random sound that you have momentarily discovered. TheTantrasadbhava Tantra describes mindless repetitions of mantras as being “as useless as autumn clouds [that bring no rain].” When you approach japa with presence and devotion, you bind your awareness with the mantra’s essence. This integration bolsters your faith.

A purashcharana will expand the dimensions of your meditation, but not because there is a record to be set or a medal to be earned. Meditation is an inward journey and a purashcharana enlarges the boundaries of that exploration. A purashcharana strengthens your spiritual resolve and immerses your mind in a search for the Divine, bringing you closer to the pure being you are.

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I hear so much talk about meditation from so many different perspectives that I’ve become confused. Can you explain what meditation is?
Meditation is an advanced state of concentration in which one single object of concentration flows without interruption. In this state the mind becomes fully one-pointed, and this one-pointedness starts expanding into a superconscious state. Ultimately there comes a state of samadhi—complete spiritual absorption. This is a spontaneous expression of the unbroken flow of supreme consciousness. The process of withdrawal of the senses, concentration, and meditation can be compared to a river that originates when many small streams gather and merge into one large flow. The river then flows through hills and valleys without being stopped by bushes and rocks, and then it finds the plains, where it flows smoothly and harmoniously, passing through forests and villages until it reaches its final destination and merges with the sea. So it is with the process of meditation. At the initial stage, the senses and mind are withdrawn and made one-pointed. That one-pointed mind flows constantly toward one object without being distracted by petty emotions, thoughts, memories, and anxieties. Then it enters into the smooth, uninterrupted flow of the meditative state. At last the mind enters samadhi and merges with the ocean of supreme consciousness.

When I meditate on my mantra, thoughts still come into my mind. Does this mean that I’m not doing my practice correctly?
No. It is the nature of the mind to think. Therefore if the mind starts wandering during meditation, do not criticize it or force it to focus on your mantra. Simply remind yourself gently that you have put aside this particular period of time for meditation and bring your mind back to your mantra. Keep your mind engaged with the business at hand—the object of your meditation—and it will have no reason to attend to any other business.

Even when my mind is engaged with my mantra, I’m still aware of other thoughts.
It is natural for the mind to be aware of background chatter while you are focusing on your mantra. If you analyze it, you will find that most of this chatter is related to trivial thoughts. When you notice that your thoughts are running to trivial matters, let them run—simply maintain your focus on the mantra and do not give them your attention. The more attention you give these trivial thoughts, the stronger they become and the farther they will pull you from your mantra.

Form a habit of living in the present by focusing on your mantra; the more you focus on your mantra, the less you will be distracted by memories of the past and anxiety for the future. Thoughts are associated either with the past or with the future, and in most cases they are meaningless—fleeting images, snatches of remembered or anticipated conversation—and are simply an expression of the mind’s wandering habit. Don’t worry about them; the more you worry about them, the more life you breathe into them. Instead, steady the mind by focusing it on the mantra. That is the only way to overcome this ever-wandering habit. You will find that with practice the mind is able to focus on the mantra for longer and longer intervals and you will no longer notice the background noise.

Form a habit of living in the present by focusing on your mantra.

Most of these intruding thoughts that I experience are trivial, but some of them are significant and are powerful enough to force me to pay attention to them. What can I do?
When you cannot let certain thoughts and emotions recede into the background, you must learn to witness them. This means acknowledging these thoughts and emotions without elaborating on them or interpreting them. Don’t try to deny them or pretend to be indifferent. Instead, try to understand what they are, what is causing them, and how meaningful they are in the present moment.

As you cultivate this skill, you will discover that it is your attachment to these thoughts and feelings that gives them life and allows them to influence you here, in the present. By witnessing these powerful thoughts and emotions in a detached manner, you will nullify the influence they have over you.

For this technique to be effective, you must remember that witnessing does not mean involving yourself in a mental debate. Rather, it means letting the facts present themselves objectively. When done skillfully, this practice induces a sense of non-attachment and non-involvement. And when this feeling mingles with the stream of meditation, then thoughts, emotions, memories, and anxieties will lose their power to entangle your mind.

Are there any other ways of dealing with deeper issues?
The scriptures describe many methods of dissolving deeper issues. Prayer, selfless service, making a fire offering, studying the scriptures, visiting holy places, practicing austerity, and simply surrendering to divine providence are a few of them. These techniques work when you decide they will work. Miracles do happen, but only when you make them happen. That is why cultivating sankalpa, the power of will and determination, is the key to any successful practice. Without this determination, even God’s grace will go in vain.

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Kirtan 101

Want to energize your spiritual life? Whether you’re melding your voice with a hundred others in traditional call-and-response or chanting mantras in your bedroom as a devotional prelude to meditation, kirtan can be a powerful and surprisingly effective form of spiritual practice.

Kirtan as we know it today took shape about 500 years ago in West Bengal. A kirtan leader would sing out holy mantras and the audience would chant them back. This was not a concert; it was a participatory event in which everyone present created the music together. The audience traditionally sat on the ground around the musicians, or danced with their arms raised toward the sky—singing with abandon.

The Sanskrit root of the word kirtan means “to cut,” explains kirtan leader Bhagavan Das. “To do kirtan is to cut through discursive thought and subconscious gossip. It means to cut through conflicting emotions and conceptualizing. Outwardly it’s the Sing Along Club. It appears to be a concert or a show but it’s really the deepest inner temple. We use the energy of our voice to transcend the energy of our mind.”

You don’t need to know what the Sanskrit mantras mean to experience the full force of the practice; in fact, not knowing the meaning helps you steer clear of your analytical mind and stay with the feeling of the words. Blissfully singing the sacred sounds helps untie the knots at your heart center and clear the mental debris out of the brain’s energy centers. When the music ends, sit motionlessly for several minutes and experience the living silence. The divine presence you sense is your own innermost nature.

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Going to the silence
Though he repeatedly teaches that one should go to the silence, and that meditation ends in silence, Swami Rama makes this point particularly clear in Path of Fire and Light, Vol. II, where he writes succinctly, “You go to the silence, you go to the silence, you go to the silence.”

Meditation between the breasts or the eyebrows
At this stage of advanced meditation, there are two points on which the mind can be focused, the space between the breasts or between the eyebrows. By the time one comes to the advanced level of meditation, one’s inner tendencies and inclinations should be clear. If you are emotional, the center for meditation is the anahata chakra, the space between the two breasts. If you are more intellectual, or think a lot, then the center for meditation is the space between the eyebrows. Both will eventually lead you to the same intuitions. However, at this point of meditation one should not meditate on the crown chakra, or on any of the lower chakras. Meditating on the crown chakra might lead to hallucinating, and meditating on the lower chakras might lead to significant distraction from meditation.

When meditating on the space between the breasts, one might meditate on a point of light in the space. When meditating on the space between the eyebrows, there is a tiny circle there. Inside the center of the circle, there is an unflinching flame steadily burning. It is like a milky white light. This flame has also been described as being like a crystal flame. One might also experience there a tiny black lingam, or oval shaped object. One might also meditate in the darkness at either of these two centers, with no visualized image. You may ask a teacher if you are uncertain about which center to meditate on, or on what object, if any, to meditate.


You continue to allow your thoughts to come forward from the unconscious, but only witness them rather than brooding on them. If the mind does not brood on the thoughts, then you remain unaffected, and you allow your thoughts to let go.

 

Meditation on sound or light

There is a fine and subtle point that then comes, again according to one’s internal tendency. There is sound and light within. You should strengthen visualization or you should engage your mind in listening to the sound coming from within. Every individual has one of these two predominant tendencies. For some, visualization is easy; for others, hearing sound is easier. You have to judge yourself by studying the tendency of your mind. Again, you should consult your teacher if you are uncertain.

When one listens to the sound, the inner sound, anahata nada comes. It will systematically go through a variety of sounds. Finally, you’ll hear the sound like “Om.” Your whole being vibrates from within, though your body is still. These inner sounds come to both those who practice mantra yoga and to those who do not use mantra, but practice listening for the anahata nada. This practice is called nada yoga.

Your mind is being led by the mantra, toward the silence. When your mind is not following the subtle sound of the mantra, then it becomes aware of the illumination at ajna chakra, the space between the eyebrows.

The illumination may be experienced as coming from ajna chakra, the space between  the eyebrows. The sound may be experienced as coming from anahata chakra, the space between the breasts.

Merging of mantra, sound and light

The meditator is becoming aware of the inner sound and the inner light which are already there.
When one develops the feeling of constant awareness of the mantra, it unites with the mainstream of consciousness where light and sound are inseparably mingled. That is a state of perfect concentration. The light of consciousness and mantra become one, and the mantra is not actually remembered, but its meaning and feeling are revealed.
In a higher stage of meditation sound and light are united, and in the highest state pure Consciousness alone exists.

Tunnel

While meditating on the sound or light, your mind suddenly enters into something like a tunnel that leads you to the gateway of sahasrara chakra, the thousand-petaled lotus. This particular gate, according to the yogis is called the eleventh gate in the city of life.
Sushumna, the central channel along the spine, actually divides into an anterior portion and a posterior portion at the level of the larynx. The anterior portion of the sushumna passes through the ajna chakra and the posterior portion passes behind the skull, the two portions uniting in the brahmarandra, or cavity of Brahma, the thousand-petaled lotus at the fontanel.

Bindu
Bindu means point or dot. In the yogic tradition it means the point at the ajna chakra where the gateway to sahasrara begins. It also means the seed of life. In meditation on the bindu (bindu bhedana), the bindu is visualized at the ajna chakra as a tiny transparent pearl until the vision is clear. Then the visualized pearl-like bindu is moved to the sahasrara chakra. In this practice the bindu is regarded as the essence of the mind, and the mind is enriched by direct contact with the resulting superconscious state.

Finally the teacher leads the student to pierce the pearl of wisdom (bindu vedhana) and go beyond to the Limitless.

 

Edited by Sat1176

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So when I pretend to do mental jaap it is obiously not mansik jaap because mind is not still ? Have I understood this correctly?

So the best bet is to keep doing physical japa and keep listening to sounds until mind settles ?

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So when I pretend to do mental jaap it is obiously not mansik jaap because mind is not still ? Have I understood this correctly?

correct. according to her only the mantra will exist with no thoughts of anything else. Not even body consciousness or even thinking. Just pure still awareness of the one mantra. 

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Good video and quite crucial in my opinion. It's also something that the guys at SGPC don't understand, as they have accused some simran groups of using naval-abyaas technique as not being gurmat.  Regardless of what they say, I can't understand any other method that you can successfully use to "feel" the mantra.

The Navel is the "core" area of the body. By activating mantra in the core is the only way that it can transmit and advance to all your nadis. Subsequently, ajapa jap and rom rom will follow. Its all the same science behind the chakras, yogmat and gurmat..

 

 

 

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13 hours ago, Lucky said:

The Navel is the "core" area of the body. By activating mantra in the core is the only way that it can transmit and advance to all your nadis. Subsequently, ajapa jap and rom rom will follow. Its all the same science behind the chakras, yogmat and gurmat..

Actually, the crown chakra or brow chakra will also activate everywhere else. But a lot of people can't focus up there, but they can focus on naval chakra or heart chakra. 

 

The ideal is to focus on brow chakra and heart chakra at the same time with the greater portion of focus on the brow. if you cannot, then focus on the brow chakra. The heart chakra focus is very helpful b/c it opens up prem. 

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On ‎3‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 7:43 AM, Xylitol said:

Actually, the crown chakra or brow chakra will also activate everywhere else. But a lot of people can't focus up there, but they can focus on naval chakra or heart chakra. 

The ideal is to focus on brow chakra and heart chakra at the same time with the greater portion of focus on the brow. if you cannot, then focus on the brow chakra. The heart chakra focus is very helpful b/c it opens up prem. 

EDITED*******  disagree with above ^^, that crown chakra or brow chakra will activate nadis everywhere else.

Looking back at this post a year later, I am more inclined to NOT recommend focusing on brow or crown chakra as suggested.  I firmly understand that one must do "mushakat ghaal" as in ਜਿਨੀ ਨਾਮੁ ਧਿਆਇਆ ਗਏ ਮਸਕਤਿ ਘਾਲਿ ॥ (Jinī nām ḏẖi▫ā▫i▫ā ga▫e maskaṯ gẖāl) and work by the sweat of their brows.    One must work  from the furnace (Jat pahara Dhiraj suniar) starting from where the breath begins- (Navel).  I figure that it's not gurmat and you won't yield "ghariay shabad sachi taksal" if you begin at the finishing point from where you get  nishanee of true shabad amrit. 

I can work through the jap bani lines and gurbani references for tats (fire element) to help explain my current comprehension. 

 

****previous post was as below....

I'm sure that when I came across "dhun me dhyian" and "shabad guru surat dhun chella"  and also the understanding of prana (ida, pingla and sukhmana);  I became pretty disciplined with stimulating and putting dhyian to navel movement and internal dhun. At the time, my personal progress and results were accelerating uphill and I assume, that is what convinced me.

I can't say that mentors of focusing higher up on brow were wrong or not, and it would be foolish if I were to advocate my approach as the be-all-end-all. But I do recall some important rules that I picked up with regards to navel(dhunni) focus.... ....>>

1) your energies can start descending downward from navel, and that would be opposing the path of gurmat. I learned that every meditator should be aware of this and not assume that all experiences will be divine. I feel that this may be a reason that some spiritual coaches advise to avoid below heart area. (radhasoamis, I think)

2) To overcome and avoid any downward path, it is important to keep the prana flow upwards by "listening" to the dhun. Consequently, your dhyian and flow will automatically be upwards if you repeatedly try to stay tuned to your dhun. To me, it highlights some importance of understanding the "dhun" along with navel breathing, in saas graas/saas saas jugtee

 

 

 

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Veer Ji, sat Sri akal.can anyone please help me with the heated head.the scalp is burning after few months of intense simran.any jugti or medicine.very disheartening for me.please help me.

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I have heard breathing through left nostril is supposed to have a cooling affect on the body.

Are you also doing simran very fast and forcefully with deep breathing? If so try slowing down the pace and do it in sehaj.

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1 hour ago, J1979 said:

Veer Ji, sat Sri akal.can anyone please help me with the heated head.the scalp is burning after few months of intense simran.any jugti or medicine.very disheartening for me.please help me.

There's probably quite few reasons why this occurs. The couple that I know of are to do with imbalance due to rising of spiritual energy and also the harnessing of divine energy coming from above (gurprasad).    I've heard people deal with it in a few ways. ... 1) consuming natural live yoghurt before and after meditation. 2) drinking warm milk. 3) placing wet cold flannel on head during and after Simran.  4) Putting dhyian on moon's cooling energy at left eye  and/or the left nostril.  

There are various techniques for grounding and balancing prana flow- which can also be useful.

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