I have four parts of this question,

  1. Is Nibbana a state of mind or a dhamma?
  2. If Nibbana is a state of mind, is it merely the uprooting of craving?
  3. If the answer for the second question is "Yes", then why it's said "Nibbana is the object of eight super-mundane consciousness? Or simply, how would a stream winner experience/see Nibbana with the existence of craving?
  4. "One attain Nibbana by uprooting craving" or "One uproots craving by attaining Nibbana" Which one of the aforesaid is correct?

12 Answers 12


Nibbana is asankhata dhatu (unconditioned element or unconditioned dhamma) therefore it is not a state of mind (MN 115).

Insight wisdom (vipassana) into the three characteristics uproots craving (SN 22.59).

Nibbana is a sense object (ayatana) of mind consciousness (Ud 8.1) but it is not a type of consciousness. This is why 'mind-objects' are called 'dhamme'; because they also include Nibbana.

It is because Nibbana is not a state of mind that a stream winner can taste the peace of Nibbana; even though their mind is not completely pure. This can be compared to feeling a cool breeze on a warm sunny day. Because the breeze is one thing & the sun is another thing, both the cool breeze & warm sun can be experienced together. Similarly, the cool peace of Nibbana (experienced from non-attachment) can be experienced by the stream-winner, even though the mind is not completely pure & cooled.

This said, when a stream-winner is in the stream, their mind is without asava (MN 117). In other words, it is inaccurate to say a stream-winner has craving; as though they always have craving. A stream-winner only has craving when their mindfulness has lapsed.

In conclusion, the mind attains Nibbana by using Path concentration & insight wisdom to uproot craving. The suttas say the Path (of concentration & insight) is conditioned. Therefore, the mind does not uproot craving by attaining Nibbana. First craving is uprooted using wisdom and what remains leftover is experiencing the peaceful element of Nibbana. SN 22.59 says:

Seeing thus [with insight wisdom], the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones grows disenchanted with form, disenchanted with feeling, disenchanted with perception, disenchanted with fabrications, disenchanted with consciousness. Disenchanted, he becomes dispassionate [uproots craving]. Through dispassion, he is fully released [Nibbana]. With full release, there is the knowledge, 'Fully released.' He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'

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    A very good answer with references to Pali canon. Thank you @Dhammadhatu sir! – Damith Mar 25 at 9:24
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    Your'e welcome. – Dhammadhatu Mar 25 at 9:31
  • Sir, "First craving is uprooted using wisdom and what remains leftover is Nibbana." By reading this, one may feel that the Nibbana is an element of citta (which is incorrect). Can you explain it in a better way? When considering magga citta veeti, I feel that the defilements are uprooted by taking Nibbana as the object for path consciousness. Am I correct? – Damith Mar 25 at 9:42
  • According to Nyonponika Thera it is a dhamma or phenomenon, but without a Kantian noumenon. . , – PeterJ Mar 25 at 10:32
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    Nibbana is not element of citta. Imagine the citta is a log of wood. When the log is on fire, the log has a high temperature. When the fire is extinguished, the log does not have its own temperature but, instead, has the temperature of the atmosphere around it. The atmosphere is not the log and the log is not the atmosphere. Similarly, when the fires in the citta extinguish, the citta has the temperature of the Nibbana element, which is not the citta but an eternal peace & stillness in nature. – Dhammadhatu Mar 26 at 0:23

OP: Is Nibbana a state of mind or a dhamma?

In this answer, we find the definition of dhamma quoted as:

dhamma [Skt. dharma]:(1) Event; a phenomenon in and of itself; (2) mental quality; (3) doctrine, teaching; (4) nibbāna. Also, principles of behavior that human beings ought to follow so as to fit in with the right natural order of things; qualities of mind they should develop so as to realize the inherent quality of the mind in and of itself. By extension, "Dhamma" (usu. capitalized) is used also to denote any doctrine that teaches such things. Thus the Dhamma of the Buddha denotes both his teachings and the direct experience of nibbāna, the quality at which those teachings are aimed.

For the purpose of this answer, we will use the definition of dhamma as a thing or phenomena - any thing. It could be physical or mental or empty space or time or non-physical and non-mental, or a concept or a teaching - any thing.

In this answer, a sankhara is summarized as:

Sankharas are "co-doings," things that act in concert with other things, or things that are made by a combination of other things. Ven. Bodhi uses "formations" or "volitional formations" as his preferred translation.

There are 3 uses of the term Sankhara in the scriptures:

  1. Second link in dependent origination - when ignorance and craving underlie our stream of consciousness, our volitional actions of body, speech, and mind become forces with the capacity to produce results, including "rebirth".
  2. The fourth of the five aggregates - volition regarding forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile objects, and ideas. Also covers all factors of mind except feeling and perception.
  3. All conditioned and compounded things including mountains, fields, and forests; towns and cities; food and drink; jewelry, cars, and computers.

The only thing which is unconditioned and uncompounded is Nibbana.

We can say a sankhara is a thing or phenomena that is compounded or conditioned.

Absolutely everything is compounded and conditioned, except Nibbana.

Your body, your mind, your thoughts, your consciousness, your states of mind, the five aggregates, the idea of the self, the Buddha's teachings as an idea of the mind, the luminous mind (pabhassara citta), empty space, time - they are all conditioned and/or compounded.

In the physics of cosmology today, we know that even empty space is expanding in the universe (and therefore conditioned), and from Einstein's theory of relativity, we know about time dilation - the phenomena which proves that time is conditioned. From quantum field theory, we have learned that empty space (vacuum) is never truly empty, so even empty space is compounded.

Everything that is conditioned, would arise, change and cease depending on other conditions - for example, when you read this sentence, thoughts about the concept of sankhara arise in your mind, then ceases. Your understanding or views regarding this concept would also change with time.

Compounded refers to things that are built up of other things. For e.g. your body is built up of bones, flesh, blood, bile, saliva, cells etc. However, through objectification-classification or reification (papañca), we perceive them as concrete objects, relative to us. For e.g., this is my body, that is not my body.

The three marks of existence state that:

  1. All conditioned and compounded things or phenomena are impermanent. (sabbe sankhara anicca)
  2. All conditioned and compounded things or phenomena are suffering. (sabbe sankhara dukkha)
  3. All things or phenomena are not-self. (sabbe dhamma anatta)

There is clearly a classification here separating phenomena or things (dhamma) into conditioned/ compounded and unconditioned / uncompounded. Everything is conditioned and/or compounded, except Nibbana. Everything is impermanent and suffering, except Nibbana. Absolutely everything is not-self (anatta), including Nibbana.

So what then is Nibbana? It's not conditioned, not compounded, not suffering, not impermanent, not arising, not ceasing and not changing. Also see this question. Ud 8.1 and Ud 8.3 support this.

Nibbana is also the highest bliss. This supported by Dhp 203 - 204. So, it's easy to think that it is a state of mind. But states of mind are conditioned, but Nibbana is not. So, how can Nibbana be the highest bliss?

From this question, we find the Buddha talking about "The All" from SN 35.23:

"Monks, I will teach you the All. Listen & pay close attention. I will speak."

"As you say, lord," the monks responded.

The Blessed One said, "What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range."

From this question, we concluded that Nibbana is included in The All. So, if Nibbana is not a state of mind, then it is a thing that can be experienced by the mind. But Nibbana is also not a thought or concept or feeling, because thoughts, concepts and feelings are also conditioned. Please see this answer. Neutral feelings, no feelings and Nibbana are all blissful to the arahat.

From AN 9.34 (translated by Bhikkhu Sujato):

Ven: Sariputta: “Reverends, extinguishment (Nibbana) is bliss!
“sukhamidaṃ, āvuso, nibbānaṃ.

Ven. Udayi: “But Reverend Sāriputta, what’s blissful about it, since nothing is felt?”
“kiṃ panettha, āvuso sāriputta, sukhaṃ yadettha natthi vedayitan”ti?

Ven. Sariputta: “The fact that nothing is felt is precisely what’s blissful about it.
“Etadeva khvettha, āvuso, sukhaṃ yadettha natthi vedayitaṃ.

So, Nibbana is not a thought of the mind, not a concept of the mind, not a state of the mind, not a state of consciousness and also not a feeling. However, when the mind experiences this Nibbana, which is not conditioned, not compounded, not suffering, not impermanent, not arising, not ceasing and not changing, it experiences bliss. The mind can therefore experience Nibbana, but it cannot feel it or think about it.

Sukha or happiness for an unenlightened person is experienced when encountering pleasant feelings (from the six senses) or when encountering the cessation of painful feelings (from the six senses). But for an arahat, sukha or bliss (in this context) is experienced when encountering neutral feelings, no feelings and Nibbana. Please see this answer for commentaries by Nyanaponika Thera. The supporting suttas are MN 44, SN 36.5 and AN 9.34.

OP: how would a stream winner experience/see Nibbana with the existence of craving?

The stream winner glimpses Nibbana in moments when he is in perfect mindfulness (sati) and clear comprehension (sampajañña) of the four noble truths, the eightfold noble path, the three marks of existence and dependent origination, through wisdom and insight (vipassana). These are the moments when he understands things clearly as they truly are (yathābhūtaṃ pajānāti). These are moments when the five hindrances have been stilled and effluents (asava) are temporarily not arising, but ignorance (avijja) has not been completely uprooted yet. When the five hindrances are stilled and effluents are ceased, craving does not occur. See this answer for details on sati sampajañña.

When the stream winner is not in mindfulness (sati) and clear comprehension (sampajañña), he is afflicted by craving and suffering. However, since he has seen things clearly as they are, identity view, doubt about the teachings and attachment to rites and rules would have been uprooted completely. However, some of underlying tendencies (anusaya - see AN 7.11), especially craving and ignorance, still exist, hence the remaining fetters still exist.

OP: "One attain Nibbana by uprooting craving" or "One uproots craving by attaining Nibbana" Which one of the aforesaid is correct?

The answer given by Dhammadhatu based on SN 22.59 is the right one for this.

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    This is a very good explanation for the selected answer by using previously answered questions and references from the Pali canon. Thank you @ruben2020! – Damith Apr 1 at 3:25

Nibbana is the unconditioned. So it is timeless, birthless, deathless and it is not a state of mind.

Entering to Nibbana always happens through transcending the defilements(transcending the desire to do something or be something etc. completely) untill one becomes an Arahant because only an Arahant is completely free from the defilements all the time(there is no karmic energies in Arahant's mind that potentially can cause limitations for him/her).

A stream-enterer has spontaneous mindfulness so you can say that when the desire is there with the awareness/mindfulness it is not called "craving". But the degree of the mindfulness of a stream-enterer can change time to time. In the once-returner stage the person is deeply contented and have a very deep peace of mind all the time and s/he is not identified with the thoughts, emotions and feelings but the desires continues untill one becomes Arahant.

Also stream-entry is not complete enlightenment and can be described as the transition stage.




I'm not sure what you mean by "state of mind" but I think that Ven. Sujato's articles ...

... implies it isn't that.

The latter for example says (describing an Arahant) that ...

  • the event of Awakening ... involves an awareness of Nibbana
  • Nibbana is ever-present in the sense that there is never any greed, hatred, or delusion

... however ...

  • the Buddha spoke countless times of how all forms of vinnana are impermanent and suffering and not-self

Practically speaking, it is very dangerous to objectify Nirvana as something external. Nirvana is Harmony. Universe is already in Harmony, but in order to be in harmony with that Harmony we need wisdom. Once we attain wisdom, we enter Nirvana. In this sense, Nirvana is a dharma and it is also a state of mind.

When we have wisdom and we see something attractive, repulsive, or disturbing - it does not cause desire, aversion or confusion in us, because wisdom sees through these things, so they don't take hold. That's Nirvana.

If the answer for the second question is "Yes", then why it's said "Nibbana is the object of eight super-mundane consciousness?

Because Nirvana (Harmony) can be "seen" with wisdom.

Or simply, how would a stream winner experience/see Nibbana with the existence of craving?

Stream winner would experience Nirvana (Harmony) at some times, and at other times would lose it and get disturbed, even though in theory they understand everything.

"One attains Nibbana by uprooting craving" or "One uproots craving by attaining Nibbana" Which one of the aforesaid is correct?

"One attains Nirvana" = "one acquires wisdom that is capable of preventing all delusions, including craving".

So now if we substitute it in your original sentence, we get "(one acquires wisdom that is capable of preventing all delusions, including craving) by uprooting craving" - this does not make sense.

Instead, "One uproots craving by (acquiring wisdom that is capable of preventing all delusions)" - this makes sense.

(Based on Vasubandhu's Abhidharmakosa with commentary.)

P.S. what kind of "wisdom" are we talking about? In traditional terms, it is deep analytical understanding of phenomena and mind; understanding of Emptiness. In simple words, it is deep understanding of how mind works, understanding that relative things are relative.

  • Sir, you've given a well explained answer for the last part of my question. So, it's correct to say "One uproots craving by attaining Nibbana". Thank you! – Damith Mar 26 at 3:57

This from the platform sutra of Huineng suggests that you may be asking the wrong sorts of questions, at least outside Theravada Buddhism!

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You can read Huineng's condemnation of this (common sense yet) eternalist and annihilationist view on e.g. p53 Thomas Cleary's translation (published by Shambala).

It seems that great nirvana is already experienced by everyone in this very body, and yet there is no subject to experience it. And realization (unity of samadhi and prajna) would be better thought of as the natural state of the body and mind, one without grasping, but due to the action of the buddha nature rather than attaining a particular "state of mind".

It may (also) be worth noting that many Mahayana Buddhists have claimed that the alayavijnana or storehouse consciousness is the one mind. I think it's probably wrong to say that in Mahayna Buddhism nirvana is the cessation of consciousness, rather than a different way of seeing it.


Is Nibbana a state of mind or a dhamma?

As i understand the meaning of the Theravadin expression the terms Nibbana and Mind are used in a variety of ways and there are several ways to answer your question according to Theravadin interpretation.

Here are some examples of the use of these terms;

  1. Nibbana as cessation of perception & feeling
  2. Nibbana as the removal of greed, anger and delusion
  3. Nibbana as the abscence of greed, anger and delusion
  4. Nibbana as the highest liberation
  5. Nibbana as liberation in general
  6. Nibbana as pleasure where no feeling is felt
  7. Nibbana as a where; there is neither this world nor the next

As for mind;

  1. Mind as the Sixth Sense-Base
  2. Mind as a word for consciousness and intellect (sn12.61)
  3. Mind as preceeding Dhamma
  4. Mind as leading and creating all Dhamma

Mind is therefore spoken of both in a sense of being one of the six, intellect, a sense in it's own rite, as well as being indivisible from other senses when said to be likened to consciousness which can be known as coming into play at contact.

Therefore as far as i can tell the Theravadin school of Sthravira in their Abhidhamma differentiate between the mind as conditioned and unconditioned mind, wherein the conditioned mind is associated with contact and unconditioned mind being beyond objectification as it can not be explained in terms of anything conditioned and familiar to us like language or existence as we know it.

If Nibbana is a state of mind, is it merely the uprooting of craving?

Nibbana can be explained to be referring to both the removal and abscence of craving. The word can refer to the act or the fact of removal taking place or the consequent fact of abscence post removal.

why it's said "Nibbana is the object of eight super-mundane consciousness?

As i understand it the expression "Nibbana is the object of eight super-mundane consciousness" is based on the Theravadin expression of the path and fruition classification in Dhammasanghani which is seen as complementary to what is also expressed in regards to path and fruit terminology in the Patisambhidamagga in the Khuddaka Nikaya.

Again as i understand it; Basically the fact of destruction of the greed, anger and delusion as it occurs in context of the path it is treated as an attainment of any unification of mind accompanied by other 7 path factors which results in the arising of one of the four paths leading to cessation based absorption.

Path is the initial attainment which for example marks complete removal of delusion in case of one attaining the path of arahantship. The subsequent attainments of supramundane absorption no longer destroy or remove any delusion because there is no delusion to remove, this is one example by which fruit can be known as different from path.

4 paths and 4 fruits make for 8 states different to that extent, therefore 8 types of superconsciousness.

The whole notion of supra-mundane consciousness as it seems to me draws from the Sandha Sutta wherein the superlative man attains a special kind of absorption concentration unknown to gods, so i guess that is the support.

As for Nibbana being the object of the Supramundane Consciousness, this is not to be taken literally as in there being contact between some nibbana eye, nibbana element and superconsciousness element.

The words "contact" and "consciousness" therein would be a figure of speech and the terms being analogical to mundane contact as we know it rather than variants of.

That which is unconditioned is a singleness, meaning there are no parts to it to make contact and a delineation of a multitude therein is impossible.

Or simply, how would a stream winner experience/see Nibbana with the existence of craving?

Technically the person experiences cessation of everything and comes to know that which is not included in everything, he is not everything, he is not in everything nor is he apart from everything.

This cessation of conditioned phenomena comes to be discerned as the highest pleasure and bliss beyond objectification.

As far as sense bases go goes objectification, as far as the world goes goes objectification (an4.174) and with the cessation of sense-bases, ceases the world and all stress. There is that which is not stressful, if there was not that which is not stressful there would be no escape from the stressful (Ud 8x)

So one can say that Stream Enterer experiences cessation when he attains the unification of mind accompanied by 7 factors, practically speaking such absorbtion can last for quite long time. Initial attainment of the Bodhisatta resulted in Arahantship, not stream entry but the unification of mind resulted in supramundane absorbtion which lasted for 7 days, in the case of Sotapatti it lasts shorter, 30 minutes in example or whatever opening there is that is how long one is absorbed, the going beyond time itself means that the relatively short duration does not take away from the realization and it as everything all depends on prior development and conditions.

Another way to explain that Sotapanna knows and experiences Nibbana apart from the actual experience of destruction of greed, anger and delusion and the discernment of their non-existence, apart from that, one can explain that he experiences many kinds of liberation of many types as one would imagine and one can go on and on listing such benefits as being free from wrong view and types of doubt.

"One attain Nibbana by uprooting craving" or "One uproots craving by attaining Nibbana" Which one of the aforesaid is correct?

There are many ways to explain these expressions as you can probably see.


Most might probably don"t get the message, how ever, some may be able that certain medicine heals.

"Nibbana isn't anything, nor isn't it anything. Nor both or either."


"Monks, eye-consciousness is inconstant, changeable, alterable. Ear-consciousness... Nose-consciousness... Tongue-consciousness... Body-consciousness... Intellect-consciousness is inconstant, changeable, alterable.

"One who has conviction & belief...


"Monks, the earth property is inconstant, changeable, alterable. The liquid property... The fire property... The wind property... The space property... The consciousness property is inconstant, changeable, alterable.

"One who has conviction & belief that these phenomena are this way is called a faith-follower: one who has entered the orderliness of rightness, entered the plane of people of integrity, transcended the plane of the run-of-the-mill. He is incapable of doing any deed by which he might be reborn in hell, in the animal womb, or in the realm of hungry shades. He is incapable of passing away until he has realized the fruit of stream-entry. SN 25

Any perception of Nibbana?

Mulapariyaya Sutta: The Root Sequence: ...let him not conceive things about Unbinding, let him not conceive things in Unbinding, let him not conceive things coming out of Unbinding, let him not conceive Unbinding as 'mine,' let him not delight in Unbinding. Why is that? So that he may comprehend it, I tell you.

(like always not given for trade, stacks, exchange and entertainment that keeps one bond in the wheel but to get out by giving (up) and right concentration)


Considering the fact I got two negative points I will try to attempt my answer again. To me, Nibbana is similar to the curing from last long illness. Curing is not mental but the bodily pleasant feeling is mental. When you are cured you know that you are cured. It is mental.


It is a gradual cessation of craving. It is like removing the fuel from a fire gradually. While fuel remaining, the Nibbana is a state of mind. When the fuel fully bunts out it is a Dhamma.


Is Nibbana a state of mind or a dhamma?

It is not a state of mind. It is also not the teachings, but what the dhamma is attempting to describe.

If Nibbana is a state of mind, is it merely the uprooting of craving?

It is not a state of mind. An arahant sees nibbana in craving.

If the answer for the second question is "Yes", then why it's said "Nibbana is the object of eight super-mundane consciousness? Or simply, how would a stream winner experience/see Nibbana with the existence of craving?

Nibbana is not separate from, nor the same as craving. Without nibbana there would be no craving.

"One attain Nibbana by uprooting craving" or "One uproots craving by attaining Nibbana" Which one of the aforesaid is correct?

The second. Craving naturally lessens after enlightenment. When craving occurs, an arahant sees nibbana in craving and no longer craves to be free of craving.


It is the usual question about the difference between vinnana, mano and citta. If you want, you can say that the citta is what is in contact with the deathless (or getting the knowledge of the qualities of the deathless?), which makes it ''a thing'' (meaning a dhamma), which would fit well with the way to "do vipassana'' in the jhana, like here

"'I tell you, the ending of the mental fermentations depends on the first jhana.' Thus it has been said. In reference to what was it said? There is the case where a monk, withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities, enters and remains in the first jhana: rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought and evaluation. He regards whatever phenomena there that are connected with form, feeling, perception, fabrications, and consciousness, as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a disintegration, an emptiness, not-self. He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite - the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.'

The goal would be to detach the citta from rupa, from the five cords of sensual pleasure, the asavas, the kilesas, from anything that is dukkha, which would be why the asekhas have realized the nirodha of rupa, nirodha of vedana, of vinnana and so on.

But you can also say that nibanna is a ''thought'' and then you talk about sati, mano and thoughts. The ability to witness with the proper view is about sati like the buddha keeps saying here https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an09/an09.035.than.html and sati is the proper use of mano. Yoniso maniskhara is even more explicitly tied to mano. Panna, sati and mano are tied. Panna is witnessing that a liberated citta is good and a non-liberated citta is bad, and witnessing a liberated citta. Panna would be viewed as sati applied to nibanna, to a liberated citta...

So a liberated citta is what is ''experienced'' and panna is knowing that the liberated citta is the end of the world. You cannot talk about nibanna without talking about the liberated citta AND the knowledge or witnessing of this liberated citta.

When nibanna does not happen by lack of sati and directing the citta towards nibanna right at the first jhana, this can also be done :

The thought occurs to him, 'What if I, with the complete transcending of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, were to enter & remain in the cessation of perception & feeling.' Without jumping at the cessation of perception & feeling, he, with the complete transcending of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception, enters & remains in the cessation of perception & feeling.

"When a monk enters & emerges from that very attainment, his mind is pliant & malleable. With his pliant, malleable mind, limitless concentration is well developed. With his concentration well developed & limitless, then whichever of the six higher knowledges he turns his mind to know & realize, he can witness them for himself whenever there is an opening.

So ''the cessation of perception & feeling'' still does not bring nibanna just like that, sati is still required to turn the citta towards

So far, all this leaves vinnana alone, besides the nirodha of vinnana. Then people wonder if arahants cognize things or not. So people speculate about what happens to vinnana when the citta is liberated. There are only 2 suttas explicitly about the Anidassana Viññāṇa, even worse they are in DN and MN, (which is not a good news for the people who take seriously this vinana), a sutta in SN 12.64 talk about the "vinnana which does not grow" so they link it to their Anidassana Viññāṇa. Then people wonder if the citta is eternal or not, if the vinnana is eternal or not, if they are the true self or not, if they are conditioned or not.

  • Anidassana Viññāṇa is not taught to arahants but to unfaithful non-Buddhist Brahmins & Brahma Gods. Its got nothing to do with Buddhism. – Dhammadhatu Mar 25 at 9:12

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