Yoga’s and Shaman’s Universes: their similarity and difference

Written by kalabin. Posted in Articles

yoga_01Yoga Philisophy. Part 4

Since Columbus’s time and even earlier, we have known that the earth is a sphere supposedly flowing somewhere without sense, in the insensible emptiness of cold Space. In reality, no one uses this knowledge in everyday life. During burying, the soul is sent to the sky, and the body is dug in the ground. God lives in the sky and devil in the ground, and newer on the contrary.

The structure of Yoga’s world outlook, where the Meru mountain like the linking bar structures the hierarchic spheres of being, surprisingly resembles the Space of shamans, where the World Tree has the function of the Meru mountain. In the world space model of different nations, Centre is the universal symbol uniting all the spheres of the world outlook.

In different traditions, it can be in a different way. There can be the symbols and objects corresponding to the world axes: the world mountain (Meru, Kun’lun’, Shambala, Taishan’, the Bold Mountain, etc); the world Pillar, the primeval human (Viet TkhanChu Chei, Indian Thaipakalp, Chinese Pan’-Gu, etc). But it can be the world tree; its head reaches the sky, its roots are descending to the underworld and its trunk is associated with the middle world (earth).

Shamanism is called the system of pre-religious outlooks at the surrounding world, belief in spirits and the methods of interaction with them. Shaman is he who is capable to enter the unusual states of consciousness. Being in the alternative states of consciousness, shaman uses “siddhis” (magic abilities) – he diagnoses and cures illnesses, tells the fortune, walks barefoot upon live coals and doesn’t feel cold in frost,speaks to the spirits and gods, travels to the other worlds.

Traditionally, shaman’s space is divided into three levels: higher, middle and lower ones. More precisely, the higher and lower space has some sublevels. The number of those sublevels can be different in different cultures, and different shamans of the same tribe can also have the different number of the sublevels. It is individual and depends on the shaman’s personal experience; but at the same time, it is surely the reflection of the belief and knowledge system accepted in the shaman’s tribe.

Most myths about the Universe creation have the similar structuring of space and time. It deals with the separation of Earth and Sky, which were merged earlier in the conjugal embrace, by gods. Greek Uranus and Gaea, Egyptian Hebe and Nut, Sumerian Anshar and Kishar, Polynesian Papa and Rangi, Pan’-gu separating Earth and Sky, Etugen or Umai and Tengri, Armaiti and Ahuramazda; Vishnu’s three steps forming the three space zones, etc – it is the vertical space structuring; the world becomes volumetric, and consciousness becomes four-dimensional which is equal to our modern consciousness. The divine essences almost always take part in the re-separation of the world; it means that in all cultures space becomes inhomogeneous not only physically, but also ethically.

In many traditions, the embodiment of the good was the male heavenly (Upper) divine being; the evil was personified by the khtonical (?) mistress of the lower world, ground, underworld (Odin in Scandinavian mythology, Vsya (?) and Hosedem in Kets, Ichu and Kyzy in Samoyedic one, etc). In dualistic religions making the contradiction between the Good and Evil absolute, the embodiment of the Evil was considered the whole material (i.e. Middle) world, and the Good was only associated with the kingdom of spirit (i.e. Upper or rarely, only in archaic traditions, Lower worlds).

The dualism of the Upper (heavenly) world of gods and the Lower world of evil spirits served the basis of later notions about Paradise and Hell in the Christian, Muslim (Djanpa and Djahannam), Iranian and Hindu mythologies connected with the idea of the retribution after death, that is the Last Judgment. The myths about Sisyphus, Tantalus and others give the examples of the retribution after death in Hades. In Christian and other world religions, the celestial bliss and tortures of the damned await for the righteous men and sinners after their death and will last eternally after the Day of Judgment.

Thus, after analyzing the above, it can be noted that the basis of the notion about dualism, the Good and Evil, is the conflict between the Upper and Lower, Upper and Middle, and sometimes even between Middle and Lower worlds. And the younger the mythological basis is, the stronger the conflict is manifested and the more intensive the tension of its structures is.

In other words, the structure of our psychic space is identical to the structure of the physical one. This is the essence of human perception. For human being, the world has been built according to the same scheme since the ancient time – both inside and outside. Our body is, to some extent, a map. There are three zones on it – the upper (head), middle (body) and lower (hips and legs) ones separated by two narrowing zones, ‘bridges’ (neck and waist). These are also the three psychological components – Brain, Senses, Instincts or, in other words, — cognitional, emotional and behavioral aspects of human activity.

In shaman’s world outlook, there is no separation between inside and outside realities. There is a united process of holistic (integral) informational (space-time, sense) reality. V.V.Nalimov, the modern Russian scientist, philosopher and psychologist, offered the idea which is not forgot by the modern physicists and which was discovered by Yoga 2.5 thousand years ago. Nalimov says about the sensual construction of the Universe. In fact, it is evident – everything is sense, and the world is a semantic space. Certainly, the degree of globalization depends on the width, depth and complexity degree of the cognitive carts of personality.

According to this theory, the Universe is a set of senses, semantic spaces, “files”, “texts” packed in each other in a certain sequence which tends to eternity. Any movement, any component of the Universe is a bundle of information, no matter whether it is a psychic process or a physical one. Within the theory it is not essential; the very fact of the process is important: the process of comprehension, unpacking the senses (unpacking the “file”).

The universe is a gigantic construction tending in its volume to eternity and representing the great Sense. The great Sense, in its turn, consists of the endless number of senses. Possibly, this endlessness creates the endlessness of the Universe itself due to the impossibility to consider it being finite.

The task of a yogi, as well as the task of a shaman of the ancient time, is to enter such a state of perception where the global categories of senses are able to be comprehended. In fact, it is both a yogi’s and a shaman’s state of consciousness.

The holistic perception of the world differs from our usual perception; and the states necessary for such perception are different from the usual states of consciousness. Both yogis and shamans percept the world as a whole reality which isn’t separated into the inside and outside ones. In this reality, the psychic material of his soul is inserted into the physical, territorial reality of his life. The ability to operate such space is the ability to walk around the territory. For that, a yogi and a shaman have their description of the world and cartography.

The shaman has a map he uses to enter the Upper, Middle and Lower worlds. The map often has quite a physical equivalent and is depicted by the shaman on his main instrument of his traveling – the tambourine. But it isn’t necessary; there are lots of examples when the tambourines remain clean, and cartography is fixed in another way. It is important to understand the fact that the shaman’s space has cartography and is defined. In shaman’s traveling he doesn’t move chaotically, but according to certain principles, to certain objects.

With the help of shamanistic rituals and other actions, shamans can still influence the so called ‘objective’ reality – they cure people, find the lost things, cause rains, walk barefoot on the coals, and they even speak they can fly. For the last 300 years of studying shamanism, quite enough facts and evidence of successful shamanistic activity have been collected which are unexplainable from the viewpoint of official science, but the activity is really effective.

The term ‘really’ is somehow wider for the shaman than it is common. The very factor of integrity intrinsic to shamanistic states implies the link between the inside and outside worlds. In shamanistic traditions, it is accepted to consider (in terms of materialistic science) that the activity of our consciousness actively influences the outside reality. In other words, the way in which we think and feel influences that will happen and is happening with us and the world where we live. Moreover, the human oneself is only a door between the inner space and outer one. In the shaman’s world, this space (objective reality) is also inhabited by special and very active essences.

In Yoga and in Buddhism, which took practical psychic techniques from Yoga, there are concepts similar to shamanistic ones. Since the ancient times, yogis and Buddhists make the cards of psychological states. They create yantras, mandalas, thankas.

The word ‘yantra’ was formed from the Sanskrit words ‘yam’ and ‘tra’. ‘Yam’ is translated as ‘supporting and keeping the essence of the object or concept’. The ending ‘tra’ is originated from the word ‘trana’ which means ‘liberation from slavery’. “Yantra’ means escaping from the cycle of transformations (moksha), ‘instrument’ of acquiring strength, achieving something.

Yantra constitutes a plate with the engraved geometric patterns being the form of divine energy. This energy is created in the centre and expands in round waves as it is depicted on the Yantra. This is the process of energy birth in the Universe, the fundamental principle of energy expansion.

The centre of yantra called ‘bindu’ is the point of unity,beginning, the key principle of emanation. Energy is concentrated in this point and starts from it. Bindu can be surrounded by triangles, hexagons or circles depending on the features of the divine being whom the yantra is dedicated to, or the aspect which it represents. In the tantric tradition, bindu means Shiva himself, the source of every thing in existence.

The triangle (trikona) is the symbol of Shakti, female energy, constructing aspect.The triangle directed below (Shakti kona) means yoni, the female reproductive organ, the element of water (Apas Tattva or Djala Tattva). Yoni symbolizes the upper source which every thing in existence originates from. The triangle pointing up (Shiva kona) is energy transformed into the thinnest plans of the Universe; this is the lingam of Shiva, the fire element (Agni Tattva). Fire always tends up, and water tends down.

Two triangles directed to the opposite sides form a hexagram (the Star of David) – shatkona. This figure represents the unit of Purusha and Prakriti, Shiva and Shakti, male and female, construction and transformation which the world couldn’t exist without.

Another geometric figure often depicted on the yantra is a circle. It symbolizes movement, the fundamental principle of evolution of Macrocosm. Its element is air (Vaiu Tattva).

The lotus petals located around yantra mean the expression and expansion of energy from bindu. The lotus, or padma, is the symbol of purity and variety. Each petal means a certain aspect of the Universe.

Yantra is completed with a square (Bhupura) or a square frame. Bhupura is the outer boundary of yantra meaning the element of earth. Each yantra starts in the central point Bindu and is completed with the square boundary. It symbolizes the evolution of the Universe beginning in the thin plans and ending in the rough plans, from ether, emptiness up to the finite element of earth.

According to the tantric knowledge, there are seven main chakras in a human body, seven energy centers. Each chakra has its inherent energy with a certain form dissimilar to any other. To each chakra there corresponds its own yantra and its divine being (Davata). It is the center of yantra that is its divine being, and its petals expanding around the circle are the energy swirls.

Each Devata has its mantra the sound vibration of which in the thin plan has the same form as yantra outlines. The whole Universe is permeated with the energies of Devatas. All the nature around us, including a human, consists of these energies. And if a human’s life lacks a certain energy, it can be attracted with the help of yantras and ritual practices.

Brahmins, the people having practiced meditation for a long time and possessing supernatural abilities, as well as yogis can see these energies. Brahmins are drawing yantras during the process of reading a mantra to the divine being whom this mantra is intended for. Then yantras are filled with energy in the process of carrying out pundja or homa. The god’s energy is awakened with the help of mantra, and he settles in the yantra which serves as his home. After that it is just the yantra which is the god himself. It is put onto the altar or curled into a tube, put inside into a kavachi (a special miniature case) and worn on the body.

The Buddhist iconography is a complicated science; however, the matter is that the image of each Buddha depicted on the Buddhist icons is related to not a personage but to a concentrated bundle of psychological experience. It is the certain sense associated with the name of a certain Buddha or a saint. There are icons which can be read like a map of psychological travels and which are just assigned for that. It is believed that after getting the skills of correct concentration, a Buddhist (searching the “enlightment”) is able to travel, according to the special icons and mandalas, along the ways which were laid earlier by Buddhist mystics. There are mandalas created specially for the only purpose – to be a map, to reflect the structure of the Universe, etc.

Thus, to conclude the above, it is possible to say that a human is a certain space of consciousness and emotionally saturated senses. It is an alchemist crucible where the substrate of his personal senses is boiled. It is the cosmos existing according to its laws. And, similar to the cosmos, to cognize himself a human must map this space. There is a concept of the space inside us. The problem is that it is necessary to train the introspective skills, the ability to move through the space of the inner cosmos.

The matter is that the human exists in all the worlds simultaneously. It can be explained by the fact that he is inserted into the picture of the world with his legs, body and herd, as well as his thoughts, feelings and instincts. That is, we all are constantly, with our whole essence, in the three-level structure of the space. However, not all the contents of our consciousness field can be comprehended. Though our attention possesses the sufficient volume and distribution, it does not have an endless potential. We cannot comprehend everything at once. So, we fix only a small piece of reality and call it “conscious attention”.

What appears in the focus of our attention refers to one of the worlds of our cosmos. Ordinary people are used to fix some number of phenomena of the middle world. Most people don’t even guess that they constantly acquire energy and information from the lower and upper worlds. The habit of a certain way of perception doesn’t allow them to understand the truth.

The emotions and feelings, thoughts and wishes we experience in everyday life are inhomogeneous in their composition; they are distributed in our psychic space discretely and refer not only to the certain worlds, but to the certain essences inhabiting there. And honestly speaking, most of these essences are not very useful for people.

According to the shaman’s cosmos, anger, envy, spite, greediness, volumptuousness – all these are connected with the spirits living in certain worlds. These are the worlds where certain essences inhabit.

In Buddhism, for instance, there is the world of hungry spirits. This is, if it is possible to say, the world of greediness. Unappeasable hunger is the main feature of this reality. Traveling there is not very pleasant and quite dangerous without proper protection, but rather instructive. The spirits of this area have huge stomachs and very narrow throats with a long neck and big mouth. The spirits are constantly chewing something. They greedily fill their huge mouths, but cannot swallow through their long and narrow throats. It looks disgusting and pitiful.

It resembles a sophisticated torture. But the sense is that if they didn’t fill their mouths so greedily and swallow little by little, they could satiate themselves quite successfully and wouldn’t suffer from those tortures of hunger. The cause of their trouble is their foolishness. Their greediness doesn’t let them stop. They are doomed to eternal hunger.

The similar things are not rear in the lower worlds as well as in the upper ones. The problem is that any spirit, any consciousness always tends to develop, to expand its influence. And the field of battle for the sphere of influence is a human. The human consciousness, or more specifically one of its most important functions, the function of conscious focusing (attention), is the splendid “light ray in the dark kingdom” which both gods and devils are always ready to fight for.

And, according to Buddhist logic, having uncontrollable wishes, emotions and feelings, we risk to be sunk into one of the specific worlds too deep and to be completely stipulated by the insertions of these worlds. And if you are racked by insatiable greediness, all in all you’ll become the hungry spirit, a pret. And this is not a metaphor already, there are such people in real life.

As it is said above, everything around us is information, sense, energy. The energy of different sublevels and worlds is different and has different features. Generally, the energetic perception of cosmos can be characterized in terms of heaviness and lightness. The worlds grow heavy downwards and become light upwards. The lower we are, the stronger we feel something like pressure; the higher we are, the lighter is everything around us. Something similar is happening with the degrees of light and color. The higher it is (up to the very highest), the lighter and whiter it is. The lower it is into the hell depth, the more red and black it is up to the places where there is darkness and tooth grinding.

However, there are many worlds where there is no such a color-light gradation. There are lower worlds full of color and light, which are just permeated with colorful shining. Very strange essences and creatures live there. There are upper worlds which are dark, dull or ‘subdued’ where there are feelings dangerous for people unacceptable in general. Traveling through these spheres makes our consciousness dull in spite of their ‘upper’ location.

At every moment of time, something is comprehended completely, and something remains on the periphery of attention waiting for its share of energy. This happens with not only the comprehension of visual phenomena, sounds, feelings and so on, but with our thoughts, emotions, wishes and instincts, so called “ sense constructions” or “bundles”. According to shamans’ understanding, intensive emotions, feelings, senses or thoughts ‘attract’ our consciousness into one of the worlds and fix our attention in it.

Human psychic reality is open to all the worlds simultaneously. Essences living in this world are attracted to the ‘light’ of our energy and tend to get the access to the focus of our attention, are eager to take possession of its function in order to develop themselves and extend their influence. The problem is that any essence, according to its definition, cannot go beyond its world. So, by opening the access to us for some essence, we tie our consciousness to one of the worlds. The deeper the essence gets implanted into us, the stronger it creates the habit to focus our attention in its world. We lose the ability to move around the worlds and make our perception poorer and one-sided.

That is, if, for instance, irritation dominates in you and you attract a spirit from the lower world, you will get weakness for irritation in addition. Uncontrollable (unconscious) cherishing the spirit of anger will tie you, for sure, to the hellish worlds, and you will feel anger and irritation very often without noticing it. In such cases, spirits usually try to disguise themselves under “usual ego” and hide their foreignness. And if a person doesn’t have the habit of delicate introspection (self-watching), he is doomed to see the world through the prism of irritation; his perception filters the reality through the consciousness of spirit, through the world of anger.

The concept of ‘affects’ in Yoga is similar to the notions about possession by spirits in shamanism. Affects are complicated fillers of consciousness; there are five of them: ignorance, egoism, inclination, hostility, thirst for life. The overcoming of them constitutes the ethic and psychic-technical practice. Its basis is the ethic philosophy of Yoga, self-control, carrying out spiritual regulations and psychic concentration (san’yama) upon the positive ideas of consciousness: Spiritual Teacher, friendliness, compassion, joy, impartiality, self-identity to Spirit, spiritual knowledge, reasons of karma and sufferings, moral debt, real happiness, supreme Good and others.

Our notions about ourselves, sensing ourselves as a personality, individuality capable to function in ‘a free-running mode’ – in many senses, it is a certain algorithm, habit, way of thinking. Each of us has a name, biography, a passport. We refer to a certain system, social formation – a country, nation, culture, family, etc.

All these create the individual differences leading our brain to the habit of thinking about ourselves as something very personal, an individual and unique creature. In fact, nothing of above is “ours”. These are just names, labels; and only the habit of considering them as something important doesn’t let us look at the world from both Yoga and shaman’s viewpoints. For both a yogi and a shaman, it is important to get rid of individual characteristics. Without it, it’s impossible to pass to special states, to the Strength – egocentrism is always impossibility to transcendent, to be beyond one’s limits.

Both a yogi and a shaman must be a moral person in the traditional sense. Their inner and outer worlds must be in harmony. It provides their psychic integrity and health. Moral qualities are necessary to both yogis and shamans as an ecological shield. Unlike the yogi, the shaman, due to his specific role in the social surroundings, has to travel around the hellish worlds and to do a lot of ‘dirty’ work without losing his reason and health. Very often the shaman can be where an ordinary, not so clean person (who didn’t drive out ‘foreigners’ from himself) would have lost his reason or soul.

Of cause, the most important requirement of Yoga and shaman practices is living without lying ( in Yoga, it is the principle asteya, one of the five yama principles): having the habit to say the truth to people and to himself without getting confused and lying to others and to himself. A lie is strictly prohibited for both the yogi and shaman. Mercenary lie breaks the purity of perception, access to the depth of one’s psychic reality, makes lose the clear vision.

The yogi (and shaman) is able to distinguish the guidelines of his Path only when he realizes his place in the Universe; when he acts remembering that he is not alone, that beside him there is the rest of the Universe. Let’s characterize the Veda picture of the Universe plans from the viewpoint of manifesting the consciousness states in them.

In “Vedas”, the seven Universe plans are interpreted as theseven worlds – Saptaloka:

  1. The world of the mortal.
  2. The abode of the dead.
  3. The abode of those who are limited with the ties to the personal ego.
  4. The abode of the great – half-gods.
  5. The abode of divine souls which overcame the limitations of ego and achieved the comprehension of unity with their creations.
  6. The abode of the enlightened – the creatures that possess the divine strength and, being in the state of divine bliss, realized the real nature of things – the God’s strength by means of which everything was created.
  7. The abode of the supreme who have achieved the complete unity with God due to the comprehension of Supreme Verity, understanding the Initial Principle.

The seven worlds are grouped into three spheres – lowest, higher and highest.

Three of the seven plans – the world of the mortal (Bhuh), the abode of the dead (Bhuvah) and the abode of the limited (Svah) are named the three lowest worlds (Adho-triloka). Comprehending them is possible within the instrumental abilities of the functional part of human consciousness which is called intellect and is the more developed form of animals’ intellect. The living embodied human beings inhabit in Bhu-loka where three consciousness states are possible: the state of wakefulness, the state of sleeping with dreams and the state of post-sleeping without dreams.

The dominating phase of the consciousness state in the world of the mortal is wakefulness.

After physical death, human comprehension comes into Bhuva-loka where the state of sleeping with dreams dominates. The hidden human wishes, hopes and scares aquire the form while becoming the reality of this abode of permanent sleeping and giving birth to the images of feelings – heaven bliss or hellish sufferings.

People who possessed clear reason and bright intellect while being alive often escape the transitional period Bhuva-loka and after death come directly to Sva-loka. There they enjoy happiness which is born by their tendency to comprehend complicated abstract ideas and by intention to the stable state of deep considering or realized during their lives, and then they come to the state of deep rest – sleeping without dreams. Most ordinary people also have the chance to come to Sva-loka and stay there for some time which depends on the more or less degree of comprehending their divine nature – the feature given to human beings from birth. However, then the soul has to return to the world of the mortal – Bhu-loka — having been embodied into the born creature to achieve the higher level of developing intellect and emotional sphere.

At last, the level of human being’s organization as a result of his development gets enough to acquire the human consciousness proper – the initial wisdom. The later human development and his transformation into some type of super-human being happens by means of gradual ‘functional replacing’ the animal-level instrument (intellect) with the purely human instrument (wisdom) which is not limited by bulky and inflexible constructions designed for logical operating the information of three-dimension continuum.

We can partly penetrate into the mystery of soul – the instrument of mind. But for its thorough studying, a person has to achieve the comprehended awakening the superior reason or intuition –Buddha, the mind level which controls the processes of transformation and perfection of intellect. The world of Buddha starts from the level of the abode of the great – half-gods (Maha-loka), the sphere of feelings. In Maha-loka, the separated and refined intellect is combined with intuition – Buddhi — forming quite a new thing – wisdom. The three highest worlds are united under one name Urdha-triloka – three highest plans which also refer to the sphere of intuition –Buddhi. They are out of reach of intellect and the other lower functional instruments of mind.

In order to penetrate into Urdha-triloka, a person has first of all to overcome five vices in his consciousness; lust, greediness, ignorance – unknowing the principles of the Universe structure and the real sense of life, pride of egoism and evil. For most human beings, the existence of the five vices (or some of them) shouldn’t be understood as the brightly expressed, dominating states of consciousness undoubtedly and actively defining the human manifestations in his actions, deeds and relations. Such one-sided embodiments of vices are rear enough and inherent either to some special personalities or the manifestations of ordinary people in marginal situations when the hidden depth of consciousness comes on the surface and becomes evident. In the usual conditions, the vices are expressed rather as the emotional tendencies of consciousness reaction. It makes them hardly understandable and practically inaccessible to the intellectual instruments of self-consciousness.

“A speck” in one’s eye is more noticeable than “a log” in your own because it is in the outer sphere, the perception and interpretation of which is carried out substantially with the help of intellect. One’s own “log” belongs to one’s own emotional sphere which is deeper than the sphere of intellect and that is why it is, in fact, inaccessible to control by intellect. Phenomena localized in the emotional sphere are subjected to adequate awareness only in case of self-consciousness deepening into spheres which are more outer in relation to the emotional one and so capable to control it.

For example, such a sphere is that of a personal will. Then intellect can be consciously used as the instrument of estimating and processing information about the presence of hidden manifestations of some vices in the emotional sphere. So, some hardly noticeable sorrow that a person feels deeply inside oneself, while parting with some thing regarded as belonging to oneself, is greediness, though no visible manifestation of this vice could be noticed by the most intent viewer. In the same way, a tinge of uncontrollable irritation we feel while communicating with some people is the manifestation of malignance. However, we can, quite sincerely, behave politely and favorably.

The most serious and insurmountable obstacle are always inside us; the thinner and more thoroughly masked they are, the more reluctantly we notice them and acknowledge their presence, the more difficult it is to overcome them for our consciousness. That is why honesty is so important in the fight for superior knowledge, first of all honesty in relations with oneself. Subsequently, the victory over wishes and passions lets get the freedom from the links to the objects and phenomena of the material world – the world of formal manifestations; this freedom gives the right to enter Urdhva-triloka.

The self-consciousness of a creature which habits the sphere Urdhva-triloka is characterized by the absence of any negative moments. The highest delight and superior knowledge become the main features of mind; the necessity to return to sufferings and pain of the new embodiments disappears. The necessity of embodiment is dictated by Karma – the aggregate of ‘open questions’, incomplete vibration structures of awareness which are defined by ignoring some aspects of the world of formal manifestations. The creature that has achieved superior knowledge corresponding to Urdhva-triloka automatically “closes” all the similar questions to oneself as it knows the essence of the manifestations being behind them. By this, Karma appears to be exhausted and the structure of awareness – harmonically completed.

Thus, the human evolution is not limited by the plan of earthy existence (the world of the mortal), but continues in the higher worlds – the spheres of true immortality – which cannot be comprehended by mind in its limited form of usual human intellect.

The man remains to be involved into the evolution process until he realizes the true essence of his divine nature. The human being’s passing the evolutional sequence of embodiments is named in Vedas as the evolution line of a personal or individual soul.

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