The word 'dhairya' means steadiness or courage. [SAT-D.4137] It is a transitional quality of senses that enables an individual to stay calm in case of adversities or not give into addictions or attachments. [Dalhan on Su. Sa. Sutra Sthana 34/11] Dhairya strengthens the moral foundations of the mind, thereby upgrading an individual's conscience towards the better judgement of wholesome and unwholesome (hita-ahita). [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 28/37]. Dhairya is also considered as an outcome of the normal functions of shukra dhatu. [Su. Sa. Sutra Sthana 15/5] This article describes the physiological and psychological aspects of dhairya and its importance in healthcare.
Bhojani M. K. 1,
1 Department of Sharir Kriya, All India Institute of Ayurveda, New Delhi, India
2 Rheumatologist, Orlando, Florida, U.S.A.
3 Department of Kayachikitsa, G. J. Patel Institute of Ayurvedic Studies and Research, New Vallabh Vidyanagar, Gujarat, India
|Charak Samhita Research, Training and Development Centre, I.T.R.A., Jamnagar, India
|Date of publication:
|April 11, 2023
Etymology and derivation
The word dhairya is derived from Sanskrit root 'dheera' and suffix 'vyayn'. It means stable and progressive mind. [Shabdakalpadruma] Dhairya is defined as the trait of courage. This courage could be understood in terms of a grounded mind, which constantly excels even in times of hardship. Acharya Sushruta describes this phenomenon as 'Shaurya' [Su. Sa. Sutra Sthana 15/5]
Definition and interpretation
The word dhairya has been defined from various perspectives across samhitas and dictionaries as follows:
- Dhirta [Shabdakalpadruma & Su. Sa. Chikitsa Sthana 24/77]
- Steadiness/ firmness [Yates]
- Calmness/ patience/ courage [Monnier Williams]
- State of calm mind ('anunnatishchetasaha') [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 1/58].
- State of mind wherein it doesn't fall into any inferior thinking pattern about self (dainyabhava) when faced with adverse circumstances in life. [Chakrapani on Cha. Sa. Vimana Sthana 4/8].
- Shaurya (bravery) [Su.Sa. Sutra Sthana 15/5]
- Dukhsahatvam (tolerance to adverse conditions) [A. H. Sutra Sthana. 1/26]
- A natural bent of mind which is free from rashness and boasting [Natya Shastra]
- Supreme courage [Shivapuraṇa 2.3.13] : The dialogue between Lord Shiva and Devi Parvati signifies Lord Shiva to be the divine manifestation of dhairya i.e., supreme courage
- As per Hathayoga, dhairya refers to constancy. It is one of the achievements of Hathayoga.
A person carrying this trait of dhairya is unbothered about the outcome, whether winning or losing. It provides the clear-headedness needed to make the most effective decision, one of the most desirable qualities of successful leadership. The various dimensions of dhairya can thus be applied in a variety of different contexts and practices.
Dhairya – a multi-disciplinary model code of conduct
Health is a blissful equilibrium between mind, body (sensory-motor organs) and soul. Ayurveda describes it as the dynamic flow of dosha (intrinsic principles responsible for governing the physiology and psychology), agni (factors responsible for digestion and biotransformation), dhatu (structural units responsible for all physiological functions), mala (biological end products of digestion and metabolism) in harmony with a balanced state of soul (atma), sensory-motor organs (indriya), and mind (mana) [Su.Sa. Sutra Sthana 15/41] conferring exhaustive dimensionality viz. physical, psychological, social, and spiritual dimensions.
- Psychological and spiritual dimensions of dhairya
In the present era of unforeseen and unpredictable events and frequent trivial personal losses, a negative physical and psychological impact is inevitable. It is not easy to label anyone in perfect health psychologically. Any derangement in the physical body is relatively easier to understand than the psychological one. This psychological crisis is associated with a traumatic period or event and with an individual's emotional and behavioral responses to apparently threatening events.
No pathology can be redeemed without a fundamental understanding of the system's physiology in context. Psychiatric or psychosomatic disorders require the physician and the patient to be in intune with that individual's psyche. A comprehensive five-fold psychotherapeutic approach towards diseases of psychological descent is designed. [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 1/58]
- Jnana: Jnana refers to adhyatma jnana (spiritual knowledge). Practicing techniques of spiritual enhancement like meditation, praying, gratitude, and even sadvrutta (ayurveda ideal codes of conduct) clears the cluttered mind. The knowledge of the divine develops inner strength to regain the lost focus, self-confidence, self-belief, and a triumphant vision of oneself in this overwhelming external world.
- Vijnana: Vijnana refers to shastra jnana (scriptural knowledge). It includes all the available knowledge, whether belonging to veda- puranas or the one which the scientific community has disseminated after thorough validation. Learning new and upgrading existing skills develop a generous view of any type of challenge in life. It helps understand the nature of the problem without biasing with inner conflicts.
- Dhairya: Dhairya is the tranquil state of mind, trance, and contentment with life without indulging in non-beneficial pursuits. This attribute stimulates the mind to think out of the box and be effectively calm, compassionate, and tolerant in unfavorable situations.
- Smriti: Smriti refers to recollection of past events to reconcile with the ongoing hardships, all the while believing that mountains conquered in the past can be climbed in the present too. This faith in oneself wavers with time. Hence, the smriti of the past needs to be renewed either through an external stimulus or internal.
- Samadhi: It refers to consciously withdrawing senses from worldly objects and reigning the wandering mind. It includes all the spiritual techniques used to achieve undeterred focus and attention of mind. Asthanga yoga describes a systematic path to attain such higher awareness of consciousness.
These can be practiced either on their own or under the guidance of a psychotherapist or mentor. Often any form of emotional support from a close person supports the cause. The spark so ignited especially when self-practiced, must be sustained for the therapy to work wonders in the long run. Dhairya is the mind's (consciousness) property that keeps this spark alive. Dhairya plays a bimodal role by acting as a therapeutic modality for derailed rajas and tamas guna and being a by-product of practicing sattvavajaya chikitsa.
- Sattvavajaya chikitsa:
It is a non-pharmacological intervention to balance the psycho-spiritual component of purusha. The main objective is to cultivate the practice of contrary meditation (pratipaksha bhavana)  i.e. replacing negative thought and belief pattern with a sustainable positive outlook towards life in general.
Mana (mind) and sharira (body) are the abode of diseases. [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 1/55] Even contemporary science has now agreed to understand the psyche in terms of soma. This is being adopted as the ultimate solution because nearly all behavioural problems include a physiological (sharira) and a psychological (mana) component.
Sattvavajaya chikitsa potentiates the sattva guna of mana by modifying the harmful practices (ahitartha) which were initiated by the dominance of rajas and tamas guna of mana. In the present pandemic scenario, sattvavajaya chikitsa has proved it’s mettle. The vast spectrum of physical manifestations of COVID-19 have led to specific psychological issues among people in society irrespective of gender, age, or cultures. Administration of the fivefold sattvavajaya modal of psychotherapy by trained professionals becomes necessary alongside healing therapy (yuktivyapashraya chikitsa). Jnana (knowledge of self) and vijnana (knowledge obtained from scientific reasoning) create an awareness of actions needed towards the unpredictability of the the pandemic situation. The property of dhairya strengthens the conscience to remove the mind from distractions (manonigraha) and stick onto the required code of conduct to combat the pandemic. Dhairya helps promote positive growth of mind and personality development even if we are surrounded with limited possibilities. A perseverant mind is capable of completing the three dimensions of sattvavajaya chikitsa viz. trivarga anvekshana (discard unwholesome practices related to dharma, artha, kama, and adopt beneficial and more wholesome practices for the same), tadvaidya seva (to render service to those who are well versed with knowledge and experience to manage psychological diseases) and atmadi vijnanam (to obtain knowledge about an individual's self, place, time, strength and physical capability). The next step of smriti helps recollect previous victories over more deadly pandemics to empower dhairya in keeping up our resilient spirit. Eventually, with regular use of jnana, vijnana, dhairya, and smriti in our daily lives, a calm and balanced mind called samadhi is attained, which is further potentiated by practicing yogasanas, pranayama, and chanting mantras.
Apart from the therapeutic aspect, dhairya can be employed to encourage compassionate interpersonal relationships.
- Psychosocial dimensions of dhairya :
The increase in technological advancements has exponentially expanded social reachability. Still, social connectedness in the real sense has dramatically decreased, with more people falling trap to loneliness and social discontentment. Episodes of anxiety have risen significantly, especially among young people. A famous research finding substantiating this is the meta-analyses of the American population (1952-1993), which observed that an average American child in 1980's had more anxiety than child psychiatric patients of 1950s. The solution to such psychological dishevel is atmajnana (self realization) as described by acharya Charak.
- Addressing unpleasant behavioural changes
Amongst the healthy population, adolescents are the worst hit with all the delusions in life. The phase of adolescence is highly prone to negative thinking and behavioral patterns due to the increasing ease of access to virtual reality as compared to genuinely uplifting social connections. The fear of being judged and misunderstood does not allow these impressionable minds to vocalize their mental burdens. They tend to drown deep into their psychological misery, wanning youth's glory by repeatedly subduing their emotions over time.
An individual with a weakened sattva generally displays considerable persistent changes in behavior due to the gain of undesired objects and non-attainment of desirable objects of senses. [Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 1/58] This failure of attainment of desires is often held close to heart and emotions get suppressed over time with subsequent events in life yet resurfaces with certain triggers adding to the derangement of manas dosha.
Assurance to such individuals through empathy and emotional validation clears out their unstable emotions. Dhairya can be understood both as this required state of the mental stability of the sufferer [A. S. Nidana Sthana 6/11] and the counselor's mental clarity for introspection to discover suppressed grievance through deeper layers of the sufferer's conscience.
- Atmajnana: self-administered psycho-analysis
Ayurveda recognises nidana parivarjana as the foremost therapeutic modality of all diseases. The entire time, recognizing the emotion that has been dukha-hetu can significantly clear up the blocked channels (manovaha strotas). The remaining self-work is to be done by individual by being patient with himself all the while facing the truth (dhairyam dukha sahatvam) and developing habits and mindset which are in his best interests (hita sevanam). [Arunadatta on A.H. Sutra Sthana 1/29] The stronger the disposition of dhairya, the quicker a person will negate all kinds of negative feelings and emotions owing to its characteristic feature: optimism of mind (manso adainyama). [Cha. Sa. Vimana Sthana 4/8]
A happy mind is like a clear canvas, giving a wide scope of introspection and intellectual deliberations, taking the seeker from jnanabuddhi (superficial knowledge i.e. shastra jnana) to satyabuddhi (in-depth knowledge i.e. tattva jnana).
- Understanding physical dimensions of dhairya
Dhairya is primarily an attribute of the mind rendering it purely psychological. However, the close relationship between body (sharira) and mind (manas) provides a physical dimension.
- Dhairya in the context of shukra dhatu
The mention of ahara (food) and brahmacharya (following activities in pursuit of absolute truth including celibacy) separately under three sub pillars of life (trayopstambha) indicates their interdependence and importance. As per nourishment and transformation of dhatu (dhatu poshana nyaya), nutrient fluid (aahara rasa) is responsible for the nourishment and formation of all dhatu. Shukra dhatu is the last formed dhatu in sequence. It is the essence of all dhatu. Shukra dhatu is present throughout the body because every cell can divide, indicating shukra dhatu's Garbhotpadana function. Hence its preservation becomes essential for bala (strength), varna (lustre) and vrudhhi (longevity of life and growth). Hath Yoga Pradipika states the interrelationship between mind (manas) and shukra dhatu. One should preserve shukra dhatu to control manas and vice versa. This aspect is further substantiated by the quotation of term dhairya in physiological activities (karma) of shukra dhatu. [Su. Sa. Sutra Sthana 15/5]
Acharya Sushruta defines dhairya as shaurya i.e., the ability to withhold sensual urges when not required or morally inappropriate. He defines 'adhira' as someone unable to control.
Extensive indulgence in sexual activities causes loss of bala (strength/vigour), teja (lustre) and buddhi (intellect). Even in achara rasayana, staying away from sexual indulgence and alcohol (nivrittam madyamaithunat) is advised. The self-discipline to persevere all temptations and follow the beneficial paths comes from dhairya. This mental endurance is gradually further potentiated by improved quality of shukra dhatu itself.
Excess and faulty alcohol consumption (avidhivat madyapana) destroys the quality of dhi (intellect) and dhairya (fortitude). [A. H. Nidana Sthana 6/11]
Thus, dhairya in context of shukra dhatu refers to sexual discipline i.e. askhalita retas. This is one category of brahamchari as described by Shankaracharya. They are the ones in whom whenever the perception of attraction is aroused, they can disperse their desires by their strong will (dhairya) thereby preserving vigour i.e. shukra dhatu – the precious essence of ahara parinaman for attaining higher goals in life.
- Dhairya and tridosha
There is no direct reference to dosha predominance for the attribute of dhairya. It can be inferred from the characteristics of deha prakriti given by acharya Sushruta [Su. Sa. Sharira Sthana 4/72]. He stated the term 'dhritimana' for kapha dominant prakriti. Dalhana commented that ‘dhritiman’ means dhairyayukta. Hence, it can be understood that dhairya is linked to kapha dosha. This is also evident by the fact that shukra dhatu as discussed above, is responsible for conferring dhairya in manas (psyche). It is a kapha predominant dhatu by the constitution.
- Trigunatmaka predisposition of dhairya
Triguna act as initiators of evolution of prakriti when in conjunction with purusha (chetan tattva). Apart from the purusha, which forms the inner core of the personality (prakriti), everything in the universe, physical and psychological, including the mind, are regarded to originate from prakriti, which is constituted of three guna viz. sattva, rajas and tamas.
Sattva is considered the prakrita (physiological) state of mind. While rajas and tamas are considered vaikrita (pathological) states of mind – manas dosha. Dhairya being a part of sattvavajaya chikitsa plays a pivotal role in reversing this pathological predisposition of mind. Identifying core mental blocks improves an individual's coping abilities in all kinds of undesirable circumstances. Hence the augmentation of sattva guna through dhairya indicates its sattvika predisposition.
Relation of dhairya and dhriti
Dhairya means patience or perseverance. Some authors translate it to willpower to restrain senses from attaching to sensual objects i.e. sensory control. Dhriti is the ability to restrain the senses from moving towards unwholesome objects. Though similar in definitions and psychological implications, both terms can be understood differently in regard to their peculiar modus operandi. Both work in conjunction, when it comes to the psychosocial aspect of psyche. Yet dhairya works more efficiently as an interpersonal moderator as well as an introspection modulator.
Dhairya is the root, and dhriti - is like the branches of the tree called self-restraint. Strong bases can still nourish even if the branches wither off due to external influences. And again flourish the tree (mental strength to divert senses back to wholesome objects i.e. dhriti). Dhairya thus forms the inner body (fuel), while dhriti acts as the outer body (defense) of psychological endurance.
Assessment of dhairya
Dhairya is a psychological phenomenon which determines the mental strength in adverse or relatively hard times. It can be assessed by anumana pramana (inference). Presence and intensity of dhairya is assessed through emotional strength or the will power of an individual to resist depressed state (vishada). [Cha.Sa. Vimana Sthana 4/8] Vishada is defined as the tendency to refrain from any activity due to fear of failure in that task. [Dalhan on Su.Sa. Sutra Sthana 1/25] Hence, assessment of dhairya can be made by understanding and approximation of the ability of the mind to not fall prey to inferior thinking patterns in tough times (adainyabhava). [Chakrapani on Cha.Sa. Vimana Sthana 4/8]
Diseases due to impairment of dhairya and their treatment guidelines
Vitiation of rajas (activating principles) and tamas (inhibitory principles) are the roots of all psychological disorders. [Cha. Sa. Vimana Sthana 6/5] Derangement of these psychic dosha leads to surge of uncontrolled emotions (manas bhava viz. kama, krodha, lobha, moha, irshya, dwesha, harsha, vishada etc.). A person enveloped in strong emotions is prone to commit intellectual errors (prajnaparadha) wherein dhi (intellect), dhriti (restraint) and smriti (memory) are impaired. [Cha.Sa. Sharira Sthana 1/102] Psychologists opine the tendency of humans to feel tempted towards unwholesome objects of senses (prajnaparadha). Being tempted is natural yet one should be courageous and perseverant enough to not give so easily into all worldly temptations. This determination within oneself to withstand sensory attractions is dhairya. Impaired sensory restraint (dhriti vibhransha) is indicative of weakened psychological resilience (dhairya).
Implications of impaired dhairya can be seen in form of various psychopathological and behavioural manifestations. Some common psychological conditions in which impairment of dhairya can be seen are as follows:
- Depression (vishada) : Depression is a mood disorder characterised by depressed mood or episodes of apathy, indifference, sadness, guilt, thoughts of dying and irritability with changes in appetite, sleep patterns, weight and motor fatigue, impaired concentration and decision making abilities. Ayurveda defines depression (vishada) i.e. apprehension towards undertaking a task due to fear of failure. Causes of vishada leading to deranged rajas and tamas dosha are excessive indulgence in kapha increasing food items, sedentary lifestyle, undue mental stress and emotional disorders like shoka (grief), bhaya (fear), krodha (anger), lobha (greed) and moha (delusion). [Su.Sa. Sutra Sthana 1/25] Depressed person has a weak mental constitution susceptible to an endless cycle of poor self-image and negative behavioural and thinking patterns indicative of impaired dhairya.
- Anxiety (chittodvega) : Generalised anxiety disorder (chittodvega) is characterized by excessive and uncontrolled apprehension about routine activities, easy fatiguability, sleep disturbances and difficult concentration with mind often going blank [as per DSM-V]. Manoabhigata (mental trauma) vitiates rajas and tamas dosha gradually manifesting symptoms of chittodvega (fear, grief and mental confusion) in people with low sattva guna. Anxious people are often fickle-minded and easy to sway in their beliefs and decisions. The lack of mental stronghold and control over one’s thoughts is due to weakened dhairya.
- Hysteria (yoshapasmara) : Hysteria is a state of mind defined by unmanageable fear or excessive emotion. Though the symptoms are similar to physical manifestations of epilepsy, the cause is major psychological, generally a sudden fright, grief or worry. This is evident in an hysteria episode's associated emotional expression (laughter, weeping or moaning). Yoshapasmara [Madhav Nidana Yoshapasmara nidana] is a clinical condition primarily affecting females. Yoshapasmara, or hysterical neurosis is a disorder common in highly sensitive people due to their weak will (impaired dhairya). The deliberate behaviour of the individual to attract sympathy shows the lack of courage to face adverse situations.
Thus, employing dhairya chikitsa (supportive psychotherapy) as a supportive psychotherapy protocol for all psychopathologies can help improve mental tolerance towards various emotional stimuli resulting in controlled emotional reactions. It instills positive self-talk, self-confidence, and emotional support in the patient and their families. Following can be a treatment guideline incorporating the principle of dhairya for counseling and supportive psychotherapy :
- Provide emotional support-oriented counseling mainly concerned with solving problems and identifying the mental blocks of that individual
- Encouraging family support
- Identification of negative influences in the individual’s life and their modification
- Adapting new positive beliefs in place of old negative ones.
- Developing determination to maintain a positive outlook on life by repeated positive affirmations and self talk.
Social support and validation often go a long way in promoting dwindling courage. The feeling of vulnerability towards stress or an adversity should be normalised. Open discussions over one’s shortcomings must be thoroughly supported and marked as a sign of his/her inner strength. Such sustained efforts can begin a chain of potentially uplifting changes in the psychological resilience of a person.
Role of yoga in enhancing dhairya
Yoga and ayurveda, though different sciences, are connected through the shared goal of moksha (salvation). Ayurveda makes it conducive for the body to practice mind control, while yoga ascertains that it transcends to a higher state of being. Dhairya refers to fortitude (will power to withstand hardships). Dhairya provides the strength of the mind to restrain sensory faculties from indulging in sensual objects. Ayurveda opines sattvavajaya chikitsa as the technique to restrain mind from moving to unwholesome objects. [Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 11/54] Maharishi Patanjali gives a similar definition of yoga as ‘chitta vrutti nirodhaha’. [Patanjali Yoga Darshana] He defines that yoga is control of mind’s thought waves, after that the soul realises it’s true self (atmajnana). The emergence of different traditional schools of yoga (jnana yoga, bhakti yoga, karma yoga, dhyana yoga, hatha yoga, raja yoga etc.) over centuries revolve around the same principle of persistent and conscious sensory control to realise one’s real self. The ultimate goal of all the methods is to unite soul with God by detaching it from worldly pusuits. Stronger the virtue of dhairya, the more effective the efforts will be. Hence yoga consciously improves dhairya in the seeker’s psyche in his search for moksha (salvation or ultimate truth). Yoga disciplines the mind through pranayama, yoga asanas and meditation. All of these are comprised of ashtanga yoga.
- Pranayama: Pranayama aims to develop consciousness around breathing (the pranic force). Focussed and regulated breathing improves cognitive control and self-awareness. It helps to selectively withdraw the mind and senses from thoughts, feelings, and objects, which drain the body's vital force.
- Yoga asana: These are controlled body postures held in place for a definite time duration in sync with conscious breathing. The practitioner has to put in keen mind-body control for the proper execution of a yoga-asana and harness all it’s presumed benefits. With repeated practice, the increasing desire for perfection (siddhi in that asana) teaches the art of sensory control and mindfulness. This in turn enhances the quality of fortitude (dhairya) while facing failures.
- Meditation (dhyana) : The practice of meditation starts with dharana (concentration). Patanjali yoga sutra describes dharana as training the mind to stay at one place (analogous to dhriti). Dharana, when performed with mindfulness and perseverance (dhairya) matures into dhyana over time.
With regular practice of these methods, an individual becomes proficient in self-regulating his psyche towards a more calm and courageous disposition when facing challenges. Hence, yoga eventually enhances dhairya (mental strength and perseverance) at all times, either directly or indirectly.
The contemporary branch of psychotherapeutics can be broadly classified into: a) Supportive psycho-therapeutics and b) Interpretive Psychotherapeutics. Supportive psychotherapy includes psychodynamics and cognitive behavioral studies with conceptual models for interpersonal relationships. The aim is to relieve the intensity of presenting distress, thereby reducing the frequency of behavioral disruptions due to inner conflicts and disturbances. The direct consoling and sheer reassurance aspect of supportive psychotherapy are similar to the psychosocial dimensions of dhairya. It takes tremendous patience and compassion to understand the chaotic psychic disposition and untangle every knot layer by layer. Supportive psychotherapy works with the therapist engaging actively to emotionally support and encourage the patient to develop a healthy defense mechanism and reinforce positive adaptive behavior patterns and thoughts. This significantly reduces the intra-psychic conflicts, subsiding the intensity of mental distress.
Dhairya is a vital attribute of sattva (mind) to excel in pursuance of any desirable goal at hand. Nurturing dhairya in consciousness takes considerable patience and time. It takes a lot of strength of character to identify, accept and abide by any ethical code of conduct or even own virtues. It is a trait that sets an individual apart from the crowd, raising him to a divinity equivalent to the highest position of an honorable and righteous king in this material world. Hence, it is said to be more evident in people with the dominance of sattva guna. [A.H. Sutra Sthana 12/69]
Dhairya provides an opportunity for deeper introspection and self-realization. It is required in the treatment of psychiatric and behavioral disorders. The strength of dhairya is a characteristic feature of those suffering from grave diseases (guru vyadhita). [A.H. Sutra Sthana 12/69] Such people though suffering much, don't lament about their ailments due to a strong sense of patience and perseverance (dhairya).
Various researches over the understanding of the different dimensions of dhairya have been carried in past decade. They indicate dhairya is a part of psychoanalytic and psychotherapeutic modalities of ayurveda.
Sattvavajaya chikitsa is the principal therapeutic model for all mental disorders. Dhairya forms the foundation to hold together and take forward the principles of jnana, vijnana, smriti and samadhi for the success of sattvavajaya chikitsa.
Controlling mind from unwholesome regimens (mano nigrahan) is the principle behind sattvavajaya chikitsa. Dhi, dhairya, smriti and samadhi are the same methods. Dhairya has been explained as stability of mind. A stable mind is patient and courageous enough to tolerate pains and challenges of life. Also without dhairya, it isn't easy to adopt and complete any treatment regimen for the betterment of own health.
Ayurvedic treatment modalities like avoiding prajnaparadha (intellectual errors), vega vidharana (controlling greed, fear, anger , jealousy and excessive attachments), adopting sadvritta (ideal code of conduct), achara rasayana (ethical codes of conduct), tadvidyaseva (to render service to those who are well learned in psychotherapy techniques) have been observed in providing therapeutic as well as preventive dimensions.
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