Tag Archives | Saint Francis of Assisi

Earth Mother’s Message: Cherish or Perish

“Sit, be still, and listen,
because you’re drunk
and we’re at the edge of the roof.”
~ Rumi
“Cherish or Perish.
Co-exist cooperatively, or
Co-expire catastrophically.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”. . . “This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.”
~ Pope Francis – Climate encyclical message





Introduction.

In 1990, when the Voyager space craft was nearly four trillion (4,000,000,000,000) miles from Earth, beyond the orbit of Pluto, NASA finally acceded to Carl Sagan’s desperate pleas and turned Voyager’s camera back toward Earth to photograph our precious planet as no human had ever before seen it.

From that distance, the Earth is just a small blue speck illuminated by sunlight.

Video.

Here is a video called “Pale Blue Dot” with Carl Sagan reading a poignant message he wrote while reflecting on that NASA photo:



Text of Sagan’s message:

“From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Look again at that dot. That’s here, that’s home, that’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”


Concluding Comment.

In these ecologically critical times may we all cherish our precious Earth Mother – Gaia. May we thereby – each from our unique perspective and in our unique way – urgently act to help Humankind address and peacefully resolve the immense ecological, political, and economic crises and conflicts threatening Earth-life as we have known it

And so may it be!

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Know Death to Know Life; Know Death to Know That There is No Death

“Death may be the greatest of all human blessings.”
~ Socrates
“Death is truly part of life … ‘what we called death is merely a concept’.”
“This happens at the gross level of the mind.
But neither death nor birth exist at the subtle level of consciousness that we call ‘clear light.’”
~ H.H. Dalai Lama, citing Tibetan Book of the Dead.

“Everything is changeable, everything appears and disappears; there is no blissful peace until one passes beyond the agony of life and death.”
~ Gautama Buddha
“And it is in dying [to ego life] that we are reborn to eternal life.”
~ St. Francis of Assisi, peace prayer, edited by Ron Rattner

“Normally we do not like to think about death. 
We would rather think about life. Why reflect on death? 
When you start preparing for death you soon realize 
that you must look into your life now… and come to face the truth of your self. 
Death is like a mirror in which the true meaning of life is reflected.”
~ Sogyal Rinpoche
“Birth and death are virtual,
but Life is perpetual.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“As we lose our fear of leaving life,

we gain the art of living life.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings




Ron’s Introductory Commentary on Knowing Death to Know Life.

Hundreds of Silly Sutras stories, poems, essays, aphorisms, memoirs, and quotations are dedicated to helping raise our collective spiritual consciousness, and to enabling us to live happier lives, both individually and societally.

Paradoxically many such postings intended to help us live happier lives, address death and dying.

Physical death is inevitable and natural. But most people fear death, believing it ends life. In much of American society dying is largely a taboo subject, with euphemistic language used to describe death. And Americans usually die in hospitals or other institutions, and not at home surrounded by family.

For millennia traditional societies have recognized inevitable physical death as part of life, and have evolved elaborate traditions and teachings about death. For example, ancient Egyptians and Tibetans have codified such teachings in ‘Books of the Dead’. My Guruji, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas, ran away from home at age thirteen in search of experiential answers to the inextricably interrelated eternal questions of “Who am I?” and “What is death?”.

To help us transcend fear of death and dying, I have included below the poem Know Death to Know Life; Know Death to Know That There is No Death, and an excellent embedded documentary The Tibetan Book of the Dead, narrated by Leonard Cohen, together with its narrative text.

The video was produced in two parts by NHK Japanese TV, and includes authentic footage of Tibetan death teachings and practices in Ladakh and statements by the Dalai Lama. If you can’t find time to watch it, I recommend you read the partial narrative which is eloquently expressed in the film by Leonard Cohen.

May these teachings help enable us to lose the fear of leaving life and gain the art of living life.

And so may it be!

Know Death to Know Life; Know Death to Know That There is No Death.

In phenomenal polarity reality
the idea of life, implies the idea of death.

All that appears disappears.

So, to live and to know earth-life,
we must experience and know earth-death.

But to Know and to Be that Consciousness
which is eternally aware of both earth-life and earth-death,
is to know that, beyond all appearance and disappearance,

There is no death –
only That which Knows.

So, to truly know Life is to Know Death.

And to truly know death
is to Know that there is no death.



Ron’s audio recitation of Know Death to Know Life; Know Death to Know That There is No Death.

Listen to



NHK documentary “The Tibetan Book of the Dead”, narrated by Leonard Cohen.




Documentary Narrative*.

Although everything on Earth seems stable and solid, nothing here is permanent. Like water, snow and ice, life is always shifting and changing form. All existence is one kind of state or another. This means living in an atmosphere of uncertainty – moving without a place to rest.

In this world, we pass through the spiritual state of physical existence. Here, we want to make something lasting and secure, but no one has been able to accomplish this. Our life is always in the hands of death. At death, our experience is completely out of our control. Our experience is completely naked.

What is the best path through this spiritual state? It is a question of waking up right now, looking at our own mind. Look at it when it is calm and still and when it is running wild. This is what Buddha did and what he taught. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “The Kingdom of God is within you.”

Soon we all will die. All our hopes and fears will be irrelevant.

Out of luminous continuity of existence, which has no origin and which has never died, human beings project all the images of life and death, terror and joy, demons and gods. These images become our complete reality. We submit without thinking to their dance. In all the movements to this dance, we project our greatest fears on death and we make every effort to ignore it.

Illusions are as various as the moon reflecting on a rippling sea. Beings become easily caught in the net of confused pain. We must develop compassion as boundless as the sky so that all may rest in the clear light of our own awareness.

At death, we lose everything we thought was real. Unless we can let go of all the things we cherished in our life we are terrified. We cannot stop struggling to hold on to our old life. All our fear and yearning will drag us into yet another painful reality.

We are always wandering through transitional spiritual states. Difficulty in leaving behind our old life can cause us to wander in painful uncertainty.

The spiritual state of dying lasts from the beginning of the body’s physical collapse until the body and consciousness separate.

While we are living, the elements of Earth, water, fire and air together support and condition our consciousness. Death occurs when this is no longer the case. Now, without the screens and filters of daily life, at this time, mind itself can be seen directly. In the spiritual state of dying, it is important to recognize our own true nature.

At death, there is an experience of piercing luminosity, pure white light, the clear radiance that rises directly from our own basic nature. Now, there is no darkness, no separation, no direction and no shape, only brilliant light. This boundless sparkling radiance is mind, free from the shadows of birth and death – free from any boundaries of any kind.

Now all pervasive light engulfs us completely. All of space is dissolved into pure light. This radiance is the mind of God, the mind of all the awakened ones. Recognizing this is all that is necessary for liberation from birth and rebirth. If we do not recognize our divine nature, a dreamless sleep will happen.

In three days time, all emotions will be vivid and intense. Though it seems we are entering into a new reality, it is still the reality of our own mind.

Wandering back to the familiar sites and people of our old life, our own mind will arise before us in unfamiliar ways. We may not know if we are alive or dead. Even so, we may see our family crying. We must leave our former life behind if we are to progress.

If the we are unable to recognize the luminosity of mind itself, our experience now takes the shape of random imagery of our former life. We see our friends and relatives calling out to us and they cannot hear our replies. Death has cut us off from them and sorrow strikes our heart. We see our family and relatives crying. We can see our bed but we are no longer the one lying there. Instead, there is a corpse.

Soon we will experience the intense presence of our own emotional states as peaceful and raging light forms. Now, we will meet our mind in the form of projections which seem vivid and entirely real. Now we will see penetrating blue light shining all around us. This is the essence of consciousness, God (Buddha). The wisdom of God is like a mirror reflecting everything. God is the form of consciousness in its complete purity. This wisdom is inseparable from our own heart. But also we will see a diffused white light which we must avoid if we are to achieve liberation. If we follow the allure of the soft white light, we will find ourselves ensnared in the temporary pleasures of being born as a god, living in Lordly ignorance of the passage of time and subject to unexpected death.

If this path is taken, the wisdom of our very heart and mind takes the form of spiritual entities. There will be peaceful spiritual entities that emanate from our heart and wrathful ones that emerge from our brain.

They will appear one by one and then all together. The peaceful spiritual entities are complete and immovable. If we cannot bear to enter their vast benevolent space, if we cannot let go of self-centeredness and fear, these deities will become terrifying wrathful ones. If we recognize them as an expression of our own mind, they are the unsparing face of wakefulness.

The wrathful forms emerging from the brain appear before us actually and clearly as if they were real in their own right. The terror and anger we feel are our own efforts to evade from being completely awake. We wander uncertainly in the landscape of our own mind. If we recognize this as our own projections, liberation is instantaneous.

These wrathful forms are the presence of our innate wisdom, the vivid form of our own wakefulness. We must recognize them as a reflection of our own mind. Recognition and liberation are simultaneous.

All of us feel sparks of anger, flickers of passion, and twinges of jealousy during brief moments. From these seeds, we grow to become the jealous person. We say “this is what I am” and we act accordingly. But these are just our masks and we forget that we are wearing them. We run from the masks that others wear. The wrathful spiritual entities are our own mind and it is impossible to run away from them. They are the sharpness of our own clarity. They are all in our mind.

Then altogether and all at once, the peaceful and wrathful spiritual entities come before us. If we do not recognize them as our own projections, then they transform into the terrifying image of the Lord of Death. This too is our own projection. But if we don’t accept that, our fear and turmoil force us to wander on in terror to the spiritual state of rebirth. We leave the spiritual state of the nature of mind. Again we are lost and wandering, so now we seek to end our suffering by being born into a solid and familiar place.

Now in the spiritual state of rebirth, all our senses have become extremely acute. Our consciousness is like a body without substance. In this body, we can, by a mere thought, travel to anywhere. As if we have miraculous powers, we can pass through mountains and circle the universe. We can enter anywhere but nowhere can we rest.

In the pain of our endless wandering, the thought of being born now promises great relief. We can still see our family, but we no longer know we are with them. We are driven on the winds of hope and fear like a leaf that is carried in the wind.

If we are still unable to recognize our own nature, our anger, lust and confusion become ever more intense, ever more solid. They at last appear to us as entire realms where we may stop and dwell. The image of our former body becomes faint and the image of our future body becomes clear. Any birth seems better than his current pain.

Since everyone is caught in these spiritual states of suffering, what can we do? People make hell realms out of their own anger. They make worlds out of passion. We project our emotional states and believe it is the real world. But no matter what, everyone longs for compassion. Everyone wishes to be awake. The best thing is to develop genuine compassion for all living things and for ourselves too. If we do not truly care for others we cannot know our own mind. We can have lofty insights and pure impulses, but then return to our old habits without even noticing it. We must work all the time to open our hearts and look for the truth. Otherwise there is neither understanding nor a purpose for understanding. Also, as life goes by, it is a good idea to keep your sense of humor.

We are now coming to the end of our journey. As we reach the end of the spiritual state of rebirth, the features of the world we are to enter will become very clear to us. If we pay attention now, we will find our way to a favorable rebirth.

We are now on the path to rebirth. We must choose carefully where we are to be born. In all the possibilities that are present before us, we must choose our new life. If we choose a good human birth in a good place, we can continue on the path of recognizing our own mind. Even though we are desperate for a home, a dark cave in a forest can lead to a birth in the animal realm. If we are consumed by yearning, the realm of hungry ghosts can become a never-ending realm of hunger and thirst for us. Rage, bitterness, and anger open all the images of hell. It is best to avoid the extremes of pleasure or pain when selecting a new birth. It is best to be born where we can still recognize the luminous essence of our own mind.

We will not remember much of our journey when we are born again. It will be like starting out new. Though death is always something to be mourned, being born is not something to be celebrated. There is an old saying: “When we are born, we cry, but the whole world is overjoyed. When we die, the world cries and we can become overjoyed when we find the great liberation.”

*Source: Kevin Williams, http://www.near-death.com/religion/buddhism/commentary.html


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How St. Francis of Assisi Inspires Pope Francis


“[W]hen our hearts are authentically open to universal
communion, this sense of fraternity excludes nothing and no one.”

“Francis helps us to see . . .the heart of what it is to be human ”

“Saint Francis shows us just how inseparable the bond is . . . .
between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.” 

“The poverty and austerity of Saint Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical:
a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled.” 

~  Pope Francis (from Laudato Si* climate encyclical message)


Saint Francis of Assisi


Ron’s Introduction.

Like millions of others worldwide I was deeply moved and inspired by Pope Francis’ 2015 visit to the USA.  On conclusion of that visit I wondered why the Pope – a Jesuit from Latin America – had been inspired to become first in history to take the papal name Francis.  

I soon discovered a probable answer to this question in introductory paragraphs of the Pope’s recent profound climate encyclical message, Laudato Si, or “Praised Be” [*see footnote] specifically referring to the exemplary and inspiring life of the Pope’s namesake Saint Francis of Assisi. Those paragraphs explain why the Saint is revered not only by the Pope and countless Christians, but by numerous others world-wide for his simple life of heartfelt universal love and oneness with Nature.

To honor Saint Francis and the Pope I am sharing with you below those inspiring words of Pope Francis expressing reverence for his namesake. 

Encyclical message.

The encyclical message opens with these words:

1. “LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured 
flowers and herbs”.[1] 

2. This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.


Then, after briefly summarizing apt teachings of his papal predecessors, the Pope explicitly explains his inspiration from St. Francis of Assisi as follows:

10. I do not want to write this Encyclical without turning to that attractive and compelling figure, whose name I took as my guide and inspiration when I was elected Bishop of Rome. I believe that Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically. He is the patron saint of all who study and work in the area of ecology, 
and he is also much loved by non-Christians. He was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast. He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is 
between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace. 

11. Francis helps us to see that an integral ecology calls for openness to categories which transcend the language of mathematics and biology, and take us to the heart of what it is to be human. Just as happens when we fall in love with someone, whenever he would gaze at the sun, the moon or the smallest of animals, he burst into song, drawing all other creatures into his praise. He communed with 
all creation, even preaching to the flowers, inviting them “to praise the Lord, just as if they were endowed with reason”.[19] His response to the world around him was so much more than intellectual appreciation or economic calculus, for to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection. That is why he felt called to care for all that exists. His disciple Saint Bonaventure 
tells us that, “from a reflection on the primary source of all things, filled with even more abundant piety, he would call creatures, no matter how small, by the name of ‘brother’ or ‘sister’”.[20] Such a conviction cannot be written off as naive romanticism, for it affects the choices which determine our behaviour. If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if 
we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously. The poverty and austerity of Saint Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled. 

12. What is more, Saint Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness. “Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures one comes to know by analogy their maker” (Wis 13:5); indeed, “his eternal power and divinity have been made known through his works since the creation of 
the world” (Rom 1:20). For this reason, Francis asked that part of the friary garden always be left untouched, so that wild flowers and herbs could grow there, and those who saw them could raise their minds to God, the Creator of such beauty.[21] Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.

 

Later the Pope cites the Saint as inspiring us to commune with Nature in open hearted compassion for for all beings and all Life:

91. A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings. It is clearly inconsistent to combat trafficking in endangered species while remaining completely indifferent to human trafficking, unconcerned about the poor, or undertaking to destroy another human being deemed unwanted. This compromises the 
very meaning of our struggle for the sake of the environment. It is no coincidence that, in the canticle in which Saint Francis praises God for his creatures, he goes on to say: “Praised be you my Lord, through those who give pardon for your love”. Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment 
to resolving the problems of society. 

92. Moreover, when our hearts are authentically open to universal communion, this sense of fraternity excludes nothing and no one.

221. May the power and the light of the grace we have received also be evident in our relationship to other creatures and to the world around us. In this way,  we will help nurture that sublime fraternity with all creation which Saint Francis of Assisi so radiantly embodied.

Footnote.

*“Laudato Si”, or “Praised Be.” is a refrain from “The Canticle of the Creatures,” a hymn composed by St. Francis of Assisi.

 
Conclusion.

While remembering and honoring Saint Francis, let us deeply consider and heed the Pope’s wise and profound words addressed to all Humankind, not just to Catholic hierarchy and laity. 
 
Thereby may every one of us – each from our unique perspective and in our unique way – help Humankind urgently address and peacefully resolve immense ecological, political, and economic crises and conflicts confronting us internationally and interpersonally.

And so may it be!

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Remembering An Attitude Of Gratitude – A Holy Encounter ~ Ron’s Memoirs

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet;
how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of.
There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”

~ Fred Rogers
“The deeds you do may be the only sermon some persons will hear today”
~ St. Francis Of Assisi
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
~ Maya Angelou


praying


Introduction.

In my last memoirs chapter – “Another ‘Near Death’ Experience?” – I told of my miraculous survival and healing from critical taxicab rundown injuries, which I have attributed to the prayers, care, and good wishes of saints and many others who wanted me to get well. And I explained how the shock and trauma of my sudden injuries left me with continuing retrograde amnesia, without memory of what happened immediately before and after the taxicab incident.

In this chapter I will recount how a spontaneous act of loving-kindness by an ICU nurse – who synchronistically shared my reverence for Saint Francis of Assisi – proved an unforgettable healing blessing. I cannot remember the nurse’s name (so I’ll call her Mary), but my memory of our meeting was rekindled by an unforgettable document she left while I slept the next day; and I will never forget how I’ve felt because of her kindness.

A Holy Encounter.

For many years I have had frequent synchronistic meetings with strangers with whom I have experienced deeply harmonious connections. I have called them “holy encounters”. This is the story of an especially memorable encounter with a compassionate nurse which happened at the San Francisco General Hospital Intensive Care Unit [ICU], shortly after I had been run down and critically injured by a taxicab.

I have no memory of my admission to the ICU or of any prior conversations, diagnostic procedures or medical examinations there, and I was unaware of details of my injuries until after this encounter.

I later learned from medical records and from those who had examined or visited me that I had sustained a serious bleeding brain concussion and multiple fractures, including multiple facial fractures, bruises and lacerations, and a fractured right leg tibial plateau, and various traumatic internal injuries, including a lacerated and bleeding liver. I was told that my head and face were completely bruised, discolored  and swollen.

On the morning of this encounter I remember awakening supine on my hospital bed unable to rotate my body because of an IV tube and a full leg brace on my right leg. Presumably I was under influence of narcotic pain suppressant drugs which had been administered while I was unconscious, and until I was later able to decline them with informed consent.

Soon after I awakened that morning, I was greeted by a lovely slender, blond haired ICU nurse, who said:

“Good morning Mr. Rattner, I’m Mary your nurse for today”. “How are you feeling?”

Amazingly, I simply responded: “I’m grateful to be alive!”

Surprised, Mary commented appreciatively about my positive attitude. Whereupon I promptly recited for her my Silly Sutras saying that: 

“An attitude of gratitude brings beatitude.”

And I explained to Mary that my attitude of gratitude came from abiding faith in Divine Providence, and conviction that I was blessed by Saint Francis of Assisi and other saints [*See Footnote]. Mary then told me that she had been raised to revere Saint Francis by her mother who regularly prayed to him at a home shrine.

Inspired by this wonderful synchronicity, I gladly recited for Mary the “make me an instrument of Thy peace” prayer associated with Saint Francis, which I readily remembered and which apparently she deeply appreciated. We talked briefly and she then proceeded on her rounds.

An unforgettable “get well” message.

The day after our ‘holy encounter’, I awakened to discover that while I slept Mary had placed this “get well” message, with the peace prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi, next to my bed.

sf-general-get-well-message


Conclusion.

I have heretofore told how my mid-life spiritual epiphany opened an emotional flood-gate which had been closed since childhood and unleashed for the first time in my adult life an intense and unprecedented torrent of tears; how for many years I cried so often and so profusely that I came to realize that I was experiencing a great transformative blessing recognized in various devotional spiritual traditions, and which in the Catholic tradition of St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis of Assisi was known as “the gift of tears”.

Though never a frequent flyer, I became – and for over forty years have remained – a very frequent crier. Tears have helped purify my psyche, body and nervous system permitting ‘peek experiences’ of higher states of consciousness, as well as many experiences of extreme ecstasy. They have become for me a divine sign of an opened heart.

Mary’s ‘get well’ message has consistently and often sparked a flood of heartfelt emotions and tears as it reminds me of our holy encounter and of my attitude of gratitude for this precious human lifetime. Thus, many times while writing this story I have cried with heartfelt gratitude.

Moral of the story.

Every spontaneous and heartfelt act of loving-kindness bestowed in ordinary life – even in seemingly insignificant incidents – can prove a lasting blessing for its recipient and everyone everywhere.




Footnote

* Saint Francis of Assisi.
Shortly after a profound spiritual opening in 1976, I began having synchronistic inner and outer experiences concerning Saint Francis of Assisi, of whom I was previously ignorant. Because of those experiences I developed deep affinity with this legendary saint, and regarded him an archetype to be emulated. Soon I began multiple daily recitations of the “make me an instrument of Thy peace” prayer associated with him, which have continued until now.

On retirement from legal practice in 1992, I made a pilgrimage to Italy to honor Saint Francis. In spring 1992, I journeyed to the Umbrian town of Assisi, Italy, where Saint Francis (‘Francesco’) was born and resided for most of his inspiring life, and where I experienced an extraordinary feeling of déjà vu, and some of the most memorable spiritual experiences of this lifetime. Also I made a magically memorable excursion to Mount La Verna in Tuscany – where Francis became the first Christian saint to receive the crucifixion stigmata of Christ.


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Life is For Giving


“For it is in giving that we receive.”
~ St. Francis of Assisi, peace prayer

“You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” …

“For in truth it is life that gives unto life –
while you, who deem yourself a giver,
is but a witness.”
~ Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
“You can give without loving,
but you can never love without giving.”
~ Robert Louis Stevenson and/or
~ Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
The value of a man resides in what he gives
and not in what he is capable of receiving.

~ Albert Einstein
The wise man does not lay up his own treasures.
The more he gives to others, the more he has for his own.

~ Lao Tzu
It’s not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
~ Mother Teresa
“If you wish to experience peace,
provide peace for another.”
~ Tenzin Gyatso, The 14th Dalai Lama

Life is for giving, not getting;

For Being, not having.

Love gives and forgives.

Ego gets and forgets.

It is in giving that we receive.

So, let us end our obsession with possession,

And live to give, and to be –

LOVE.



Ron’s audio comments and recitation of Life is For Giving

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Ron’s Commentary on Giving Not Getting:

Life is For Giving – Not Gettinghttp://sillysutras.com/life-is-for-giving/Dear Friends,For many years I have…

Posted by Silly Sutras by Ron Rattner on Saturday, January 30, 2016

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Should We Be Seekers?

“Seek first the kingdom of heaven,
which is within.”
~ Matthew 6:33; Luke 17:20-21
“Seek and ye shall find.”
Matthew 7:7; Luke 11.9-13
“What you seek is seeking you.”
~ Rumi
“What we are looking for is what is looking.”
~ St. Francis of Assisi
“He is born in vain, who having attained the human birth, so difficult to get, does not attempt to realize God in this very life.”
~ Sri Ramakrishna
“Remember God; forget the rest.
Forget who you think you are,
to remember what you really are.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings




Q. Should we be seekers?

A. Knowingly or unknowingly everyone’s a seeker.
Knowingly or unknowingly everyone seeks Self.

But seeking is then,
while Self is NOW.

So, to find Self,
be Self –

NOW!



Ron’s audio recitation of Should We Be Seekers?

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Saint Francis of Assisi: His Life and His Prayer

“All the darkness in the world can’t extinguish the light from a single candle.”
~ Francis Of Assisi (The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi)
“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”
~ Francis of Assisi
“The deeds you do may be the only sermon some persons will hear today”
~ Francis Of Assisi
“Vi volglio tutti in paradisio!” [ “I wish all in heaven!”]
~ Francis of Assisi
“Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.”
~ Francis of Assisi


Praying to Brother Sun and Sister Moon

Saint Francis of Assisi
September 26, 1181 – October 3, 1226 [*See footnote]


Saint Francis of Assisi is one of history’s most beloved saints. For almost eight hundred years since his canonization by the Catholic Church (in the year 1228), he has been remembered and revered not only by Christian denominations, but by countless others world-wide, who have been inspired by his life of universal love, his teachings, and his oneness with Nature. More than three million people come every year to his tomb in Assisi.

He is patron saint of Italy and of many other places, like San Francisco, a city blessed with his name, his spirit, and a national shrine including the Porziuncola Nuova, the only papally declared holy place in the USA. Also, he is patron saint of birds, animals and ecology. Francis loved peace, communed with all living creatures, and lived a life of kindness, simplicity and poverty in contrast to the wealth and apparent corruption of the Church. He was the founder of the Franciscan order of the Catholic Church, and inspired founding of the Poor Clares order for women, and a third secular order for laity sworn to peace.

After living a worldly life of youthful revelry for the first half of his short lifespan, Francis volunteered to fight in a war between Assisi and neighboring Perugia. He was captured during a bloody battle at Collestrada, and was imprisoned and chained in solitude for a year in a dark Perugian dungeon, until ransomed by his wealthy father. Beginning during this time, and thereafter, he suffered a period of protracted physical and psychological illness, remorse and reflection. After fervent prayer, deep introspection, and profuse tears, Francis ultimately decided that money and worldly pleasures meant nothing to him, and as a traumatized battle survivor he came to abhor war. Whereupon, he devoted his life to solitude, prayer, helping the poor, caring for lepers, and promoting peace. Seeing himself as God’s troubadour or fool, he lived in absolute poverty, patterning his life after the life of Jesus and dedicating himself to God.

On returning from a pilgrimage to Rome, where he begged at Church doors for the poor, Francis received a mystical message from Jesus while praying in the ruined church at San Damiano outside of Assisi. There while he was enchantedly gazing at the painted wooden crucifix – a Byzantine image of the crucified Christ still alive on the cross – the silent voice of Jesus telepathically ‘spoke’ to Francesco, instructing him: “Francesco, Francesco, go and repair my house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins.” Thereafter, he devotedly began rebuilding San Damiano and other ruined churches.

Though Saint Francis took literally that mystical message from the crucifix, its true meaning was metaphoric and profound. And by the end of his short lifespan, Saint Francis and his orders had by their example inspired a renaissance of the Catholic Church.

Francis’ exemplary lifestyle inspired and attracted followers who joined with him in his in his Divine mission and life of poverty. Clad in ragged, gray robes with rope belts, they went out barefoot in pairs to spread the Gospel. When they needed food or shelter, they asked someone for it. It was against their rules to “own” anything. Thus, they were known as the “begging brothers”.

In 1209 Francis received permission from Pope Innocent III to form a brotherhood, a religious order of the Church called the “Friars Minor,” (littlest brothers). As “friars” they worked in communities, actively preaching and helping residents, as distinguished from “monks” who then usually lived alone in isolated places. They soon acquired the name “Franciscans”, proliferated and today remain important international symbols and instruments of Francis’ legacy.

The Franciscans’ first headquarters was a simple, tiny chapel near Assisi which Francis received from the Benedictines, and personally restored, naming it “Porziuncola” [“a small portion of land”]. The Porziuncola became Francis’ most beloved and favorite place. Because of his presence and prayers there, it was and continues to be one of the world’s rare holy places. Here, Francis lived, fervently prayed, wrote his rule, created his order of friars minor and consecrated his friend Clara (Chiara), who became Santa Clara, founder of “the poor Clares”, a female religious order dedicated to Franciscan ideals of holiness and poverty. Francis so loved this little place that he chose to die there.

In 1216, while Francis was fervently praying in the Porziuncola, a light filled the chapel and he beheld above the altar a vision of Christ, the Virgin Mary and a company of angels. They asked him what he wanted for the salvation of souls. Francis replied: “Vi volglio tutti in paradisio!” [I wish all in heaven!] And Francis then asked that all those persons who shall come to this church, may obtain a full pardon and remission of all their faults, upon confessing and repenting their sins. The request was granted based on Francis’ worthiness, and the indulgence was later officially confirmed by Pope Honorius III, and became known as “The Pardon of Assisi”.

Francis was extremely democratic and humble. He referred to himself as “little brother Francis” and called all creatures “brothers” and “sisters”. He loved Nature and pantheistically considered it to be the “mirror of God on earth.” He spoke of “Sister Water” and “Brother Tree” and in one of his writings, he referred to “Brother Sun” and “Sister Moon”. There are legends about sermons he preached to trees full of “Sister Birds” in which Francis urged them to sing their prayers of thanks to God. And it is said that rabbits would come to him for protection.

In another legendary story, Francis spoke to a wolf which had been terrifying the entire village of Gubbio, scolding “Brother Wolf” for what he was doing. That wolf not only stopped his attacks but later became a village pet, and was fed willingly by the same villagers, who missed “brother wolf” after he died.

Francis was determined to live the gospels and was strongly influenced and motivated by Jesus’ teachings. “Give to others, and it shall be given to you. Forgive and you shall be forgiven” were his frequent teachings.

Also as a traumatic battle survivor and war hostage Francis cherished peace. So, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” ~ Matthew 5:9 and “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” ~ Matthew 5:44 were often recited by him.

According to a recent biography, Francis was “the first person from the West to travel to another continent with the revolutionary idea of peacemaking.” On a mission of peace, Francis journeyed to Egypt in 1219 idealistically hoping to end the 5th Crusade by converting the Egyptian leader – Sultan Malik al-Kamil – to Christianity. Though his visionary peace mission did not succeed, it proved nonetheless a miraculous portent and important symbol of potential reconciliation between Christians and Muslims and others.

At a time when most Christians demonized Muslims as enemy “infidels”, Francis regarded and treated Muslims with respect, never echoing the negative comments or conduct of his contemporary Christians. Moreover, in Egypt Francis – a devout and gentle peacemaker – was appalled by the crusaders’ sacrilegious brutality.

Francis arrived in Egypt during an ongoing violent and bloody conflict at Damietta, an important city on the Nile, besieged by the Crusaders. There, in the midst of horrible bloodshed, Francis miraculously crossed battle lines totally unarmed and vulnerable, and was able to reach the Sultan’s encampment unharmed and welcomed. Moreover, Francis was admitted to the august presence of the sultan, who was nephew of the great Saladin who had defeated the forces of the ill-fated Third Crusade.

The Sultan was a wise and pragmatic devout Sunni Muslim, influenced by Sufi mystical teachings. He was ready to make peace, and reciprocated Francis’ peaceful and respectful attitude. For at least several days Kamil hosted and dialogued with Francis as an honored guest, before having him safely escorted back to the Crusader encampment. The Sultan – who was amenable to philosophical conversation, but not to conversion – probably noted and honored Francis’ sufi-like appearance and peaceful demeanor, and his regular greeting – “may the Lord give you peace” – uncommon for Christians, but similar to the Arabic “salam aleykum” greeting.

Reciprocally, Francis was deeply impressed by the religious devotion of the Muslims, especially by their fivefold daily call to prayer – call of the muezzin.

On returning to the crusader camp Francis desperately tried to convince Cardinal Pelagio, whom the pope had authorized to lead the 5th Crusade, that he should make peace with the Sultan. But the cardinal who was certain of victory would not listen. His eventual failure, amidst terrible loss of life, brought the barbaric age of the crusades to an ignominious end.

In 1224, near the end of his earthly life, according to legend, Francis became the first saint in history to miraculously receive crucifixion stigmata. It happened after he had been taken to Mount Alverna, a wild nature place in Tuscany, to be in solitude for a forty day retreat.


Though already in a very feeble state, he fasted and prayed intensely with deepest longing for God. In the midst of his fast, while he was so praying he beheld a marvelous vision: an angel carrying an image of a man nailed to a cross. When the vision disappeared, Francis felt sharp pains in various places on his body.

In locating the source of these pains, Francis found that he had five marks or “stigmata” on his hands, feet, and sides—like the wounds inflicted with nails and spears on Jesus during His crucifixion. Those marks remained and caused Francis great pain until his death two years later.

On October 3, 1226 A.D. Francis died in a humble cell next to the beloved Porziuncola, his favorite holy place where the Franciscan movement began. He was blind from trachoma, suffering from malaria and other illnesses, emaciated and racked with pain from the stigmata and other wounds. As he lay dying, the brothers came for his blessing. They sang “Song to the Sun”, a song which Francis had composed.

Sometime before he drew his last breath, he said, “Let us sing the welcome to Sister Death.” Francis welcomed ‘Sister Death’ knowing that “it is in dying that we are reborn to eternal life”, the concluding line of a beautifully inspiring and best known peace prayer mistakenly attributed to him. (**See Footnote)

In conclusion, we offer that prayer in grateful tribute to his blessed life and legacy. May he ever inspire countless beings to become instruments of Divine peace and love, in perfect harmony with Nature and the kingdom of heaven.

“Vi vogliamo tutti in Paradiso”; “We wish ALL in Heaven”.


And so it shall be!

Prayer Of St. Francis Of Assisi **

Beloved, we are instruments of Thy peace.

Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
despair, hope;
darkness, light;
discord, harmony;
sadness, joy;

Divine Mother/Father, grant
that we may seek not so much
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving, that we receive;
It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying – to ego life –
that we are reborn to Eternal Life.

 


Footnotes

* This narrative is based on Ron Rattner’s intuitive interpretation of many disparate and sometimes conflicting historical accounts of the life of Francis of Assisi. The reader is free to accept or reject any part of it.

**This inspiring peace prayer does not appear in any of Saint Francis’ known writings. According to researchers, the first appearance of this prayer was in a French language magazine, La Clochette, in 1912; it was probably then first written by a forgotten Catholic Priest, Father Bouquerel. Later, the prayer was translated into English and widely distributed on cards with a reverse side picture of Saint Francis, without any claim that he wrote the prayer. But, because of his picture and because it invokes his spirit, the prayer thereafter became commonly known as the Prayer of Saint Francis. The foregoing version of the prayer has been edited by Ron Rattner.



Ron’s audio recitation of the Prayer of Saint Francis Of Assisi

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How Shall We Pray?

“Our prayers should be for blessings in general,
for God knows best what is good for us.”
~ Socrates
“Prayers go up and blessings come down.”
~ Yiddish Proverb
“There is a temple, a shrine, a mosque, a church where I kneel.

Prayer should bring us to an altar where no walls or names exist.

Is there not a region of love where the sovereignty is illumined nothing,”

~ Rabia of Basra
“Prayer is nothing else but an intense longing of the heart.
You may express yourself through the lips;
you may express yourself in the private closet or in the public;
but to be genuine, the expression must come from the deepest recesses of the heart…”


~ Mahatma Gandhi
“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”

~ Meister Eckhart
“Your own will is all that answers prayer,
only it appears under the guise of different religious conceptions to each mind.
We may call it Buddha, Jesus, Krishna, but it is only the Self, the ‘I’.”
~ Swami Vivekananda – Jnana Yoga


praying

HOW SHALL WE PRAY?

Pray for God to do through you –

Not for you.

Pray like Saint Francis of Assisi:

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy Peace.”



Ron’s audio recitation of How Shall We Pray

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A Day of Grace: Rediscovering the Porziuncola ~ a Synchronicity Story


“Every feature of the Porziuncola lifts the heart and mind to God”
~ St. Padre Pio
“The winds of grace are always blowing, but you have to raise the sail.”
~ Sri Ramakrishna
Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.
~ Francis of Assisi
“The deeds you do may be the only sermon some persons will hear today”
~ Francis Of Assisi
Remember with gratitude,
Life is beatitude –
Even its sorrows and pain;
For we’re all in God’s Grace,
Every time, every place, and
Forever (S)HE will reign!
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings

Saint Francis of Assisi by Lea Bradovich



When I moved from Chicago to San Francisco in 1960, I was largely uninformed about religions other than Judaism, and knew virtually nothing about saints. Even though Saint Francis of Assisi was patron saint of my new home, I remained ignorant of his life story until after my profound spiritual opening in 1976.

Then, through a series of synchronistic inner visions and outer events I developed a deep inner rapport with Saint Francis. And his prayer became – and remained – an important part of my daily spiritual practice.

On retirement from law practice in 1992, I made pilgrimages to India and Italy to pay my respects both to my spiritual master Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas and to Saint Francis.

On arriving in Italy in Springtime 1992, I rented a car at the Rome airport and drove northward to the Umbrian town of Assisi, where Francis was born and resided for most of his extraordinary life. As I arrived at the outskirts of Assisi, I immediately experienced a remarkable feeling of déjà vu, and was so overcome with emotion that I had to pull over to the side of the road as I began crying deeply and intensely for a long time.

My subsequent stay in Assisi and excursion to Mount La Verna in Tuscany – where Francis became the first saint to receive the crucifixion stigmata of Christ – proved magical, with unforgettable spiritual experiences.

One of the most profound of those experiences happened as I visited a tiny frescoed chapel called Porziuncola [“the little portion”]. It had been restored from a ruined condition by Francis and his early followers to become first home of the Franciscan order. Here, Francesco lived, wrote his rule, created his order of friars minor and consecrated his friend Clara (Chiara), who became Santa Clara, founder of a female order dedicated to Franciscan ideals of holiness and poverty. Francis so loved this little place that he chose to die there.

As I entered the Porziuncola at Assisi, I experienced a palpable aura of love and was overcome with emotion, cried deeply and intensely and lost track of time. Ever since then, a memory of that exquisitely simple little chapel and its aura of supernal Love has remained enshrined in my heart. Although I have never since returned that holy Assisi place, which Saint Francis named and loved, my cherished memory of the Porziuncola was revived following a surprising and synchronistic ‘holy encounter’ in San Francisco, almost twenty years later. Here’s what happened.

After retirement many years ago, it became my practice to walk almost daily along San Francisco Bay. Most often I walked to the Bay following pedestrian paths beside the Fort Mason Great Meadow, which is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), our nation’s newest National Park.

As I arrived at Fort Mason on a beautiful and sunny June morning, I was obliged to detour from my usual path to the Bay. The National Park Service had closed the pedestrian paths around the Great Meadow for repaving. So to reach the Bay I had to walk across the grassy meadow. There I saw a very unusual sight. Perhaps hundreds of children, attended by mostly senior adults, many dressed in white, were gathered in the meadow. Many tents were set up for children’s activities, such as face painting and fortune telling. Sweet music was playing on loud speakers.

I was quite impressed by this charming scene, of sweet children and caring adults, and I sensed an especially loving atmosphere pervading the meadow. Curious, I asked the first chaperone I encountered, “what’s happening?”. A lovely senior lady told me that this was a children’s fair sponsored by the Meher School of Lafayette (a San Francisco suburb) for its students and for children from less affluent San Francisco neighborhoods, who had also been invited. [*see footnote]

Francis in the Park

Inspired by the love I perceived and felt there, I continued walking through the meadow and toward the Bay. After hiking out to the end of San Francisco Municipal Pier, I began returning home. Soon, I noticed an unopened bottle of spring water apparently dropped by a cyclist. I picked up the water bottle, determined to give it to someone at the children’s festival in the Great Meadow.

As I arrived again at the meadow, I was met by a tall friendly (and thirsty) man named Peter, who seemed to be watching out at the perimeter of the children’s gathering. Though we’d never met, he somehow seemed familiar. In greeting me Peter asked, “would you like to know what’s happening?” After I recounted what I already knew about the festival and gladly gave Peter the bottle of spring water, he told me more details of this event.

Peter explained that this gathering was like a mini-Umbrian children’s festival inspired by universal values of Saint Francis of Assisi which are similar to those of the Meher School; and, that periodically the school sponsors a play about the life of Francis performed at various venues, including at The National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi, located in San Francisco’s oldest church in the North Beach district.

I was very surprised when Peter mentioned a national shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi located in San Francisco. Though I’d then lived in San Francisco more than fifty years, I don’t remember ever before hearing about such a national shrine. Moreover as Peter described the shrine, I was amazed to learn that it included an almost exact replica of the Porziuncola at Assisi, recently constructed at the instance of former San Francisco supervisor Angela Alioto.

Peter and I then exchanged stories about our respective springtime visits to Assisi and our heartfelt affinity with Saint Francis. On parting we shared contact information.

A few days later, I received an email invitation from Peter’s friend and colleague, Terry, to tour the San Francisco Porziuncola shrine, which I quickly accepted. Terry, was both music director of the Meher School’s sponsoring non-profit organization, Sufism Reoriented, and a member of the Knights of St. Francis, a volunteer organization which helps safeguard the national shrine.

The tour proved magical for me. With Terry and Peter as guides, I beheld for the first time the San Francisco “Porziuncola Nuova”. Before entering, I noticed carved in Italian on the second marble step a quote from Francesco: “Vi voglio tutti in Paradiso” [“I want you ALL in Paradise”]. On learning what those words meant, I experienced instant heart-felt emotion and tears.

As I entered the sanctuary that emotion deepened, and soon overcome by it I was obliged to sit silently in a pew, just as I did in Assisi. And, as in Assisi, profuse tears flowed. Unable to talk, I sat and cried for a while as Peter compassionately attempted to comfort me. In the San Francisco Porziuncola I didn’t lose track of time as I did in Assisi, and after crying for a while resumed conversation with Terry and Peter.

But I continued feeling so emotional in that sacred space that I was unable to focus on details of the beautiful pictorial art and artifacts around me, which I later observed on other visits.

I did however notice a prominently displayed letter Tau, the last letter of the Hebrew Alphabet which in biblical times closely resembled the letter T. [See below.] The Tau was adopted by Francesco as his own symbol or logo which he painted on the walls and doors of places where he stayed, and used in his writings as his only signature. (Synchronistically, I had a few days earlier been discussing with a friend possible use of a Tau as a logo for The Perennial Wisdom Foundation, the new non-profit corporation which I was then forming.)

Before exiting the “Porziuncola Nuova” I gazed upon and gently touched one of the holiest Franciscan relics in the world, a beautifully displayed rock believed to have been used by Francis as a crude tool in his reconstruction of the Porziuncola.

After departing the shrine, Terry and Peter and I adjourned for lunch in a nearby restaurant, where we shared stories of how Divine Grace has continuously blessed our lives, as it did on that magical day.

And in now reflecting on that wonderful day of rediscovery, I realize that it couldn’t have happened but for my synchronistic detours through the grassy Great Meadow and desire to share a bottle of spring water which I happened to find while walking by the Bay.

It seems that Divine Grace often works through synchronicity, and that the more alert we become to such synchronicity the more it happens.

What do you think?

Franciscan Tau


* I later learned that this children’s fair was part of an ongoing national program called Francis in the Schools founded in 2010 by Dr. Carol Weyland Conner, spiritual director of Sufism Reoriented.
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Is Birth On Earth a Death Sentence?

“And it is in dying to ego life that we are reborn to eternal life.”
~ Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, edited by Ron Rattner
“Death may be the greatest of all human blessings.”
~ Socrates
“Death is truly part of life … ‘what we called death is merely a concept’.”
“This happens at the gross level of the mind.
But neither death nor birth exist at the subtle level of consciousness that we call ‘clear light.’”
~ Dalai Lama




No matter how we strive,
No body leaves alive.

But we never really die – you see,
Just leave our physicality

To melt and merge with mystery,
The mystery of Divinity.



Ron’s audio recitation of Is Birth On Earth a Death Sentence?

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