A voicehearer’s path ~

Archive for May, 2011

The Compassionate Path ~

It must be remembered that the first of the major religions to show us a path where compassion is the key to spiritual growth, is the Judaic Path of Moses to the Jews. That is often overlooked because of the several battles Jewish history shows were a part of that revelation. There are also commandments to kill transgressors outright for their sins. However, some of the things that are overlooked are of monumental importance. Though the Jews were settled in an area where there were enemies (and I do mean enemies, the folks around them wanted them out or dead or both) all around them, they were not instructed to kill or even bother those who were not bothering them in any way, very much a live and let live philosophy.

Further, a study of the commands to kill transgressors reveals that it was an attempt to purify the ranks from within, as most of those commands were aimed at those that had been taught the commandments, but chose to ignore them. In fact, if you examine the laws of Leviticus closely, you discover that the blood shed from animals was only for unintentional sin (and even that wasn’t necessary if you were among the poor); that, for intentional sin, the requirements were repentance and restitution to the one against whom the crime was committed.(Leviticus 5:2-13) In fact, the mitzvot regarding the treatment of neighbors and strangers alike were in all likelihood, the most compassionate set of commands put down by a lawmaker anywhere before then. Now, I am an egalitarian, so do not believe in putting women in a subservient role to men. At the same time, I do recognize that the Jewish treatment of women was far better than the surrounding cultures at the time of Moses.

Historically from the rabbi Y’shua we learn that love is the principle behind the mitzvot. But the “how to” of compassion, the path to learning to live in compassion is best learned from the Buddhist’s teachings. From Thich Naht Hanh comes a wonderful set of teachings on distancing oneself from the angry feelings that well up inside us. From the current Dalai Lama, a prolific writer, we have gained, as you saw a sample in the last post, a wonderful means of learning to live in compassion. His books are wonderful, and there are many to choose from. From each of these great teachers, Moses, who gave us a full list of what constituted compassionate behavior toward one’s fellow man, from Y’shua, the principles behind those examples, from Buddha, the very essential means of ridding ourselves of anger and learning compassionate behaviors at all levels of life.

In spite of, or because of, the very breadth of our upside down world, we have before us the means of becoming the generation that learned to be compassionate, with or without religion as our mainstay. What a marvelous time to be alive!

Dalai Lama

This is a teaching by the Dalai Lama, reposted in it’s entirety from Shambhala Sun.

Living the Compassionate Life

By His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

This teaching by the Dalai Lama, adapted from The Compassionate Life published in 2001, explains how the Buddhist teachings of mindfulness and compassion lead inevitably to feelings of self-confidence and kindness.

As human beings we all have the potential to be happy and compassionate people, and we also have the potential to be miserable and harmful to others. The potential for all these things is present within each of us.

If we want to be happy, then the important thing is to try to promote the positive and useful aspects in each of us and to try to reduce the negative. Doing negative things, such as stealing and lying, may occasionally seem to bring some short-term satisfaction, but in the long term they will always bring us misery. Positive acts always bring us inner strength. With inner strength we have less fear and more self-confidence, and it becomes much easier to extend our sense of caring to others without any barriers, whether religious, cultural, or otherwise. It is thus very important to recognize our potential for both good and bad, and then to observe and analyze it carefully.

This is what I call the promotion of human value. My main concern is always how to promote an understanding of deeper human value. This deeper human value is compassion, a sense of caring, and commitment. No matter what your religion, and whether you are a believer or a nonbeliever, without them you cannot be happy.

Kindness and a good heart form the underlying foundation for our success in this life, our progress on the spiritual path, and our fulfillment of our ultimate aspiration: the attainment of full enlightenment. Hence, compassion and a good heart are not only important at the beginning but also in the middle and at the end. Their necessity and value are not limited to any specific time, place, society or culture.

Thus, we need compassion and human affection not only to survive; they are the ultimate sources of success in life. Selfish ways of thinking not only harm others, they prevent the very happiness we ourselves desire. The time has come to think more wisely, hasn’t it? This is my belief.

Developing Compassion

Before we can generate compassion and love, it is important to have a clear understanding of what we understand compassion and love to be. In simple terms, compassion and love can be defined as positive thoughts and feelings that give rise to such essential things in life as hope, courage, determination and inner strength. In the Buddhist tradition, compassion and love are seen as two aspects of same thing: compassion is the wish for another being to be free from suffering; love is wanting them to have happiness.

The next matter to be understood is whether it is possible to enhance compassion and love. In other words, is there a means by which these qualities of mind can be increased, and anger, hatred, and jealousy reduced? My answer to this is an emphatic, “Yes!” Even if you do not agree with me right now, let yourself be open to the possibility of such development. Let us carry out some experiments together; perhaps we may then find some answers.

For a start, it is possible to divide every kind of happiness and suffering into two main categories: mental and physical. Of the two, it is the mind that exerts the greatest influence on most of us. Unless we are either gravely ill or deprived of basic necessities, our physical condition plays a secondary role in life. If the body is content, we virtually ignore it. The mind, however, registers every event, no matter how small. Hence we should devote our most serious efforts to bringing about mental peace rather than physical comfort.

The Mind Can Be Changed

From my own limited experience, I am convinced that through constant training we can indeed develop our minds. Our positive attitudes, thoughts, and outlook can be enhanced, and their negative counterparts can be reduced. Even a single moment of consciousness depends on so many factors, and when we change these various factors, the mind also changes. This is a simple truth about the nature of mind.

The thing that we call “mind” is quite peculiar. Sometimes it is very stubborn and very resistant to change. With continuous effort, however, and with conviction based on reason, our minds are sometimes quite honest and flexible. When we truly recognize that there is some need to change, then our minds can change. Wishing and praying alone will not transform your mind; you also need reason—reason ultimately grounded in your own experience. And you won’t be able to transform your mind overnight; old habits, especially mental ones, resist quick solutions. But with effort over time and conviction grounded in reason, you can definitely achieve profound changes in your mental attitudes.

As a basis for change, we need to recognize that as long as we live in this world we will encounter problems, things that obstruct the fulfillment of our goals. If, when these happen, we lose hope and become discouraged, we diminish our ability to face these difficulties. If, on the other hand, we remember that not just we but everyone has to undergo suffering, this more realistic perspective will increase our determination and our capacity to overcome troubles. By remembering the suffering of others, by feeling compassion for others, our own suffering becomes manageable. Indeed, with this attitude, each new obstacle can be seen as yet another valuable opportunity to improve our mind, another opportunity for deepening our compassion! With each new experience, we can strive gradually to become more compassionate; that is, we can develop both genuine sympathy for others’ suffering and the will to help remove their pain. As a result, our own serenity and inner strength will increase.

How to Develop Compassion

Self-centeredness inhibits our love for others, and we are all afflicted by it to one degree or another. For true happiness to come about, we need a calm mind, and such peace of mind is brought about only by a compassionate attitude. How can we develop this attitude? Obviously, it is not enough for us simply to believe that compassion is important and to think about how nice it is! We need to make a concerted effort to develop it; we must use all the events of our daily life to transform our thoughts and behavior.

First of all, we must be clear about what we mean by compassion. Many forms of compassionate feeling are mixed with desire and attachment. For instance, the love parents feel for their child is often strongly associated with their own emotional needs, so it is not fully compassionate. Usually when we are concerned about a close friend, we call this compassion, but it too is usually attachment. Even in marriage, the love between husband and wife—particularly at the beginning, when each partner still may not know the other’s deeper character very well—depends more on attachment than genuine love. Marriages that last only a short time do so because they lack compassion; they are produced by emotional attachment based on projection and expectation, and as soon as the projections change, the attachment disappears. Our desire can be so strong that the person to whom we are attached appears to be flawless, when in fact he or she has many faults. In addition, attachment makes us exaggerate small, positive qualities. When this happens, it indicates that our love is motivated more by personal need than by genuine care for another.

Compassion without attachment is possible. Therefore, we need to clarify the distinctions between compassion and attachment. True compassion is not just an emotional response but a firm commitment founded on reason. Because of this firm foundation, a truly compassionate attitude toward others does not change even if they behave negatively. Genuine compassion is based not on our own projections and expectations, but rather on the needs of the other: irrespective of whether another person is a close friend or an enemy, as long as that person wishes for peace and happiness and wishes to overcome suffering, then on that basis we develop genuine concern for their problem. This is genuine compassion. For a Buddhist practitioner, the goal is to develop this genuine compassion, this genuine wish for the well-being of another, in fact for every living being throughout the universe. Of course, developing this kind of compassion is not at all easy! Let us consider this point more closely.

Whether people are beautiful or plain, friendly or cruel, ultimately they are human beings, just like oneself. Like oneself, they want happiness and do not want suffering. Furthermore, their right to overcome suffering and to be happy is equal to one’s own. Now, when you recognize that all beings are equal in both their desire for happiness and their right to obtain it, you automatically feel empathy and closeness for them. Through accustoming your mind to this sense of universal altruism, you develop a feeling of responsibility for others; you wish to help them actively overcome their problems. This wish is not selective; it applies equally to all beings. As long as they experience pleasure and pain just as you do, there is no logical basis to discriminate between them or to alter your concern for them if they behave negatively.

One point I should make here is that some people, especially those who see themselves as very realistic and practical, are sometimes too realistic and obsessed with practicality. They may think, “The idea of wishing for the happiness of all beings, of wanting what is best for every single one, is unrealistic and too idealistic. Such an unrealistic idea cannot contribute in any way to transforming the mind or to attaining some kind of mental discipline because it is completely unachievable.”

A more effective approach, they may think, would be to begin with a close circle of people with whom one has direct interaction. Later one can expand and increase the parameters of that circle. They feel there is simply no point in thinking about all beings, since there is an infinite number of them. They may conceivably be able to feel some kind of connection with some fellow human beings on this planet, but they feel that the infinite number of beings throughout the universe have nothing to do with their own experience as individuals. They may ask, “What point is there in trying to cultivate the mind that tries to include within its sphere every living being?”

In other contexts, that may be a valid objection. What is important here, however, is to grasp the impact of cultivating such altruistic sentiments. The point is to try to develop the scope of our empathy in such a way that we can extend it to any form of life with the capacity to feel pain and experience happiness. It is a matter of recognizing living organisms as sentient, and therefore subject to pain and capable of happiness.

Such a universal sentiment of compassion is very powerful, and there is no need to be able to identify, in specific terms, with every single living being in order for it to be effective. In this regard it is similar to recognizing the universal nature of impermanence: when we cultivate the recognition that all things and events are impermanent, we do not need to consider individually every single thing that exists in the universe in order to be convinced of it. That is not how the mind works. It is important to appreciate this point.

Given patience and time, it is within our power to develop this kind of universal compassion. Of course our self-centeredness, our distinctive attachment to the feeling of a solid “I,” works fundamentally to inhibit our compassion. Indeed, true compassion can be experienced only when this type of self-grasping is eliminated. But this does not mean that we cannot start to cultivate compassion and begin to make progress right away.

Since compassion and a good heart are developed through constant and conscious effort, it is important for us first to identify the favorable conditions that give rise to our own qualities of kindness, and then to identify the adverse circumstances that obstruct our cultivation of these positive states of mind. It is therefore important for us to lead a life of constant mindfulness and mental alertness. Our mastery of mindfulness should be such that whenever a new situation arises, we are able to recognize immediately whether the circumstances are favorable or adverse to the development of compassion and a good heart. By pursuing the practice of compassion in such a manner, we will gradually be able to alleviate the effects of the obstructive forces and enhance the conditions that favor the development of compassion and a good heart.

Global Compassion

I believe that at every level of society—familial, national and international—the key to a happier and more successful world is the growth of compassion. We do not need to become religious, nor do we need to believe in a particular ideology. All that is necessary is for each of us to develop our good human qualities. I believe that the cultivation of individual happiness can contribute in a profound and effective way to the overall improvement of the entire human community.

We all share an identical need for love, and on the basis of this commonality, it is possible to feel that anybody we meet, in whatever circumstances, is a brother or sister. No matter how new the face or how different the dress or behavior, there is no significant division between us and other people. It is foolish to dwell on external differences because our basic natures are the same.

The benefits of transcending such superficial differences become clear when we look at our global situation. Ultimately, humanity is one and this small planet is our only home. If we are to protect this home of ours, each of us needs to experience a vivid sense of universal altruism and compassion. It is only this feeling that can remove the self-centered motives that cause people to deceive and misuse one another. If you have a sincere and open heart, you naturally feel self-worth and confidence, and there is no need to be fearful of others.

The need for an atmosphere of openness and cooperation at the global level is becoming more urgent. In this modern age, when it comes to dealing with economic situations there are no longer familial or even national boundaries. From country to country and continent to continent, the world is inextricably interconnected. Each country depends heavily on the others. In order for a country to develop its own economy, it is forced to take seriously into account the economic conditions of other countries as well. In fact, economic improvement in other countries ultimately results in economic improvement in one’s own country.

In view of these facts about our modern world, we need a total revolution in our thinking and our habits. It is becoming clearer every day that a viable economic system must be based on a true sense of universal responsibility. In other words, what we need is a genuine commitment to the principles of universal brotherhood and sisterhood. This much is clear, isn’t it? This is not just a holy, moral or religious ideal. Rather, it is the reality of our modem human existence.

If you reflect deeply enough, it becomes obvious that we need more compassion and altruism everywhere. This critical point can be appreciated by observing the current state of affairs in the world, whether in the fields of modern economics and health care, or in political and military situations. In addition to the multitude of social and political crises, the world is also facing an ever-increasing cycle of natural calamities. Year after year, we have witnessed a radical shifting of global climatic patterns that has led to grave consequences: excessive rain in some countries that has brought serious flooding, a shortage of precipitation in other countries that has resulted in devastating droughts. Fortunately, concern for ecology and the environment is rapidly growing everywhere. We are now beginning to appreciate that the question of environmental protection is ultimately a question of our very survival on this planet. As human beings, we must also respect our fellow members of the human family: our neighbors, our friends, and so forth. Compassion, loving-kindness, altruism, and a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood are the keys not only to human development, but to planetary survival.

The success or failure of humanity in the future depends primarily upon the will and determination of the present generation. If we ourselves do not utilize our faculties of will and intelligence, there is no one else who can guarantee our future and that of the next generation. This is an indisputable fact. We cannot place the entire blame on politicians or those people who are seen as directly responsible for various situations; we too must bear some responsibility personally. It is only when the individual accepts personal responsibility that he or she begins to take some initiative. Just shouting and complaining is not good enough. A genuine change must first come from within the individual, then he or she can attempt to make significant contributions to humanity. Altruism is not merely a religious ideal; itis an indispensable requirement for humanity at large.


Adapted from The Compassionate Life, by the Dalai Lama. © 2001 Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. Available from Wisdom Publications.

Rape

Rape is a crime perpetrated by both the perpetrator, and by the law. Not because of the intense questions of the officers of the victim, but because seldom is rape a long or terminal sentence, even when the perp is proven to be a serial rapist. It is a crime against society! It is a crime against all civilized people! This is posted elsewhere, I give it to you in it’s entirety because the message needs to be “gotten”.

A lot has been said about how to prevent rape.

  • Women should learn self-defense.
  • Women should lock themselves in their houses after dark.
  • Women shouldn’t have long hair and women shouldn’t wear short skirts.
  • Women shouldn’t leave drinks unattended.
  • Fuck, they shouldn’t dare to get drunk at all.

Instead of that bullshit, how about:

If a woman is drunk, don’t rape her.
If a woman is walking alone at night, don’t rape her.
If a women is drugged and unconscious, don’t rape her.
If a woman is wearing a short skirt, don’t rape her.
If a woman is jogging in a park at 5 am, don’t rape her.
If a woman looks like your ex-girlfriend you’re still hung up on, don’t rape her.
If a woman is asleep in her bed, don’t rape her.
If a woman is asleep in your bed, don’t rape her.
If a woman is doing her laundry, don’t rape her.
If a woman is in a coma, don’t rape her.
If a woman changes her mind in the middle of or about a particular activity, don’t rape her.
If a woman has repeatedly refused a certain activity, don’t rape her.
If a woman is not yet a woman, but a child, don’t rape her.
If your girlfriend or wife is not in the mood, don’t rape her.
If your step-daughter is watching TV, don’t rape her.
If you break into a house and find a woman there, don’t rape her.
If your friend thinks it’s okay to rape someone, tell him it’s not, and that he’s not your friend.
If your “friend” tells you he raped someone, report him to the police.
If your frat-brother or another guy at the party tells you there’s an unconscious woman upstairs and it’s your turn, don’t rape her, call the police and tell the guy he’s a rapist.
Tell your sons, god-sons, nephews, grandsons, sons of friends it’s not okay to rape someone.
Don’t tell your women friends how to be safe and avoid rape.
Don’t imply that she could have avoided it if she’d only done/not done x.
Don’t imply that it’s in any way her fault.
Don’t let silence imply agreement when someone tells you he “got some” with the drunk girl.
Don’t perpetuate a culture that tells you that you have no control over or responsibility for your actions. You can, too, help yourself.

If you agree, re-post it. It’s that important.

New page

I just added a new page to the tabs at the top of the home page, Constantine, et al. I had started out with Feedback, giving my beliefset for those interested, it is now on a page as well. I will probably add at least one more page, giving the examples of the teachings from Buddha, Y’shua, and Native American cosmology regarding compassion, and adding lots of links for those who wish to do their own studies. Again, thanks all for reading my blog

Edit: the next page, Buddha and Jesus, the Path of Compassion, has been added. Thanks

Feedback ~

Warning: This may be a very long post, read at your own peril:

Throughout the great scheme of things you secure a B+ for hard work. Exactly where you confused everybody was on your details. As it is said, details make or break the argument.. And that couldn’t be more accurate right here. Having said that, permit me say to you what did work. The text is certainly quite engaging and that is probably the reason why I am taking an effort in order to comment. I do not make it a regular habit of doing that. Secondly, whilst I can notice a leap in reasoning you make, I am definitely not convinced of exactly how you seem to unite your ideas that help to make your final result. For now I will, no doubt yield to your point however trust in the foreseeable future you actually connect your facts better.

First of all, thank you for this feedback, I have been hoping to get someone’s critique on the writing, and though this is overall positive, you make a good point about the lightness of the facts presented. In the entire blog, I have presented most of the passages from the Bible and from other sources that I base my argument upon, but you would have to read the entire blog to get that, as they are pretty scattered. In the hopes of not boring my regular readership, I will go ahead and list many of them here, so that you may see them in one post. Forgive me for presuming that most do not want to slog through my many years of contemplation and study, I do understand that most are not into that kind of study in reading a blog, but concede to the need to make the argument clearer and better organized.

I would like to share with you the passages in the New Testament that had me questioning the interpretation of spirituality that was being given in the churches I had attended, mostly Pentecostal and Evangelical.

From John 14 ;12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

Now, I had seen true miracles done in his name, and had seen wonders come through my own prayers, but had never witnessed anything that could be listed as being any greater than what the Master is said to have done, either through my hands or through the hands of others. We were either not doing enough, or not believing correctly, or this was a misquote. For many years I thought it might be that I was not believing him for the greater things.

But, wait, there were other passages that had me asking questions. (BTW, please, always, feel free to read the entire passage from which I quote, to do that here would make a post that will already be more than a long chapter longer, it would make it unreadable in one sitting, it may be anyway.) There was the passage in John 4,

32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

Now, this has been interpreted many ways, usually to signify that rejection of the Christ would result in eternal damnation, as it was the Holy Spirit that brought Jesus to us. I had other questions that lead back to this, however. What of those who had never heard of him, or those who had heard of him from people who had murdered a person’s family, and therefore made it impossible to hear a gospel of love from them. And what about the idea that one could speak against Jesus himself, but be forgiven, but not be forgiven for speaking against the Holy Spirit, that would make the primary explanation circular, and therefore false.

What about the idea that the Holy Spirit has already spoken to the Ivrit (Jews), giving 600(+) mitzvot or commandments regarding conduct before God. What about the other people with whom there is evidence of awareness of the Holy Spirit, such as the Tao Te Ching , which, in several passages refers to one who can only be interpreted as the Holy Spirit; I have provided a link to one such translation, please take the time to read it, it isn’t that long, and is beautiful. What of Buddha’s teachings, so similar to Jesus’ ; they are spoken differently, and even formatted differently, and if you wish, I will make a post comparing them teaching by teaching. These are only a few examples of where and to whom the Holy Spirit has communicated, there are others, they are prolific, and I will take them example by example if you wish. (and enjoy the task, as it is something I love to contemplate!)

“]

Compassion-energy_JasonAllenMiller

There is a statement in 1John:4 7&8 that has become a mantra to me;

7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.

Now, I must digress and speak of the Holy Spirit, most profoundly and beautifully spoken of in Chapter 8 of Proverbs. Note, she is spoken of in the feminine, not the masculine as in the New Testament, because the church fathers did not want to have a comparison of their trinity teachings confused with the trinities from other faiths, Hinduism, Egyptian cosmology, Paganism, etc.. So, we must consider that she had transgendered, or perhaps the church fathers had arbitrarily decided to change her for their own purposes.The Holy Spirit, if I am correct, has spoken to all of compassion. It is here that I take my cue, that compassion is the primary purpose of our lives, we are here to learn to be compassionate with each other, against all odds! Here I also include the indigenous peoples of all the world, for when you study their take on cosmology, we are to be forgiving and to care.

Why I believe Y’shua may not have even implied he was God Incarnate;

During my journey of questions, I stumbled onto some things that were not taught in my Lutheran Catechism class.

♦ The God of the Jews, the God I thought of as my God had not actually insisted on a blood sacrifice for forgiveness of sin(a misconception in modern times, it meant shortcomings, imperfections in the original, not necessarily evil). This is stated several times in the OT but most markedly in Leviticus 5:11-13.

11 “‘If, however, they cannot afford two doves or two young pigeons, they are to bring as an offering for their sin a tenth of an ephah[a] of the finest flour for a sin offering. They must not put olive oil or incense on it, because it is a sin offering. 12 They are to bring it to the priest, who shall take a handful of it as a memorial[b] portion and burn it on the altar on top of the food offerings presented to the LORD. It is a sin offering. 13 In this way the priest will make atonement for them for any of these sins they have committed, and they will be forgiven. The rest of the offering will belong to the priest, as in the case of the grain offering.

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. [Psalm 40:6]’”

Since I am not financially blessed, this would apply to me, and most of the folks who are a part of my circle, and means that it is not a requirement to sacrifice an animal for me to be forgiven. Though this was not hidden from me as a child in the church, neither was it pointed out. In fact, I was told that there was NO remission of sin without blood being shed for me by an animal or a Christ. I thought that the only way God forgave was through bloodshed. The more aware I became of the horrendous price paid on the cross, the less compassionate I thought God, to make anyone suffer so vastly for sins he had not committed, and for my sins to boot!

In my sojourn in the church, I had learned by implication that God was demanding, angry, vengeful, and unbending. People were put to death for walking into the sanctuary if they were not the right tribe, even. Children were put to death for not obeying their parents (I understand the temptation to wring an offspring’s neck sometimes, but, God?) And a God that didn’t understand that homosexuality wasn’t always a choice? Excuse me, if God made me, he can surely look into my heart and see what is there!  And, yes, I am taking the long way around to explain this point, but I will try to explain here all the reasons for my conclusions.

♦ The God of the Jews abhorred human sacrifice. Yes, the OT is clear on this, and states it several places.This is quoted from WhatJewsbelieve.org, just to make it a quick reference, to be sure, these references are commenting on the sacrifice of one’s sons and daughters to pagan gods, but then, we are all sons and daughters:

What does God say about human sacrifice in the TaNaCH? In Deuteronomy 12:30-31, God calls Human sacrifice something that He hates, and an abomination to Him, “for every abomination to the Eternal, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. In Jeremiah 19:4-6, God tells us that Human sacrifice is so horrible a concept to Him, that it did not even come into His mind to demand it from His creation, “They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind.” We see the same thing in Psalm 106:37-38, and in Ezekiel 16:20.

Though there are places online where you can find basic Jewish beliefs, they do not have a central governing body that decides what is heretical and what is not, so there are many areas where there are differences in beliefs from one sect to the next, much the same as Protestants in the Christian faith. I realize I am using Jewish commentary on this, but I do trust the rabbis to be more in tune with what the Tanach says regarding their beliefs, and what the meaning of the verses truly is. I am an Egalitarian in my beliefs, so I am not always in tune with Jewish tradition, either. I do not believe it is right to attempt to own another human, I believe that Homosexuality is not wrong, I believe that pedophilia is completely wrong, I hear voices, and I have seen things in my mind as in visions that have come true, and I may be crazy, (it’s why I share what I believe rather than attempt to tell others this is the way they should believe)

♦If Y’shua had made the implications or said some of the things he is recorded to have said, he would have been stoned to death, as the Mosaic Law was still practiced fully in his time.That means that there are passages that may have been tampered with quite a bit to read the way they read in today’s New Testament. This may be a result of faulty understanding by the translators from the Aramaic notes that would have been available to the Greek and Roman scribes that would have been responsible for those translations, or it may be a true revision of the manuscripts for political reasons. For what ever reason may apply, there are things that he is supposed to have said that make more sense with minor changes. For instance, he is supposed to have said, “I am the way, the truth and the Life, no man comes to the Father except through me.” This would have gotten him stoned, immediately. But, with minor changes, he may have said, “The I Am ( a name used for the very near, very here presence of God) is the way, the truth and the life, No man comes to the Father except through the I Am.” very minor changes, very major change in meaning. This could easily have happened because the yod is added at the front of a word to say, “the”. Easily missed, easily misunderstood.

There are places in the four gospels that feel unchanged, others that feel like there are major revisions. I was taught that the model for prayer that is called the “Our Father” was original with Y’shua, and showed a stroke of his genius, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I learned that it was a part of Kaddish, the prayers said for the dead. I was taught that there was no other faith that used the baptism as a means of cleansing the soul to prepare for regeneration, so you can imagine my shock when I first experienced a sweat lodge at the invitation of my Shawnee teacher, the concepts run deeper, actually, but the result is the same, a newness of life and understanding. I was taught that there was a blood red line that ran through the Old Testament that testified to Y’shua’s coming. Imagine how frustrating it was to learn that the books that had been excluded from the Tanach had been excluded because they had nothing to do with Y’shua or his coming.

♦I was frustrated, and spoke of it to more than one pastor, that Paul’s words were treated with the same sense of authority as Y’shua’s words. That wasn’t right in my book then, it really isn’t now, as I have found that they take Christianity so completely away from it’s Judaic roots, that it is a Hellenized approach to faith. Paul was a very spiritual, but very human individual with faults that are difficult for me to accept in humans today. One such can be found in Corinthians. In the first letter he berates a man and his sexual practices, having coupled with his wife and her mother. In the second letter he recognizes that this was not the case, but tells them it was all for their good anyway. I really dislike people that do that, and won’t go back to a church where I find the pastor acting like that.

To be sure, there are spots in his letters that I thoroughly enjoy, even in the same letters where he errs. 1Corinthians chapter 13 is as beautiful a recitation on Love as any I have ever read, anywhere. Yet, in some of his epistles, or most specifically one that is supposed to be his, 1Timothy, he basically says women should be kept barefoot and pregnant. Grrrrr! He is pictured here preaching atop the monument in Athens to an unknown God. I would not mind so much his railing against Pagans if he and those who came after him had not made Paganism so much a part of Christianity. This entire passage can be found in the book of Acts in the New Testament.

Well, forgive me, please, I digressed a bit from my point in this section that Y’shua would not have called himself God, but I hope I am making more sense at this point.  If not, I hope you will give me feedback to that, too. I do want to make my point clear and easily understood. I am not here to impress, I am here to communicate. Thanks again for reading my blog!!

Turtle “medicine”

The turtle is a slow-moving, methodical creature, carrying its protection constantly with it. It can teach the journeyer to be grounded, how to stay in tune with Earth energies, the wisdom of flowing with the cycles of life, and to be gentle with the body's needs.

This is the fourth elemental in Native American Cosmology, representing “earth” energy.  As the caption of our turtle picture reads, it is a teacher of “Grounding”, remembering that reality, whether pleasant or not, must be tended to, daily, to remain useful in this plane. We who tend to “journey” in meditation, need to practice this a bit more than is probably done.

I just finished a Sci-Fi film, high action, with Bruce Willis, so I knew it would be lots of action before starting to watch it. Surrogates; quite a thinker, and not far from reality in our booming techno world. The story line, without giving it away completely is about the entire population becoming addicted to living through surrogate robots that live our daily lives for us. Talk about taking us out of reality and keeping us there, nobody was grounded!

The world we have created for ourselves is busy, busy, busy, and it is difficult to retain a connection with Mother Earth when you are always on the go. Take time to put your feet on the ground, bare if possible, and enjoy the feel of the cool green earth. Enjoy the cool spring air, and the flowers blooming everywhere. Love yourself enough to go to a park, or out in the country and feel, yes feel the earth as she reawakens after winter.

Hug a tree, I know that’s what they call us anyway; Tree-Huggers.  BTW, just a little off track, but still part of the Earth energy, did you know that with all the products and things we consider necessary it takes nearly 20 trees per person to erase each human’s carbon foot print? Plant a tree, plant several, you will not only be renewing the earth by doing so, you will be helping yourself as well.

In aligning with turtle “medicine”, you will find yourself concerned with all aspects of going “green”. Remember, and there is a small book you can get at Amazon.com called the “Green Book” , you can pick it up at any good book store, just gave you the link to make it easy, the goal of the book is to help you make small choices daily that add up to lots of change in the long run, but each step you take, each change you make, small or large, will ultimately help us keep the planet from flicking us off, hopefully, like a bunch of flees, when she needs to change her cloak.

Well, dang, they’re still here!

There doesn’t seem to have been a wave of 2,000,000 people floating off in the air. But then, were you worried? I wasn’t. I have met many who believe in the Rapture for the Jesus plus nothing crowd, and haven’t yet met anyone who follows Y’shua’s teachings at the Sermon on the Mount, Yeah that inconvenient bit of Matthew that discusses what you practice, ooops, note I didn’t say believe, I said what you practice. Yup, there it is, putting the slam to the Jesus plus nothing spiel.

Now, just to be clear on this, there are many Christians who believe that they must be obedient to the Master’s teachings to show they are his, so, even though they believe in the free ticket to heaven, they also believe you must be sincere. That kind of Christian is at least a little more bearable to us who no longer call ourselves that. It’s the ones who believe you can pray on the Sabbath, (Constantine’s sabbath, not the established Sabbath in the Tanakh), and go and do as you please the rest of the week that get to me. I would prefer they call themselves Paulists, but that’s another post.

Matthew 7

Judging Others

1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Ask, Seek, Knock

7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

The Narrow and Wide Gates

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

True and False Prophets

15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

True and False Disciples

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

The Wise and Foolish Builders

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

These things actually matter to me, I know, picky, picky, picky: but when you speak to people of his saving grace, you should also be speaking of the path he taught you and everyone else to walk. I personally believe that it is the saving grace of Love, of Compassion, of Kindness, that are the hallmarks of Salvation, so, I quit buying into the Jesus is God and all you have to do to be saved is believe in him for the free ride home. If “knowing” him set you on a path of railing to the “world” about it’s unregenerate nature, and you saw no change in your own behavior, then, sorry, I don’t believe you are “saved”. If the words above, in red to mark they are his, don’t ring in your soul as necessary to your daily practice, perhaps you aren’t his, and you’d better be prepared to be left behind with the rest of us.

Correction, it was supposed to be 200,000,000, gee, I think we woulda noticed that.

Holy Spirit, part 3

This has been like a scavenger hunt, following a string around the world. Impossible for me except via the web. The Holy Spirit has been found speaking to people on all continents, in many different ways. I followed her through the Tao te Ching. The writings in that missal, in any translation I have read, indicate that she it was who inspired this work. I have read several parts of the Quran, and though there are places where I do not recognize the voice, there are others where her voice rings true. I have had the great pleasure of learning oral teachings from both a Shawnee elder, and from two Lakota elders; her teachings are embodied and followed in their traditions.

I have studied Buddhism, and still study it, and have found that, though this is taught from the human side of the coin, the path that is followed there is hers, through and through. I cannot tell you that I know why She would teach a humanist path to enlightenment, I only know that Buddhism is, throughout it’s practice, a teaching from the Holy Spirit. It has occurred to me, and this seems almost blasphemous, that she considers compassion and kindness so important to the honoring of The One, that she would bring it into play even where there is no reckoning with The Ancient beyond Imagination. Perhaps, and this is something we are a long way from learning, it is kindness and compassion that are truly the forms of worship the Holy One desires.

If this is actually the case, there is no faith on Earth that completely reflects her truth. There are some that come close. Buddhism,emphasizing this as the path, that, even though humanist, comes closest of them all. It is Buddhism and it alone that speaks of learning to see all other humans as our brother, our sister, our mother, our father. It is Buddhism that teaches kindness, study and detachment from troubling emotions as the path to enlightenment. Even Y’shua’s path, so similar in it’s teachings has been skewed and twisted so that those who profess to follow him will maim and destroy other humans in his name. I am quite grateful that they do not call themselves Holy Spirit students, as this would completely blaspheme the purpose she so tirelessly seems to be attempting to teach us.

Perhaps, when we learn to stop injuring others in the name of God, when we learn to stop injuring our children so that they learn to sublimate their emotions and thereby become criminals, rapists, and murderers, we will draw closer to God in all aspects of our lives. Perhaps when we learn that NO human is chattel to be purchased and used at our disposal, we will draw closer to enlightenment in all it’s glory. Until then, we have a long way to grow.

The Holy Spirit ~

I love sundogs, for they remind me of Her, the Holy Spirit!

I have spoken of the Holy Spirit before, here most specifically. Also included in that post is the passage from Proverbs chapter 8, that is the place in the Tanakh where she is spoken of most. One of the things that I find most appealing in her monologue is this verse. 17 I love those who love me,  and those who seek me find me. She has always been available to those who would seek her out, she has never been hidden, read the whole passage, please! I am fully aware that Christians call the Holy Spirit him, as they believe that this is Jesus’ spirit, made available to believers when he died. But, as you can see if you read Proverbs 8, she was always available, always.

Now, I don’t personally believe that Y’shua ever said he was God, or any aspect of God. That means that he was speaking of her when he said, (the) I Am (is) the way, the truth, and the life, no man cometh unto the Father, save through (the)I Am. Rather than speaking of himself, except as an envoy of her, he would not have implied that he was incarnate of God. That would have led immediately to his being stoned to death. Not crucified, stoned. I do believe he was her student, and one of the best of her students throughout all of time. I find, when I read his words as reflecting that teacher-student relationship, that places that make little to no sense, suddenly have a beauty beyond imagination.

There is much online from the rabbis of today, and I read as much as I can of their words. Because of the format that has been used to introduce Y’shua’s teachings to the world, they have been put off, rather completely. This is because the Tanakh (OT), specifically says God will never incarnate into human form, and because, as I stated in the previous post to this one, God does not require a blood sacrifice for us to be forgiven of our shortcomings. It is by our attitude, and our intentions, that we are judged by God, whether we will be brought into everlasting life or everlasting death. It is by the heart of the human that the human is judged. I also believe that reincarnation may be a real possibility, as it is implied in the Tanakh even if not taught outright. That means that those who truly fouled up in this life may have a chance to redeem their spirit’s place in the heavenlies by their actions and attitudes in the next incarnation of that spirit.

I also want to include in this post the posit that much that has to be “explained” really doesn’t need explanation in the long run, I believe truth will come to the surface, it is not hidden, it does not need defended, it stands on it’s own, shining as a beacon for all who will observe it’s place. There is a physic’s axiom that applies here, called Occam’s razor, the simplest explanation is usually the best.

Attitude ~

11 “But if he cannot afford two turtledoves or two pigeons, then he shall bring as his offering for the sin that he has committed a tenth of an ephah [3] of fine flour for a sin offering. He shall put no oil on it and shall put no frankincense on it, for it is a sin offering. 12 And he shall bring it to the priest, and the priest shall take a handful of it as its memorial portion and burn this on the altar, on the Lord’s food offerings; it is a sin offering. 13 Thus the priest shall make atonement for him for the sin which he has committed in any one of these things, and he shall be forgiven. And the remainder [4] shall be for the priest, as in the grain offering.”

Odd, isn’t it? How the smallest little things can make you question major decisions in your life?  The above passage was the final straw. I had questioned so many of the church’s doctrinal stances, that I had given up going to church, had even stopped calling myself a Christian, as I didn’t believe that God would ask a human, or even a god-human to give such a sacrifice for our sins. The punishment Y’shua took before and during the crucifixion were so extreme, that I could not conceive of God being that cruel to his begotten. And here it is, right there in the Torah, God didn’t require it.

I could be forgiven if I simply offered a 1oth of an ephah of fine flour. Now, to be sure, it needed to be exhibited with a turning from deliberate sin, and with a heart that wanted to serve the Holiest of Holies, but, there didn’t need to be blood shed for my sins. God did not require bloodshed. OK, now I could believe beyond all questioning that God was good, loving, kind, and merciful to the full extent. This is a God with true compassion toward his created.

Yet, there was the story of Cain and Abel. How do you reconcile that? The rabbis explain it. Abel gave gladly of the finest in his herd, while Cain gave of the rotten leftovers from his garden. So, it is an attitude of the heart that God is looking for, not blood. When I realized this, I fell in love with God all over again. God is simply awesome!  There are other passages that echo this, for instance, from Psalms 40 6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire— but my ears you have opened[c]burnt offerings and sin offerings[d] you did not require.

I don’t know how, in all my reading of the scriptures I missed the significance of these passages. I guess I had been taught so long that God required blood to forgive, that I missed it.  The rest of that Psalm speaks of the same change of heart that is looked for in all of those passages that speak of sin. It isn’t about sin, it’s about loving God so much we love our neighbors as equals in the eyes of that same Holy One. We quit wanting to harm others, we quit wallowing in our own mud puddle and start looking at the love we have been given, and are grateful.So, if I read these passages correctly, and according to the rabbi’s whose work I have read, it isn’t blood that gets you into heaven, it’s an attitude of the heart!


Financing God ~

There have been rumors for years that a local “church” requires a $10,000 “down payment” to be a member there. I have hoped that was just a malicious rumor, but I am hearing more and more about churches that require more than 10% of a person’s wages to be in membership. I live on subsidy because I have so many health problems, and so would not be able to attend any church that required more than a stipend for their services. Besides, one’s spiritual nourishment should not cost in dollars and cents. Time, prayer, preparing meals for the needy, sewing, any of those things that one can “do” should be sufficient for one’s offering.

In fact, it distresses me to hear ministries anywhere require more than a “love offering” within the Christian church. I have attended Buddhist and Native American gatherings where the only thing asked of me were things I could do to pitch in and help. One elder of a tribe where I was blessed to be a part of the ceremony in fact said, “Spirituality should never cost money, as money has nothing to do with the realm of Spirit.” I agree. That does not mean I will not give of funds when I have them, we live in a world where the supplies to hold a gathering cost in dollars, so I will help where I can.

I personally could not and would not withhold prayers for healing or any other blessing because I was not paid in dollars. That would go against everything I stand for. In fact, there is something about such requirement that feels “dirty” to me. Most of the churches where I have been involved at more than just an attendance level, have in fact considered that a matter between the believer and God. Indeed, though I do not necessarily agree with the practice, there are churches that are in the habit of passing the basket around more than once during the service. There is the offertory, where you give what you and God have worked out that you can give to the church, and then there are other offerings that go to other ministries the church has committed itself to help.

What I feel most worried about, is that those who need or just plain want spiritual encouragement, but are not yet committed to a church, will simply turn away from God’s ever loving kindness because of the greed of those who feel their services cannot be rendered without due recognition in the form of money. Please do not make God’s love only something the monetarily wealthy can afford. To do so makes The Master out to be a liar, for those most weary cannot come to The Father for rest.

Contemplation ~

It is often difficult for those reared in Western mode to meditate in an Eastern, No Thing, manner. To simply contemplate silence seems quite difficult for those of us reared with the constant input from our Western upbringing. However, there are ways to meditate that work quite well with this background. Because I have the constant voices going on in my head, this was the way I had to learn to meditate. Now, after many years, I can get to a point of silent meditation, and fairly quickly, the contemplations having helped me to “get there”.

One of the passages that speaks to this is out of Paul’s writings, in Philippians, Chapter 4, verse 8 ( Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. ) It is an excellent way to also cleanse the mind of the odd mixture of sex and violence that pervades our environment. 

The easiest way to begin such a venture, if you are new to the concept, is to prepare to study a passage in a book, or listen to an audio book that is wholesome, bringing out lovely and right minded thoughts in your head. Have a notebook and a writing space, with pencils and pens available to scribble down your thoughts. Listen for a bit, and then let your mind wander over the different things the passage brings to the forefront. Do this for as long as you can hold the noble thoughts. It may start out to be only 5 minutes or so, but work to gradually increase the time you spend at this activity.

When you can maintain your thoughts on the “high” for a solid half hour, begin to contemplate entire chapters of writing, or audio, so that you are constantly stretching your ability to hold your mind in a more or less “pure” mode. By the way, choose passages and books you truly enjoy that are of this “clean” nature, saving the harder work for when you have practiced this for a while. Start out with children’s books that you enjoy, if you need to. Do not be a snob, here, as this is your private time, and is for your own enhancement in living, so doesn’t need to be an advanced work. There is a small work by Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God. This is simply written, so a good way to start if you find the work enjoyable. The more you contemplate things of high quality and vibration, the less the “dark thoughts” will have a hold on your mind, it will become easier and easier to maintain a sense of detachment from the “things of the world”.

When you are working, find a simple but uplifting tune to hum in your mind, (not out loud, you do not want to distract your co-workers). When a disturbing thought comes to mind, i.e. hatred, dislike, inappropriate thoughts, hum that tune in your mind, look at the thought, and dismiss it. This method of clearing the mind has been of great help to me in dealing with the “voices” that disturb my concentration and make it difficult to relate to those around me. I hope this method of thought training will help you in your daily walk.

Happy Mother’s Day!

To all the Mothers that read this!!

Timelessness ~

Those who know me, know that I am not a great fan of the Apostle Paul. The canonization of his letters has resulted in folks treating his words as though they were “gospel”( at least as it suits them). I see him as an Evangelist, and quite flawed human being. He was quite spiritual, so some of his teachings have value, but, just because he wrote something does not mean that is the view a person should have regarding anything within the church. He was extremely human!

That being said, I would like to look at one of his teachings that holds a beauty for me and for all who read it. He wrote; “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, teachability and self-control.” There are many teachings on the web regarding this passage, but it still seems to get ignored by those who would have you take a more aggressive perspective of your faith. Yet, it is here, in this passage, that Paul seems to have utterly been in obedience to the Holy Spirit whose work can be seen the world over.

This passage would fit well in a Buddhist monastery, in an Ashram, in a shul, anywhere one is taught to honor the Highest and Best. It is simply stated, yet encompasses all the “virtues” needed to show that the Holy Spirit is at work in your life. It is when I see this “fruit” growing in any life, no matter what faith, that I know I am interacting with one truly walking the Path set out by my teacher, Y’shua. It is true, he was not the only one to teach this path, nor was he the first, but it is through him that I learned of the path, so I honor him as my Master Teacher.

Getting back to Paul for a minute, much of what he taught was for that time only, and not of the timeless nature of Y’shua’s teachings.It is in that vein that I see Paul’s words on homosexuality, on the submission of women to men, and on the manner of dress a person should follow. You do not see these things addressed in Y’shua’s teachings, he was mindful that centuries beyond his earthly walk, there would be those seeking a path to holy living, therefore keeping his teachings succinct and to the point of addressing the work of the Holy Spirit throughout time. Paul’s words sometimes held that sense of timelessness, as with this passage, yet, he spoke also of the needs in that time of the churches he founded, very anchored in that time and space, and therefore, simply a reference to us 2,000 years hence: good to study, but not a guide for living.

It is in my studies of other faiths that I realized the difference between the timeless teachings, good for all of us on the Path, and the timely teachings, good only for the time in which they were written. It is here, rather than in any “Sunday school” or church that I began to see the extreme value of Y’shua’s teachings on Love. And to belabor a point, he was not teaching about romantic love, but about the deep, from the very depths of your being caring for the plight of others you would meet on the journey. We are to be compassionate toward all souls, not just those who happen to agree with us, or share a moment of epiphany with us. We are here to learn how to truly love.

bin Laden ~

I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” ~ MLK Jr.

Osama bin Laden was a notorious, infamous, mass murderer. I will not ever say he did not deserve to die. I will not even say that the US shouldn’t have gone after him with all we had. But, I cannot say that I am dancing in the streets at the thought of his demise. I do not know his history enough to know what turned him into a terrorist of the 1st magnitude. I simply know that underneath all that bravado was a human being.

I know, I am going to get slammed for this, as most are overjoyed at his death. I cannot even say I am not relieved, but when we are joyous because of a death, anyone’s death, we must stop and measure who we are, and what we are about. I mourn, with thousands of others, the lives bin Laden took, American, Muslim, worldwide. He traded in death on a scale that rivals Hitler and Stalin. But, where is the light in all of this?

What can be done to bring light into the world as a result of this death? Perhaps, as US Muslims have said, this will end the association of the Islamic faith with the terrorism his kind engendered. That would be a beginning. We must search in our hearts for all that is light and love, and bring it forth, no longer living in hatred of our neighbor. We must join hands and hearts and find a way to live in fellowship with all fellow humans that inhabit this planet. I am praying for a true peace to enfold us all. I hope that I am not alone in that prayer.

Time line ~

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