|Nichiren Daishonin||Fuji School||Nichiren Shoshu||six priests||Nikko Shonin||Lotus Sutra|
|Tsunesuburu Makiguchi||Josei Toda||Ikeda||Hojo||Akiya||Nittatsu Shonin|
|Nichirenism||NST Issues||"The Temple Issue"||High Priest||lineage||Fuji Lineage|
|SGI-Lotus Sutra||Temple Issues||Personal Issues||Gosho||"www.daimoku.com")||Buddha Jones|
Nichiren Shoshu | Sokagakkai | Fuji School | temple Issue | nsa
Nikken Shonin became 67th high Priest of Nichiren Shoshu in July of 1979 on the death of his predecessor Nittatsu Shonin. Nikken has had a stormy relationship with the Sokagakkai and it's Third President and mixed feelings about the first two, Makiguchi and Toda.
He had never held the highest rank of "designated successor" but had had the next highest ranking available in the priesthood and so was the "de-facto" successor to Nittatsu. Questions about his succession soon arose when the disciples of Nittatsu Shonin, who were later called the "Shoshinkai" questioned his succession and his answers were vague and authoritarian. In this struggle he had to ask the help of the same Sokagakkai. More than 200 disciples walked at this time. Nikken thus was forced to rely on the Gakkai to keep his job. For the next 12 years things would seem tranquil, but then in the 1990's, he began to quarrel publicly with the Gakkai again. In 1990 the relationship with the Gakkai errupted into a personal and acrimoneous dispute starting with a speech[the 35th anniversary speech] by President Ikeda in which he made fun of Nikken with comments likening his language to German and referring to the "Shoshinkai" priests in a way that was obviously meant to include Nichiren Shoshu Priests as well. At this point he "turned on the Gakkai".
Table of contents Internal Page Related External page Early History Nittatsu Clow incident Hiroe Clow Kawabe Incident kawabe.html prior Shoshinkai Affair Shoshinkai "Fight" with the Gakkai. personal Links and footnotes index
Nikken was born in 1922. He was born as Nobuo Hikosaka, his mother was connected to Nichiren Shoshu and his father apparantly was the high Priest Nichikai Shonin, the sixtieth High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu. His family, the "Abe's" claim descent from the donor of Taisekiji, Nanjo Tokimitsu, and apparantly included Zen Buddhists as well as Nichiren Buddhists.
His father was involved in factional infighting within Nichiren Shoshu as a leader of an influential "family" of priests within this branch of the Fuji School. His Mother, according to some rag-like sources, had been someone his father had been unwilling to marry. Consequently Nobuo Hikosaka wasn't able to take his family name until he was a young adult and his father legalized his relationship with him.
Nichiren Shoshu in the 20's was directed by a council. This council still exists though it doesn't have the same power it once had. In the 20's it had the power to make or break high priests. The 58th high priest was Nitchu Shonin, and he had some sort of an ongoing feud with Nikken's father Nichikai, the crux of which was that Nichikai wanted to be high priest and Nitchu was in the way. In the 20's, the council maneuvered to pass a vote of non-confidence in this High Priest Nitchu. This matter appeared to have caused a scandal of such violence that the priests split into groups. There was a pro Nitchu group, and another pro Nichikai group. And there were other operators involved including Jimon Ogasawara, who threw his weight to one side or another with plans that he should become high priest himself.
Apparantly the situation was violent enough that the police were called in and the priests were forced by the police to settle the problem with an election. Since no sides would support the other, they settled for a guy with actual integrity, humility and learning. His name was Nichiko Hori, who became the 59th high priest. The rival scholar, Jimon Ogasawara, opposed Nichiko Hori both on doctrinal and political grounds, and had been part of Nichikai's faction when Nichiko Hori had been selected but he turned on Nichikai in 1928 and supported a rival, Koga Arimoto, instead. Nevertheless Nichikai Shonin was elected high priest in 1928 ,though with allegations of vote buying. Reverend Hori appears to have been only too happy to give up the post so he could devote himself full time to his real interest, which was developing a scholarly basis for Nichiren Shoshu teachings. For him it was a win/win situation. Nichiko Hori was a rare person in the Buddhism of that time, a genuine scholar, and he wasn't really interested in the political matters of a high Priest.Also, Nichiko Hori apparantly was happy to pass the inheritance to Nichikai Shonin so he'd have more time to do the things he wanted to. As a retired priest he had the status to back up his doctrinal notions and the more time to work as a scholar. He'd go on to write, edit volumes of Nichiren and FujiSchool literature culminating in the Nichiren Shoshu version of the Gosho known as the Gosho Zenshu. He also edited and made public such documents as the Ongi Kuden (Record of Orally Transmitted Teachings) and Seven Points to Observe in the Transcription of Gohonzon which were previously only transmitted to high priests as confidential documents. It also meant he'd be able to officiate at transfer ceremonies when other High priests died.
Nichikai's election was also a good thing as Koga Arimoto represented an extremely Nationalist and Shintoist faction. This same faction would later spawn the future Kenshokai group and would be nurtured by the Reverend Ogasawara.
Nichikai used his ascension to legitimate six year old Shin-no Abe, who he now finally acknowledged as his son. The corrupt hijinks of the "council system" with its oligarchic parody of "democracy" may be why Nikken would later steer NST back towards the more authoritarian model. One cannot even imagine the current top council ever challenging the high priest.
Nikken was raised to be a priest, and there are photos of him with other acolytes that date from before the war. He was drafted to serve in World War II in the Navy. Apparantly he served honorably and without being posted anywhere where he could get into too much trouble. When he returned from the war he returned to the priesthood where he worked his way into the position of head of the study department. Later he'd change his name to Nikken Abe. In Nichiren Shoshu the "Nichi" or sun prefix is reserved for senior priests or high priests. Even so confusion about his name later caused investigators trouble when they tried to pin age old (alleged) indiscretions against him with respect to the "Clow Case". He apparantly was a fairly smart young man. He rose in the study department and by the sixties he was chief of the Study department. He seems to have ambivalent feelings about the Gakkai even before he became High Priest
He recounts that:When the Soka Gakkai was going to obtain status as a religious corporation I was only in my twenties. Even so, I told the people in the Bureau of Religious Affairs at the time that it would be a mistake. However, they didn't listen.Nikkencommonmortal.htm
This has to have been around 1951, and so he would have been strongly affected by the Ogasawara scandal that was occuring at the same time. The Gakkai came to be nearly excommunicated for the way it treated Jimon Ogasawara using the "47 Ronin" Revenge story as their metaphor. Later, around the same time as Toda was reaffirming his commitment to Nichiren Shoshu and promising to Shakubuku the Entire Japanese nation. Nikken says he met Josei Toda. He says of the encounter:Later, I had the experience of meeting Mr. Josei Toda and spending two hours talking together with him while drinking sake. At that time, I heard from Mr. Toda that he was going to give his whole life from then on for kosen-rufu. I then tried to make myself like the Soka Gakkai, which I had previously disliked, and I did come to actually like them. This was because I believed that, under the direction of Mr. Josei Toda, the Soka Gakkai was a true organization for kosen-rufu. Before long, the Gakkai entered the age of its third president, Daisaku Ikeda. But to be honest, since I still felt the same way, I failed to see through to the fundamentally base mind of Daisaku Ikeda.
This site: http://www.nichiren.com/jisai.htm alleges that he was against the Gakkai all along. Nikken, admits to having ambivalent feelings towards the Gakkai, but also couldn't have had friendly feelings towards Jimon Ogasawara either, that man had stabbed his father in the back.
- Further readings:
In the late 50's the Gakkai grew to be one of Nichiren Shoshu's largest lay groups and to even spread overseas. Josei Toda died, and around that same time Nittatsu Shonin became the 66th high priest. The Gakkai was popular among poor and ordinary people. It was also popular among overseas expatriates. Nichiren Buddhism was spreading. In 1960 Ikeda travelled to the USA to encourage these new members. By 1963 they had a backlog of converts and something needed to be done to make sure that they got initiated into Nichiren Shoshu properly. This group would eventually call itself "NSA", Nichiren Shoshu of America. Its membership was both Nichiren Shoshu and Sokagakkai. Led by the charismatic Mr. Williams a.k.a. Sadanaga Masayasu these new converts would present a challange to the previously largely monastic or temple based priests.
In 1963 he was the priest chosen to come to the USA and do Gojukai Ceremonies here for the first time (See this webpage: seattle.html). He is alleged to have "gone out on the town" that night. Though this may or may not have happened in 1963, that allegation wasn't made until almost 28 years later by the woman who claimed to have "come to his rescue" to prevent his arrest -- Hiroe Clowe. The PR of the Gakkai and Japanese culture agreed -- no dirty laundry. This would come back to haunt him years later.
It was Nikken Abe who refuted the claims of the Myoshinko that were being spread at the time of the Sho Hondo completion in 1972-1973 (See shohondo.html and nittatsu.html). On behalf of his mentor and High Priest he said:
It is in the future that the mandate of the `Minobu Transfer Document' and `On the Three Great Secret Laws' will be perfectly realized. However, the time has already come to erect a building to prepare for that phase of future kosen-rufu. This building is the Sho-Hondo.
(Concerning the Myoshinko/Kenshokai idea that the high sanctuary should be built by the Emperor,June 1972)
Later he had Nichijun Fujimoto issue this statement:
Ever since the beginning of this problem concerning the Shohondo, the Myoshinko continued to proclaim that the High Sanctuary of the Daishonin's final decree must be a national sanctuary. The priesthood asserted that the title "national sanctuary" (Kokuritsu Kaidan) did not traditionally exist in Nichiren Shoshu. It was an expression that the Kokuchukai group began to use in the Meiji period (1868) and was gradually adopted by the priesthood as well. Since the title "national sanctuary" was inappropriate in modern times when the constitution guaranteed the separation of church and state, the priesthood officially decided to discontinue its use in 1970 and made an announcement to that end to everyone in Nichiren Shoshu.
The Myoshinko, however, rejected this official determination and refused to take heed to the numerous warnings from the priesthood. As a result, the Myoshinko was dismissed in August of 1974. Since the Myoshinko even refused to follow this directive, the central figures, including the Asai pair, were excommunicated, and those connected with them also lost their standing as Nichiren Shoshu believers.
- -- Nichijun Fujimoto,
- General Administrator of Nichiren Shoshu
- Daibyakuho, 9/1/94
Relationships between the Priesthood and the Gakkai were nearly as stormy, and in the mid seventies, they deteriorated to the point where only the efforts of a few priests and lay leaders, including Nittatsu himself, were able to hold the two groups together.
Just before Nittatsu died in 1978 a meeting took place with senior priests which were later "leaked" to the press and the Gakkai. These are interesting because they shed light on the inner thoughts of Nikken Shonin and the other senior priests. This "Kawabe Memo". It is a set of notes taken by Jitoku Kawabe, who is the father of Shoshin Kawabe, who is currently the chief priest of Myozenji Temple about a mile and a half from my home. These notes have two areas of interest to students of the "temple issues;"
- They talk about a Gohonzon which some claim is the "real" Dai-Gohonzon and display Nikken Shonin (then study department chief) showing off his expertise on it. See this link: daigoh.html and kawabe.html
- They complained about the Gakkai and Nittatsu being "too lax" with the Gakkai years before any official split was supposedly being contemplated. The link for this is deviation.html. Indeed these complaints are the same ones that were later leveled at Nikken by the so-called shoshinkai group.
For more on this visit the kawabe.html link.
Nikken, was helped into power by the Gakkai. His predecessor was Nittatsu Shonin. When Nittatsu Shonin died (fairly suddenly) he had not already "anointed" a successor. As head of the study department Nikken was the highest ranking priest but he wasn't the official successor. When Nittatsu was dying Nikken visited him on his deathbed. After his death Nikken came out from the sick room and announced that he'd been given the "golden utterance." According to his theory of the heritage of Nichiren Shoshu, he was qualified to be high priest despite no formal transfer document because of an oral transmission. A lot of people questioned this, but not the Gakkai at the time. The Gakkai held its peace about this issue until 1991, when they suddenly reversed opinions and agreed with the Shoshinkai priests. This despite prior to the split them having supported Nikken unreservedly. (See correct Faith document)
When Nikken Shonin assumed power, some young priests raised a stink because they were loyal to Nittatsu and didn't trust Nikken. The priesthood had almost excommunicated the Gakkai over what they claimed were "doctrinal deviations" and High Priest Nittatsu had just gotten President Ikeda to apologize for these indiscretions. He had asked the priests to accept those apologies but he hadn't asked them to shut up about the situation, indeed he'd encouraged them to point out errors whenever they saw them. These very priests, asked impertinent questions of the newly annointed Nikken Shonin and didn't feel satisfied with Nikken's Answers. They also weren't happy with the Gakkai's professions of respect for Nichiren Shoshu traditional doctrines or traditions. Nikken felt the need to show he was in control, so in 1979, They were also complaining about the Gakkai, so the Gakkai was only too happy to support this. Most disciples of Nichiren, and Nikko don't take to orders too well and they refused to shut up. They cited the 26 Admonitions. He excommunicated them. For more on this visit the shoshinkai.html link I've set up. You can also visit the succession link for a discussion of the subject members and my pages on the Shoshinkai member and Reverend Tono.
The Gakkai played a major role in suppressing dissent within the priesthood over Nikken's succession. Those who questioned his succession were expelled from the organization, and the Shoshinkai group was forced to form a separate outside organization under the time honored motto of number 17 of the Twenty Six Admonitions: "Don't follow even the High priest if he teaches selfish doctrines against the Dharma." During this interum period, the Gakkai and Nichiren Shoshu seemed to get along just fine.
In 1990 Nikken Shonin got his hands on a tape recording of President Ikeda's 35th Anniversary speech to the Leaders of the Gakkai. In that speach Ikeda had said some very rude things about priests. It also seemed to contain some criticisms of Nikken himself. There was a reference to long winded abstract language speaches that could only have been to his speaches. (I understand his speaches have improved since then). And there were passages ostensibly directed to the Shoshinkai which also included the regular priests in their references, such as "They say 'you believers' while making babies." This speach was the last straw between Nikken and Ikeda and they went to war. Both the priesthood and the Gakkai had long been, at least discussing, alternative plans. As far back as when the late President Hojo was still a Vice President, he had made comments about an eventual break and the differing character of the two organizations, likening the arguments between those of Martin Luther and Catholicism. The infamous Kawabe memo had mentioned similar plans, and around this same time word of "Operation C" leaked out into the press, showing that Nikken had long been considering the option of expulsion.
Initially the Gakkai did its public speaking through President Akiya, and consequently Nikken used his leutenant Priest Fujimoto to do his speaking for him in order to send a message about who was really in charge. Both sides went to great lengths to paint themselves as victims. But Ikeda had been talking in code about Nichiren Shoshu for years. The pretense was off.
This "war" led to a split between the Gakkai, who almost to a man followed Ikeda and Nichiren Shoshu, which largely followed Nikken Shonin.
Almost immediately, instead of the apology that Nichiren Shoshu might have expected, the Gakkai orchestrated letters and complaints from its youth division. The priests stonewalled those complaints, being incensed at even being questioned after the long years of fawning pretense that the priests were somehow infallible. They responded with recourse to their status as priests. The Gakkai responded with lurid tales of corrupt, wealthy and lazy priests. These included stories about the personal habits of the high priest himself. Rather than denying what was said in the 35th Anniversary Speech, it became clear that what was said there was only the tip of the iceberg with respect to the real feelings of the Gakkai. Rather than a genuine apology in 1979, Ikeda had felt betrayed and stabbed in the back. The entire previous 10 years were revealed to have been behavior modeled on the 47 Ronin, the revolt of Emperor Go-Daigo, or the Soga Brothers. The Goal of the Gakkai now was "vindication" and justice, which seems to translate to the term "Uchi Iri" in the minds of many of the Japanese members. They blamed Nikken for the excesses of Nichiren Shoshu, but it was clear their sense of resentment included most of the priests including the still nominally praised Nittatsu Shonin who had accepted Ikeda's resignation in April of 1979. Some priests defected to the Gakkai, most to be put on the Gakkai payroll and sent around the world making the Gakkai's case, but amazingly most stayed. More left during the earlier Shoshinkai affair than left when the Gakkai left. The entire Gakkai was ready to do away with the whole idea of priests and try to go it alone.
The "seattle Incident" was meant to be the main ammunition in the Gakkais case that the priests were evil and corrupt people. The incident however, had been so successfully shut up at the time that little direct evidence remained of it almost 30 years later. Nevertheless Hiroe Clowe published her experiences in Japan after the priests alleged that the Gakkai had behaved poorly to criticize priests. She published her tail as the "crowning jewel" of a series of lurid tales published by the Gakkai in order to paint the priests as corrupt and "dharma slanderers." These very "personal" tales were meant to undermine his status as the head of the sect and the "inheritor" of the lineage.
In response to her allegations, he said she lied and his lawyers and followers started telling lurid tales of her own background in order to defame her and destroy her credibility. She sued him, first in US courts for defaming her in Japan. The US courts said they didn't have jurisdiction over Japan or things that occured 28 years before the time of the suit or that were said in Japan. She went to Japan to sue him, and he countersued. Eventually she died of natural causes. Years later the Japanese Courts were able to prove that the allegations of the Gakkai were substantial enough not to justify his winning a lawsuit for slander. But the Gakkai wasn't able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was a corrupt priest who hired prostitutes in 1963.
This affair made neither organization look exactly like saints. If indeed, they had known all along he was a corrupt priest they should not have supported his accension to high priest in 1979 and sat on the story for 30 years. For a time line and a summary (ad nauseum) see this link: seattle.html. I think she was telling the truth and so did the final judge, but that doesn't really matter so much to people who are either convinced that he is the "king devil" or the "representative of the Daishonin in this day." I guess the final judgement on the case is in the fact that both Nichiren Shoshu and the Gakkai have agreed not to pursue it anymore.
Since 1992 Nikken Shonin has expelled President Ikeda from the Nichiren Shoshu several times, admonished Gakkai members to come back or be excommunicated. Excommunicated Gakkai members. Acted like the Gakkai was having no effect on him, and systematically replaced every building donated by them(see url:shohondo.html). Nikken destroyed the Sho Hondo and other buildings, and while he wouldn't admit it at first, later he admitted to some reporter that he did so in order to "remove the "stink" of President Ikeda from the Head Temple. Destroying the Sho Hondo was expecially mean, because even though it was an expensive building to maintain, it had been built to last a long time, those who donated for it's construction had often made great personal and financial sacrifice, and it was a work of architectural uniqueness. He has since then built a new building called the "Hoanden" and while the building is large and impressive, it is not the Sho-Hondo.
He has a son who is famous for using a samurai fan against a photographers camera, and other disciples who have distinguished themselves by, among other things, being arrested (An acolyte named "Goto"), making a speech condemning Mother Teresa as an example of Jihi Ma (See personal.html or jihima.html for more), in a Catholic Country where she is revered. Abandoning the temple in Brazil during the middle of a custody fight. Failing to ensure a clear title for land under a temple built in Ghana, and refusing to authenticate sources or defend positions in debate. The Priests often shot themselves in the feet. Nevertheless they haven't proved to be either demonic nor evil in the sense that the Gakkai leadership sometimes tries to portray them. And Nikken himself, in a speech in 1994 admitted that he is but a common mortal. His efforts to ground his authority on his "heritage of the Kechimyaku of the Law" are convincing to his followers, but don't make his teachings the kind of dynamic and deep truths that would actually create Kosenrufu or save the world.
Nichiren Shoshu has, if anything, become even more archaic and conservative than they were before the "split." Some in the Gakkai accuse them of inventing new doctrines, but their real problem is clinging to archaic notions and failing to live up to the spirit of the founder and use Literal, actual or theoretical proof to bolster their positions. Instead they rely on the authority of the documents and notions of lineage that don't bolster their positions. They then use that authority to bolster relying on those documents. Not much "theoretical" proof in such circular reasoning. They might as well be the Catholic Church for all the logic of such doctrine.
Even so, on the other hand, some of the accusations against High Priest Nikken have involved doctored photos, or even photos that were originally taken at SG sponsored events. (The party photos at one web site are an example). The complaints against the priests were justified by conditions created by a Gakkai that gave them money without asking anything useful in return and then criticized them for accepting it. One has to admire people willing to forgo millions of dollars for the sake of their integrity.
One can justify some of the efforts for trying to show that that Nikken and the other priests are indeed is a human being, but those involved have gone beyond that and into the realm of demonization, lies and distortions. Not only were some of the captions of the webpages they produced misleading but they were willing to go to any lengths -- including distorting doctrines -- to "win".
Most of the "battle" between the Gakkai and Nichiren Shoshu in Japan is actually quite public and tabloid, so what we get in the USA is distilled from that material and so is very distasteful, strident, and sometimes hypocritical. Nikken Abe is teaching some very incorrect teachings, but how much of these incorrect things are new and how much of them are simply the accumulation of years of "dust" on the teachings of a mostly oral school is an issue I'm in the process of dissecting. Sometimes I find that things I previously "knew" were false, and that things are considerably different from what I'd been told.
NST alleges that Toda made promises to Nichijun Shonin that he would disband the Gakkai if it ever went against the priests. But of course those promises were made by Toda and not Ikeda, and Ikeda doesn't feel bound by them. The Domei Priest Kudo alleges (In this link:http://www.sokaspirit.com/kudo.htm) that is a lie but the truth is that Toda did make such promises, they just don't apply to the case where the High Priest is no longer upholding what the Gakkai feels is correct Buddhism. If you read about what Makiguchi and Josei Toda were up to with the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai you can see that there were tensions between it and "orthodox" NST teachings from the beginning. Those promises were made in order to prevent disunity and mend earlier conflicts. It seems that Toda was even harder on the priests than Ikeda ever was. The Ogasawara affair demonstrates this.
Nikken was an acolyte when Makiguchi formed the Sokagakkai, and he found Toda alien and different. We now know that Makiguchi had picked Nichiren ShoShu precisely because of the reasonable logic he found in it's teachings, the humbleness of its teachers, and not any exclusivity at all.
For more on this war of words visit this page: personal.html For more on my dissection of the lineage and teachings of Nichiren Shoshu you can start at lineage.html or my page on NST. Recently he dropped the suit against the Gakkai based on his alleged "night on the town" in Seattle after a Judge ordered both groups to cease and decease from their "propaganda wars." Both groups hailed the order as a "victory."
And of course the saddest thing is that the Temple Issue and the personal nature of the fight between him and Ikeda has led to some full reversals of opinion and some sad consequences. He replaced the Sho Hondo with a new building the Hoanden, but Taisekiji will never be the same after that. On April 5, 1998 Nikken Abe said, "I believe the time has come for the Kenshokai to return." He might have let them do so, but he is as afraid of their power as he was of the Gakkai's. He's also been trying to get Shoshinkai priests and members to return -- but they probably won't do so while he is still alive.
And the war continues. Recently, 2003, they tried to keep Nikken from visiting Mannhatten. The effort failed. You can't chant for negatives. Some members even took it on themselves to try to actually block his visit, for example cancelling bus reservations and other harrassments. Nikken made his visit, you can read about it here: http://www.nsglobalnet.jp/page/topix/200402.htm. Meanwhile Ikeda has not made it to the US and is sending his son in his place. The war yet goes on.
The Gakkai's detailed charges against Nikken Shonin can be found at this web site:http://www.sgi-usa.org/buddhism/library/SokaGakkai/Study/Temple/Q03.htm
Nikken Shonin sometimes gives out contradictory guidance about his own role as head of the sect. Before the split with the Gakkai he said things like this:"... Nikko Shonin taught that if an opinion is wrong, the high priest should refute it no matter how many people adhere to it, but if the high priest is mistaken on a certain issue, then the people should not follow him regarding that matter."
- 67th High Priest Nikken Abe,
- Birthday Reception, December 14, 1990.
"This lifeblood of faith is inherited not only by a high priest. It is also inherited by all priests and lay believers who inherit the true teaching. When these priests and lay believers carry out pure faith in the true teaching and practice accordingly, they unlock the pure water of the Law within their lives and equally attain enlightenment though believing and understanding the Law. Thus immeasurable people will attain the great goal of enlightenment in their present form."
- Complete Works of High Priest Nikken, vol. 1.
Of course when he refers to the "lifeblood" or specific heritage, he is talking about transmissions and authority that he personally is charged with. I discuss this subject on this page: lineage.html.
For more of his opinions and his followers opinions, you can visit these pages:
- Nikken Shonin">His Lectures
- Some pictures of Nikken during his career:http://www.geocities.com/buddhalaisuus2001/NIKKENSHONIN1.html
- August speach
- Newer collection with better presentation
A list of some of the strident and less strident sites that attack Nikken personally:
- Very strident: Domei Site
- A little less strident
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