My thoughts on engaged Buddhism

Discuss the application of the Dharma to situations of social, political, environmental and economic suffering and injustice.
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Mkoll
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Re: My thoughts on engaged Buddhism

Post by Mkoll » Tue Nov 18, 2014 11:06 pm

I don't think it was a misrepresentation at all. It follows logically from what you said:
Qing Tian wrote:1. Those we are likely to come into contact with in our daily lives.
2. Those we are unlikely to come into contact with in our daily lives.

As there are plenty of #1 is it really necessary, practical or realistic to embark on a crusade (for want of a word) to help those in group #2?
You're implying that it's not necessary, practical or realistic to help those in group #2. As the category of people I mentioned would fall into that group, it follows that you don't think it's necessary, practical or realistic to help them.
Qing Tian wrote:My point was that it is simply pragmatic to apply yourself fully to the problems that are immediately at hand. I cannot be physically in two or more places at the same time. Perhaps you can? :shrug:
You don't have to be able to be in two places at once to provide necessary, practical, and realistic support.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Qing Tian
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Re: My thoughts on engaged Buddhism

Post by Qing Tian » Wed Nov 19, 2014 1:05 am

Just looking at my desk I see that I have a small bag of nuts. Perhaps I should send them singly to approximately 40 people around the world in need of food who can now have a nut. Or, I could give the bag to the homeless man I pass on the corner of the high street. Is he not 'worthy' of my attention.

Please try not analyse it to death. Buddhism for me is a practice of compassion, not splitting hairs over meaning.
“Not till your thoughts cease all their branching here and there, not till you abandon all thoughts of seeking for something, not till your mind is motionless as wood or stone, will you be on the right road to the Gate.”

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Mkoll
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Re: My thoughts on engaged Buddhism

Post by Mkoll » Wed Nov 19, 2014 1:14 am

Qing Tian wrote:Just looking at my desk I see that I have a small bag of nuts. Perhaps I should send them singly to approximately 40 people around the world in need of food who can now have a nut. Or, I could give the bag to the homeless man I pass on the corner of the high street. Is he not 'worthy' of my attention.

Please try not analyse it to death. Buddhism for me is a practice of compassion, not splitting hairs over meaning.
Ok then...

I shall agree to disagree. Bye for now.

:hi:
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Kim O'Hara
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Re: My thoughts on engaged Buddhism

Post by Kim O'Hara » Wed Nov 19, 2014 6:26 am

Qing Tian wrote:Just looking at my desk I see that I have a small bag of nuts. Perhaps I should send them singly to approximately 40 people around the world in need of food who can now have a nut. Or, I could give the bag to the homeless man I pass on the corner of the high street. Is he not 'worthy' of my attention.

Please try not analyse it to death. Buddhism for me is a practice of compassion, not splitting hairs over meaning.
Hi, Qing Tian,
I agree with nearly all of what you said but want to comment on one point:
My point was that it is simply pragmatic to apply yourself fully to the problems that are immediately at hand. I cannot be physically in two or more places at the same time.
These days it is easy to apply ourselves to problems which are physically distant - donating to Red Cross (etc) or lending through Kiva http://www.kiva.org/ - so we have endless opportunities to do good.
I know that as a westerner I am rich by global standards and so are nearly all the people I meet in my daily life. That doesn't mean none of them would benefit from any help I can offer, of course, but it makes me more inclined to donate to (e.g.) MSF http://www.msf.org.au/ than to (e.g.) my local hospital.

:meditate:
Kim

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Qing Tian
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Re: My thoughts on engaged Buddhism

Post by Qing Tian » Wed Nov 19, 2014 8:12 am

I understand that aspect and I have supported non-local causes in the past. However my financial resources are meagre so I prefer to give my time. I cannot effectively do that at a distance - at least I haven't found a way to do so!

As an aside, one of the problems I have discussing these things, and with this forum in a general sense, is that everything gets sliced to oblivion by people who seem more interested in winning a point of argument than in engaging with the intent of the message. I find it non-constructive and hostile at times. Quite off-putting.

This thread and my contribution are a case in point. I can go down to the local homeless centre and ladle soup or hand out blankets or just talk to people. I feel this is a an appropriate and good use of my time as a resource for those in unfortunate circumstances. I don't expect to be criticised for not extending my limited resources globally, or for recognising that my resources cannot stretch that far.
“Not till your thoughts cease all their branching here and there, not till you abandon all thoughts of seeking for something, not till your mind is motionless as wood or stone, will you be on the right road to the Gate.”

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Re: My thoughts on engaged Buddhism

Post by JKhedrup » Wed Nov 19, 2014 9:35 am

In an age where Pope Francis is advocating Catholicism as a "Church for the Poor", and the gap between those with and without is growing daily, Buddhists need to take a hard look at whether to truly honour our commitment to reduce suffering (yes, even on the day-to-day temporary level), we need to be more involved in helping the poor.

Of course, that help needs to be considered and a source of true help. But I don't think charity should be dismissed as non-Buddhist. Sometimes I think Western Buddhists are too removed from this suffering as our communities tend to be dominated by the middle class or at least affluent. I have several Tibetan monk friends who do work with the poor in local Indian communities near their exile monasteries. Not only has it been great for improving and building connections between the Tibetans and Indians, it has brought Indian people to the monasteries to learn Buddhism, and they were not that interested before.

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Re: My thoughts on engaged Buddhism

Post by Ambrosius80 » Wed Nov 19, 2014 10:21 am

JKhedrup wrote:In an age where Pope Francis is advocating Catholicism as a "Church for the Poor", and the gap between those with and without is growing daily, Buddhists need to take a hard look at whether to truly honour our commitment to reduce suffering (yes, even on the day-to-day temporary level), we need to be more involved in helping the poor.

Of course, that help needs to be considered and a source of true help. But I don't think charity should be dismissed as non-Buddhist. Sometimes I think Western Buddhists are too removed from this suffering as our communities tend to be dominated by the middle class or at least affluent. I have several Tibetan monk friends who do work with the poor in local Indian communities near their exile monasteries. Not only has it been great for improving and building connections between the Tibetans and Indians, it has brought Indian people to the monasteries to learn Buddhism, and they were not that interested before.
Good post! I think Buddhist organizations worldwide should begin large scale charity work, it is even in our believes to help other creatures in need (bodhicitta). Christianity fools many poor and poorly educated people away from loving kindness and tolerance for differences, but is seen by many of the poorest as the only religion that cares for them because it provides charity; a necessity for some to survive.

I like to think it this way: if I was starving and dying, I would appreciate a guy who supported me financially and gave me food infinitely more than one who would come and explain to me about life philosophy I would not even understand at all. Globalization brings global possibilities to practice bodhicitta!

If Buddhism were to show it is as helpful as Christianity, we would have a little bit better world. We cannot build an ivory tower for ourselves and be surprised if it falls down one day due to a lack of repairs. :namaste:
"What we have now is the best. He who can never be satisfied is a poor man, no matter how much he owns.

What you have results from karmic causes that you created, and what you'll gain hinges on karmic causes that you're creating."
-Master Sheng Yen

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Re: My thoughts on engaged Buddhism

Post by JKhedrup » Wed Nov 19, 2014 11:00 am

if I was starving and dying, I would appreciate a guy who supported me financially and gave me food
Ideally we would have a balance between sharing the dharma and sharing the necessities of life.

But along this vein- do not forget that, in a word that is increasingly bereft of safety nets partly due to the greed of a few and partly due to diminishing resources, all that is standing between most of us and poverty is some ripening of negative karma in the form of misfortune. An illness, a lost job, or the break-up of a family. Poverty is deserved by no one and often happens due to sudden circumstances.

A friend of mine in Canada recently spotted a friend of hers on the street homeless- a man who had by all accounts "worked hard" for his success- with a graduate degree, a decent house and savings. Then, after the death of his wife, being affected by mental illness, and losing his job he lost everything and ended up homeless. Only arrogance would lead most of us to think such circumstances would never befall us.

The help can be surely be done in the context of the bodhisattva path, taking into account some of the teachings connected with the six paramitas and four ways of gathering for example.

And in the world now, such accounts and stories are more and more common. I believe our Bodhisattva precepts and the Paramita of generosity compel us to consider helping. Over and out :namaste:

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Re: My thoughts on engaged Buddhism

Post by DGA » Wed Nov 19, 2014 2:34 pm

JKhedrup wrote:In an age where Pope Francis is advocating Catholicism as a "Church for the Poor", and the gap between those with and without is growing daily, Buddhists need to take a hard look at whether to truly honour our commitment to reduce suffering (yes, even on the day-to-day temporary level), we need to be more involved in helping the poor.

Of course, that help needs to be considered and a source of true help. But I don't think charity should be dismissed as non-Buddhist. Sometimes I think Western Buddhists are too removed from this suffering as our communities tend to be dominated by the middle class or at least affluent. I have several Tibetan monk friends who do work with the poor in local Indian communities near their exile monasteries. Not only has it been great for improving and building connections between the Tibetans and Indians, it has brought Indian people to the monasteries to learn Buddhism, and they were not that interested before.
Well spoken, Venerable.

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Re: My thoughts on engaged Buddhism

Post by Redfaery » Wed Nov 19, 2014 2:45 pm

JKhedrup wrote:In an age where Pope Francis is advocating Catholicism as a "Church for the Poor", and the gap between those with and without is growing daily, Buddhists need to take a hard look at whether to truly honour our commitment to reduce suffering (yes, even on the day-to-day temporary level), we need to be more involved in helping the poor.

Of course, that help needs to be considered and a source of true help. But I don't think charity should be dismissed as non-Buddhist. Sometimes I think Western Buddhists are too removed from this suffering as our communities tend to be dominated by the middle class or at least affluent. I have several Tibetan monk friends who do work with the poor in local Indian communities near their exile monasteries. Not only has it been great for improving and building connections between the Tibetans and Indians, it has brought Indian people to the monasteries to learn Buddhism, and they were not that interested before.
This.

The only Buddhist I am fortunate enough to call a friend in my daily life is a Vietnamese man who was one of my mother's students (she was an administrator at a Community College). He was my babysitter as a child, and we have reconnected over Facebook. Our beliefs are very different - he is, I'm pretty sure, Theravada. Obviously, I'm not. But we both find it easy to talk about our actions as Buddhists, because for us, the most important thing is compassion for everyone and everything. Buddhists of all varieties are supposed to act compassionately towards other beings - and that should be especially true for us Mahayanists, who seek to liberate all sentient beings on our path. So I'm honestly a little confused why the mechanisms for large-scale compassion (which would, obviously, have to be organizations modeled on existing patterns) would be treated with such skepticism? There's only so much one person can do.
NAMO SARASWATI DEVI
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Mkoll
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Re: My thoughts on engaged Buddhism

Post by Mkoll » Wed Nov 19, 2014 10:13 pm

Qing Tian wrote:I understand that aspect and I have supported non-local causes in the past. However my financial resources are meagre so I prefer to give my time. I cannot effectively do that at a distance - at least I haven't found a way to do so!

As an aside, one of the problems I have discussing these things, and with this forum in a general sense, is that everything gets sliced to oblivion by people who seem more interested in winning a point of argument than in engaging with the intent of the message. I find it non-constructive and hostile at times. Quite off-putting.

This thread and my contribution are a case in point. I can go down to the local homeless centre and ladle soup or hand out blankets or just talk to people. I feel this is a an appropriate and good use of my time as a resource for those in unfortunate circumstances. I don't expect to be criticised for not extending my limited resources globally, or for recognising that my resources cannot stretch that far.
What's not constructive is people who are so defensive that they can't acknowledge that what they've written can be understood from a different perspective than their own. And/or they can't acknowledge, when it's pointed out to them, that their initial message wasn't clear so they try to defend it instead of amend it.

:focus:

Thanks for that kiva site, Kim. I'd never heard of it.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Kim O'Hara
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Re: My thoughts on engaged Buddhism

Post by Kim O'Hara » Wed Nov 19, 2014 10:34 pm

Qing Tian wrote:I understand that aspect and I have supported non-local causes in the past. However my financial resources are meagre so I prefer to give my time. I cannot effectively do that at a distance - at least I haven't found a way to do so!
This thread and my contribution are a case in point. I can go down to the local homeless centre and ladle soup or hand out blankets or just talk to people. I feel this is a an appropriate and good use of my time as a resource for those in unfortunate circumstances. I don't expect to be criticised for not extending my limited resources globally, or for recognising that my resources cannot stretch that far.
That's all absolutely fine, Qing Tian - and better than most of us do!
As an aside, one of the problems I have discussing these things, and with this forum in a general sense, is that everything gets sliced to oblivion by people who seem more interested in winning a point of argument than in engaging with the intent of the message. I find it non-constructive and hostile at times. Quite off-putting.
I'm not sure if that was aimed at me. I hope not, since all I was doing doing was pointing out that local action is not the only possibility.

:namaste:
Kim

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Re: My thoughts on engaged Buddhism

Post by lorem » Wed Nov 19, 2014 10:46 pm

Qing Tian wrote:I understand that aspect and I have supported non-local causes in the past. However my financial resources are meagre so I prefer to give my time. I cannot effectively do that at a distance - at least I haven't found a way to do so!

As an aside, one of the problems I have discussing these things, and with this forum in a general sense, is that everything gets sliced to oblivion by people who seem more interested in winning a point of argument than in engaging with the intent of the message. I find it non-constructive and hostile at times. Quite off-putting.

This thread and my contribution are a case in point. I can go down to the local homeless centre and ladle soup or hand out blankets or just talk to people. I feel this is a an appropriate and good use of my time as a resource for those in unfortunate circumstances. I don't expect to be criticised for not extending my limited resources globally, or for recognising that my resources cannot stretch that far.
We are all sangha!

I like to think that we're either all going to make it together or none of us are going to make it at all (even if that's not true it's a nice attitude training technique.)
I should be meditating.

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Re: My thoughts on engaged Buddhism

Post by Qing Tian » Wed Nov 19, 2014 11:45 pm

What's not constructive is people who are so defensive that they can't acknowledge that what they've written can be understood from a different perspective than their own. And/or they can't acknowledge, when it's pointed out to them, that their initial message wasn't clear so they try to defend it instead of amend it.
Actually I did rephrase my point in a subsequent post. You (mkoll) chose, as your first interpretation, to ascribe a judgemental quality to what I had written when none was implied. Of course I am going to be defensive in such circumstance.

My position is clear. As an individual I am a limited resource. I choose to deploy that resource locally and in quality, rather than globally and diluted, because I feel that this is the optimal approach for individuals like me. I feel for those who I cannot help and offer merit to all when I can. If you think I can do more then please tell me how.

I hope that is unambiguous now?
“Not till your thoughts cease all their branching here and there, not till you abandon all thoughts of seeking for something, not till your mind is motionless as wood or stone, will you be on the right road to the Gate.”

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Re: My thoughts on engaged Buddhism

Post by Mkoll » Thu Nov 20, 2014 1:31 am

Qing Tian wrote:
What's not constructive is people who are so defensive that they can't acknowledge that what they've written can be understood from a different perspective than their own. And/or they can't acknowledge, when it's pointed out to them, that their initial message wasn't clear so they try to defend it instead of amend it.
Actually I did rephrase my point in a subsequent post. You (mkoll) chose, as your first interpretation, to ascribe a judgemental quality to what I had written when none was implied. Of course I am going to be defensive in such circumstance.

My position is clear. As an individual I am a limited resource. I choose to deploy that resource locally and in quality, rather than globally and diluted, because I feel that this is the optimal approach for individuals like me. I feel for those who I cannot help and offer merit to all when I can. If you think I can do more then please tell me how.

I hope that is unambiguous now?
Except I wasn't judging you or criticizing you or your standards of morality personally. How you choose to be charitable and moral is your business. What I was doing was pointing out that based on what you wrote,
Qing Tian wrote:1. Those we are likely to come into contact with in our daily lives.
2. Those we are unlikely to come into contact with in our daily lives.

As there are plenty of #1 is it really necessary, practical or realistic to embark on a crusade (for want of a word) to help those in group #2?
, it follows that it isn't necessary, practical or realistic to help people in group #2. In fact, that's exactly what you said. So I gave an example of certain people who would fall into group 2 who you just said it wasn't necessary, practical, or realistic to help:
Mkoll wrote:Do you think people without clean water or enough food to eat aren't worth helping just because you're unlikely to come in contact with them?
And you accused me of "gross misrepresentation" even though what I said follows exactly the criteria that you laid down in the first place. You could have amended your criteria so they were more in line of what you actually thought but instead you take it personal and take passive-aggressive potshots at me while replying to Kim's post. So I, unwisely, take it personally and take potshots at you.

And here we are.

So, can we shake hands and call it a day?
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: My thoughts on engaged Buddhism

Post by Qing Tian » Thu Nov 20, 2014 2:45 am

Do you think people without clean water or enough food to eat aren't worth helping just because you're unlikely to come in contact with them?
See the word 'worth' bolded in the above quote. That is a judgemental term and one that I did not use. When I see people in need I do not assess them on their 'worthiness' to recieve aid. You were suggesting that I did just that, and that is why I was upset and defensive.

It is a misunderstanding between us, I will accept total responsibility for it as I am badly flawed individual.

Sorry for the confusion.
“Not till your thoughts cease all their branching here and there, not till you abandon all thoughts of seeking for something, not till your mind is motionless as wood or stone, will you be on the right road to the Gate.”

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Re: My thoughts on engaged Buddhism

Post by Mkoll » Thu Nov 20, 2014 3:00 am

Qing Tian wrote:
Do you think people without clean water or enough food to eat aren't worth helping just because you're unlikely to come in contact with them?
See the word 'worth' bolded in the above quote. That is a judgemental term and one that I did not use. When I see people in need I do not assess them on their 'worthiness' to recieve aid. You were suggesting that I did just that, and that is why I was upset and defensive.

It is a misunderstanding between us, I will accept total responsibility for it as I am badly flawed individual.

Sorry for the confusion.
Not at all. You're right in pointing out that the term I used, "worth," was a poor one in that it introduced a tone of judgement. That was my error. If I had used the same words you chose to use at first, "necessary, practical or realistic," perhaps things would have proceeded differently. Oh well, all's well that ends well, as they say.

:smile:
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: My thoughts on engaged Buddhism

Post by shaunc » Thu Nov 20, 2014 3:43 am

:good:
Qing Tian wrote:Just looking at my desk I see that I have a small bag of nuts. Perhaps I should send them singly to approximately 40 people around the world in need of food who can now have a nut. Or, I could give the bag to the homeless man I pass on the corner of the high street. Is he not 'worthy' of my attention.

Please try not analyse it to death. Buddhism for me is a practice of compassion, not splitting hairs over meaning.
:good:
"Dana is Dana", giving is giving it is always a good thing.

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Re: My thoughts on engaged Buddhism

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Thu Nov 20, 2014 4:08 am

It's a big issue.

For some people, Dana paramita might manifest as structured social work..for others, maybe they have jobs, circumstances, family members or whatever that are more the focus of "engagement", and should be. I am ok with multiple answers to this question, especially when I see the frankly "idiot compassion" and beaming pride out of helping others that is on parade in other religions at times. I understand the temptation to want to evaluate Buddhists side by side with say, Christians.. and say "we should be more like them"..but this is leaving out a huge interpersonal dimension of how we are supposed to live the paramitas in daily life. I agree with Jkhedrup that helping the poor should become a bigger priority for groups with the resources, but I think this is also an individual thing. As an example, I have two young kids and a (currently) incredibly busy life, the most volunteering I have time for is cleaning the bathrooms at the center I go to. I'd tried offering my help other places, but most volunteer gigs require enough training time and extended chunks of time that there is no way for me currently to do them. In fact, the only way I could do that is to give up formal Dharma practice, something i'm not going to do.

Personally I don't have any sense of guilt about not being "socially engaged" at the moment, because I believe there are other areas in life where I can offer things and help others. For some, very different situations, I know many retired people in my sangha are up to all kinds of stuff like this individually, it works out great for them. Like a lot of things, it's gotta be a question of our individual Karmic situations and how we deal with that, not just institutionally. There are lots of ways to give freely to people that have nothing to do with institutional social engagement, though beneficial social engagement is of course always laudable.
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Re: My thoughts on engaged Buddhism

Post by ovi » Fri Nov 21, 2014 11:19 am

The way I see it, you can't teach the Dharma to the starving or in need of medical care and a warm soup once a month to some isn't enough. However, it's still better than nothing. If the best way to maximize the help you offer to others is to meditate now and help even more once you've managed to increase your abilities to help, then meditate. Just make sure the odds are on your side before you die. If the best way is to participate in a charitable activity, then do that. If you can help more by donating now some material possessions, do that. If you can use those resources to make it sustainable, even better. If the best way to help others now is teaching the Dharma to those who trust and know you, do that, that doesn't mean you should ignore others tomorrow. If you think you can help more by engaging in solving the problems at the social/political root, do that. I think there is greater need for cooperation and organization among Buddhists though. Buddhists can help much more than just offering ones time to a charitable activity once in a while (often for the sake of feeling good about themselves or their religion, rather than actual compassion).
When you [self-cherishing] ruined me before,
That was another time.
Now I recognize you; where will you go?
I will destroy all your arrogance.

Dispel the though,
"I still have my own welfare."
I have sold you [my mind] to others.
Do not be dispirited; offer your energy.

If I become careless
And do not give you to beings,
You will certain give me over
To the guardians of hell.

Thus you gave me over
To long periods of suffering.
Now I remember my grudges;
I will destroy your selfish thoughts.

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