Happiness and Unhappiness – Sukh and Dukh

Happiness is a state of the mind (Soch-thinking). As a result, no two individuals can fully agree on what constitutes happiness.

We all can attest to the fact that almost all human efforts and activities are aimed at two things: (1) gaining happiness (Sukh); and (2) freedom from all Dukh (suffering, sorrow, pain, affliction, agony etc).

Accordingly, all our endeavors are motivated by impulse to seek out joy-giving things and circumstances, and avoid any sorrow-giving things and situations. The Gurmat Wisdom of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) affirms this as follows:

  • ਸੁਖ ਕਉ ਮਾਗੈ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਦੁਖੁ ਨ ਮਾਗੈ ਕੋਇ ॥: Every one asks (begs, craves, wishes, etc.) for (worldly) Sukh and none asks for Dukh. (sggs 57).
  • ਜਤਨ ਬਹੁਤ ਸੁਖ ਕੇ ਕੀਏ ਦੁਖ ਕੋ ਕੀਓ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥: Man makes all sorts of efforts to find happiness; but none to earn pain (sggs 1428).

Dukh or problems will happen in life. There is no escape from them. However —  since the SGGS teaches a practical spirituality or a practical Way of divine life — the Wisdom of the Gurbani guides the learners (i.e. Sikhs) to Awaken so as to find strength so that our weak mind can cope with them.

Hence, happiness is not goal in itself, it’s byproduct of proper thinking (Soch), living wisely and fulfilling one’s duty with honesty and commitment. This is true in personal relationships as well as in one’s career or vocation.

That said, nothing else can make anybody happy (Sukhi) or unhappy (Dukhi) if that individual does not want to be that. Just don’t give the remote control of your mind in the hands of ‘sombody’ or ‘something’ else!

Sukh

In general, in human history, we have been living in the most materially prosperous time.

Still, it seems as we are not happy. Why is happiness elusive?

It’s because happiness is a state of the mind, not a function of material prosperity. More money or success accumulated in ‘rat race’ just helps to buy a better quality of unhappiness! That’s all! The Gurbani attests to this:

  • ਸੁਖੁ ਨਾਹੀ ਬਹੁਤੈ ਧਨਿ ਖਾਟੇ ॥: There is no Sukh in earning lots of money. (sggs 1147).

The Gurbani indicates that happiness (Sukh, Bliss, Peace…) comes when the mind living daily life with the divine Virtues (ਮਨ ਦੇ ਗੁਣ) such as  – Truth (ਸਤ), contentment (ਸੰਤੋਖ), mercy (ਦਯਾ), patience (ਧੀਰਜ), Sahaj (ਸਹਜ-Natural State of Being), Wisdom (ਗਿਆਨ), lack of desires, annihilation of false ego-sense (Haumai) and craftiness, etc.

  • ਹਉਮੈ ਮਾਰਿ ਸਦਾ ਸੁਖੁ ਪਾਇਆ ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹੁ ਚੁਕਾਵਣਿਆ ॥: Subduing ego, lasting Sukh is obtained, and emotional attachment to Maya is dispelled (sggs 110).
  • ਹੁਕਮੈ ਬੂਝੇ ਸਦਾ ਸੁਖੁ ਪਾਏ ॥: One who understands God’s Hukam finds lasting Sukh (sggs 424).
  • ਸੁਖੁ ਨਾਹੀ ਬਿਨੁ ਨਾਮ ਧਿਆਏ ॥: There is no peace without remembering (i.e., living in daily life) the Naam (Wisdom, Virtues, Truth, Shabad…).(sggs 1145).

So, the Gurbani tells us there is NO Sukh in in Bikaar (i.e., lust, anger, greed, attachment and pride), false ego-sense (Haumai), worries, dishonesty etc.

  • ਕਾਮ ਕ੍ਰੋਧ ਲੋਭ ਮੋਹ ਅਭਿਮਾਨਾ ਤਾ ਮਹਿ ਸੁਖੁ ਨਹੀ ਪਾਈਐ ॥: Lust, anger, greed, emotional attachment and pride – (caught in them) Sukh is not obtained (sggs 614).

Dukh

Although man’s almost all efforts are to find Sukh, none to get Dukha, yet, the whole world is in the grip of ‘Dukh’ (suffering…)!

  • ਫਰੀਦਾ ਮੈ ਜਾਨਿਆ ਦੁਖੁ ਮੁਝ ਕੂ ਦੁਖੁ ਸਬਾਇਐ ਜਗਿ ॥ ਊਚੇ ਚੜਿ ਕੈ ਦੇਖਿਆ ਤਾਂ ਘਰਿ ਘਰਿ ਏਹਾ ਅਗਿ ॥: O Fareed! I thought I was the only one in ‘Dukh’; in fact the whole world is in ‘Dukh’ (suffering…)! When I looked around from a vantage point (i.e., rising above my own Dukh), I saw this fire (of Dukh) in every home (sggs 1382).

If almost all human efforts are geared to find Sukh, then the question one may ask is: Where does the Dukh come from?

The reason given by the Gurbani is that we keep sawing the seeds of ‘Dukh’!

  • ਸੁਖੈ ਕਉ ਦੁਖੁ ਅਗਲਾ ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਬੂਝ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥: But in the wake of Sukh, there comes Dukh. The Manmukh does not understand this (sggs 57).

The reason we keep sawing the seeds of ‘Dukh’ (suffering) is mind’s forgetfulness of its sacred True Nature as Jot Saroop which is ever Blissful and Joyful. In the ocean various waves arise. Each wave forms a relation with other waves around it for short period of time. But its relationship with the ocean is primary, beginningless and endless. Similarly, each induvial has primary relation with its sacred Mool (Universal Energy…) within, whether he knows and accepts it or not.

Here is Baabaa Nanak’s eye-opening assessment of human life and sorrows:

  • ਦੁਖ ਵਿਚਿ ਜੰਮਣੁ ਦੁਖਿ ਮਰਣੁ ਦੁਖਿ ਵਰਤਣੁ ਸੰਸਾਰਿ ॥ ਦੁਖੁ ਦੁਖੁ ਅਗੈ ਆਖੀਐ ਪੜ੍ਹ੍ਹਿ ਪੜ੍ਹ੍ਹਿ ਕਰਹਿ ਪੁਕਾਰ ॥ ਦੁਖ ਕੀਆ ਪੰਡਾ ਖੁਲ੍ਹ੍ਹੀਆ ਸੁਖੁ ਨ ਨਿਕਲਿਓ ਕੋਇ ॥ …: In sorrow, man is born, in sorrow he dies (that is to say, from birth to death, the whole life remains entangled in sorrow), and in sorrow he carries out all the affairs of the world. Even after obtaining education (people) weep and wail, (whatever is to be) obtained (ahead) can only be called sorrow. (For man as if) packages of sorrows are open, and no happiness comes out (of any of the packages). … (sggs 1240).

Although man’s target is Sukh, but his thinking (Soch) and the resulting actions are all Dukh-producing!

Because of the fear of missing out in life, we run in the ‘rat race’ —
focusing on needs rather than wants, we pursue what appeals to us rather than what we are told by the Gurmat Wisdom should appeal to us.

In other words, the Gurbani makes us aware of our mind’s Dukh.

  • ਮਨ ਰੇ ਹਉਮੈ ਮੋਹੁ ਦੁਖੁ ਭਾਰੀ ॥: O mind! Egoism and attachment are such heavy loads of Dukha (sggs 1260).
  • ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹੁ ਸਭੁ ਦੁਖੁ ਹੈ ਦੁਖਿ ਬਿਨਸੈ ਦੁਖੁ ਰੋਇ ॥: The love of Maya is total pain; in pain they perish, and in pain they cry out (sggs 316).

As indicated in the foregoing verses (there are many more in the SGGS), unhappiness comes from Haumai (false ego sense), mind’s allurement or attachment to worldly things, uncontrolled desires, hunger for Maya or love of duality (two-ness or two divisions of the mind), fear, life full of doubts, Bikaar (lust, anger, greed, attachment, pride, and their countless variations.). False ego-sense etc. numbs and blinds our senses hampering our ability to reach our Jot Saroop and beyond. This is why a precondition for happiness is that the mind has to be stilled and silenced.

  • ਕਬੀਰ ਜਾ ਦਿਨ ਹਉ ਮੂਆ ਪਾਛੈ ਭਇਆ ਅਨੰਦੁ ॥ ਮੋਹਿ ਮਿਲਿਓ ਪ੍ਰਭੁ ਆਪਨਾ ਸੰਗੀ ਭਜਹਿ ਗੋੁਬਿੰਦੁ ॥੬॥: O Kabeer! (By living the Divine Virtues) on the day when my egotism dies (bad influence of ego on my mind), afterwards there is Bliss within. (Also) I met  my Prabh (Truth, Virtues, Wisdom, Mool…). and now my companions (all senses-ਇੰਦ੍ਰਿਆਂ) are united with Gobind (i.e., Prabh). ||6||(sggs 1364).

In nutshell, a mind devoid of Virtues or Wisdom is an unhappy (or Dukhi) mind.

  • ਮੁੰਧੇ ਗੁਣਹੀਣੀ ਸੁਖੁ ਕੇਹਿ ॥: (O soul-bride)! Being devoid of Virtues, there can no happiness. (sggs 56).

The Gurbani also guides us how to burn Dukh as follows:

  • ਦੀਵਾ ਮੇਰਾ ਏਕੁ ਨਾਮੁ ਦੁਖੁ ਵਿਚਿ ਪਾਇਆ ਤੇਲੁ ॥ ਉਨਿ ਚਾਨਣਿ ਓਹੁ ਸੋਖਿਆ ਚੂਕਾ ਜਮ ਸਿਉ ਮੇਲੁ ॥੧॥: The One Naam (which provides Light of Wisdom or Truth in my life…) is my lamp; I have put the oil of my Dukh or suffering into it. With the Light (of that Naam’s lamp), the oil (of my Dukh) has dried up and I escape my connection with the Jamm (lust, anger, greed, etc.). ||1|| (sggs 358).

Dukh is medicine

The edict of the Gurmat is — ‘Suffering is the medicine’ (‘ਦੁਖੁ ਦਾਰੂ’). How so?

Suffering or pain (Dukh) makes the mind strong; it ushers or introduces a person to his true self within; it unites us with others; it develops the feeling of  empathy, collaboration, etc.

So, the Wisdom of the Gurbani — the medicine — asks us NOT to be afraid of Dukh.

  • ਦੁਖੁ ਦਾਰੂ ਸੁਖੁ ਰੋਗੁ ਭਇਆ ਜਾ ਸੁਖੁ ਤਾਮਿ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥: Dukh is (or becomes) the medicine, and Sukh (becomes cause of) the disease (i.e., suffering); but if (the Real – spiritual or ਆਤਮਕ) Sukha (is experienced or Realized, within), then (no Dukha remains) (sggs 469).

First, let’s try to understand why Sukha is said to be the source of disease (i.e., suffering, Dukha…). The Gurbani tells us that Sukha puts us to sleep (mayaic slumber) — it makes us forget our True Nature (Mool, Truth, Jot Saroop…). Worldly Sukha thus kills the Spirit per se, not to mention the body.

  • ਸੁਖੁ ਮਾਂਗਤ ਦੁਖੁ ਆਗੈ ਆਵੈ ॥ ਸੋ ਸੁਖੁ ਹਮਹੁ ਨ ਮਾਂਗਿਆ ਭਾਵੈ ॥: People beg for Sukh, but Dukha comes instead. I would rather not beg for that Sukha (sggs 330).

However, worldly Sukha deludes us away from Truth, causing separation where there is none. While intoxicated with mundane Sukha, we care less about essential matters (e.g., Wisdom, Virtues, Truth, Shabad, Naam…) in daily life.

How can Dukha be medicine?

If Sukha puts us to deep sleep of illusion (Maya), Dukha awakens us!

In other words, Dukh makes us patient and humble and takes us closer to Truth. It is our reformer and benefactor in disguise — ‘Dandaa’ (stick) of the Hukam or the Law of Nature, per se.

To put it otherwise, every Dukha that enters our mind pulls us towards Bliss. For example, if we look at ourselves in our moments of Dukha, we will invariably find that we not only think of Rabb a lot during those moments, but also do so with more intensity and faith!

Dukha thus revives the Divine Consciousness dormant in us. Hence, Dukh acts as catalyst of the Spiritual quest, pulls us towards the Naam (Wisdom, Virtues, Truth, Shabad…), and thus becomes the medicine for all our ailments!

  • ਆਪੁ ਪਛਾਣਿ ਰਹੈ ਲਿਵ ਲਾਗਾ ॥ ਜਨਮੁ ਜੀਤਿ ਗੁਰਮਤਿ ਦੁਖੁ ਭਾਗਾ ॥੬॥: Recognizing his own selves, a person who remains lovingly attuned (to the Naam),  through the Gurmat (Wisdom, Giaan, Upadesh or Way of the SGGS…), he becomes victorious on the battlefield of life, and his suffering run away. ||6|| (sggs 1189).

Know Dukha and Sukh the same

First, the Gurbani wants us to understand that both Dukh and Sukh are part of human life – man’s own making (‘ਸੁਖੁ ਦੁਖੁ ਦੁਇ ਦਰਿ ਕਪੜੇ ਪਹਿਰਹਿ ਜਾਇ ਮਨੁਖ ॥’).

Depending on one’s own Soch (thinking or thoughts) and the resulting actions, a person either experiences Dukh or Sukh in daily life.

Therefore, if one’s Soch (thinking or thoughts) and the resulting actions are primarily Dukh-producing, then one cannot avoid Dukh. To the contrary, if one’s Soch (thinking or thoughts) and the resulting actions are primarily Sukh-producing, then one cannot avoid Sukh either.

Accordingly, the Gurbani reminds us that it’s foolishness to pray or ask the third-party for ONLY Sukh by abandoning ALL Dukh (‘ਨਾਨਕ ਬੋਲਣੁ ਝਖਣਾ ਦੁਖ ਛਡਿ ਮੰਗੀਅਹਿ ਸੁਖ’).

Through the Gurmat Wisdom, we are asked to develop the thinking wherein one sees Dukh and Sukh the same (Gurmukh Lifestyle – ‘ਹਉਮੈ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਖੋਈਐ’).

  • ਸੁਖੁ ਦੁਖੁ ਦੋਨੋ ਸਮ ਕਰਿ ਜਾਨੈ ਅਉਰੁ ਮਾਨੁ ਅਪਮਾਨਾ ॥ ਹਰਖ ਸੋਗ ਤੇ ਰਹੈ ਅਤੀਤਾ ਤਿਨਿ ਜਗਿ ਤਤੁ ਪਛਾਨਾ ॥੧॥: One who knows that Sukha and Dukha are both the same, and honor and dishonor as well, who remains detached from joy and sorrow, realizes the true essence (of living) in the world ||1||. (sggs 219).

To be happy or not depends on us!

The Gurbani repeatedly reminds god is within us! Hence, whether we want to be happy or unhappy solely depends on us. No third-party such as god is responsible for it.

  • ਜਬ ਲਗੁ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਨ ਬੂਝਤਾ ਤਬ ਹੀ ਲਉ ਦੁਖੀਆ ॥ ਗੁਰ ਮਿਲਿ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਪਛਾਣਿਆ ਤਬ ਹੀ ਤੇ ਸੁਖੀਆ ॥੩॥: As long as man does not understand the Hukam (System-Rule-Law of Nature…), he remains miserable (Dukhi-ਦੁਖੀ). Meeting the Gur (Giaan, Wisdom, Bibek) when he recognizes the Hukam since then he becomes happy. (sggs 400).

In nutshell, according to the Wisdom of the Gur-Shabad, if we want to be happy, we need to change our thinking (Soch – thoughts, habits, actions).

  • ਜੇਹਾ ਬੀਜੈ ਸੋ ਲੁਣੈ ਕਰਮਾ ਸੰਦੜਾ ਖੇਤੁ ॥: (Body is the) field (of man’s Karma); whatever (he) sows so does (he) reap (sggs 134).
  • ਫਰੀਦਾ ਲੋੜੈ ਦਾਖ ਬਿਜਉਰੀਆਂ ਕਿਕਰਿ ਬੀਜੈ ਜਟੁ ॥: O Fareed! The farmer plants acacia trees (ਕਿਕਰਾਂ), and wishes for Bijouree grapes! (sggs 1379).

No matter if the mind is trained to be happy or unhappy, life will go on. Therefore, the time to be at peace and happy is NOW, NOT after death! Who knows, one may not get the opportunity later!

  • ਜਉ ਸੁਖ ਕਉ ਚਾਹੈ ਸਦਾ ਸਰਨਿ ਰਾਮ ਕੀ ਲੇਹ ॥: If you long for Eternal Happiness (Peace, ਆਤਮਕ ਅਨੰਦ…), then (your mind) must take refuge of Raam (Truth, Wisdom, Virtues, Mool…). (sggs 1427).

Gurbani’s Wisdom prepares us to laugh at worry

The Gurmat Wisdom of the SGGS asserts that the divine Wisdom is the destroyer of Dukh, hence we are urged always to keep connected with it.

  • ਦੁਖ ਭੰਜਨੁ ਤੇਰਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਜੀ ਦੁਖ ਭੰਜਨੁ ਤੇਰਾ ਨਾਮੁ ॥ ਆਠ ਪਹਰ ਆਰਾਧੀਐ ਪੂਰਨ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਗਿਆਨੁ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: O divine! Your Naam (Wisdom or Giaan) is the destroyer of Dukh. One should remember or stay connected with this Naam throughout a day – the perfect Satguru has given us this Wisdom (to ever live Wisely – ਗਿਆਵਾਨ ਹੋ ਕੇ ਜੀਉਣਾਂ). (sggs 218).

The Gurmat Wisdom of the SGGS teaches us that nothing is permanent, including bad times.

Hence, the more we diligently read the Gurbani ourselves and understand the Gurmat Wisdom, the more we learn to laugh at the uselessness our worries or Dukh in life (adversity, mishap, torment, bad luck, affliction, sorrow, tribulation, tragedy, grief, agony, etc.).

The Gurmat urges our mind to recognize its Mool – Jot Saroop – which is the embodiment of the Universal Energy (‘ਮਨ ਤੂੰ ਜੋਤਿ ਸਰੂਪੁ ਹੈ ਆਪਣਾ ਮੂਲੁ ਪਛਾਣੁ ॥’).

This sacred Jot Saroop is our Mool where we make that spiritual and emotional connection and experience happiness.

We experience happiness when we the individual being connects with the Universe Energy in this life Here and Now, NOT after death! The longer we stay connected with the Universe the happier we feel.

This Universal Energy is within and without us. We are part of the same Universal Energy which connects and flows through all beings, things and space. The matter and energy that constitutes the entire Universe is also a part of the individual. Ignorance of this is the cause of Dukh or suffering.

However, we have no control over what’s outside us. Hence, the Gurbani’s counsel is not to become the slave of the outer domination. Because, one who draws on the Energy of the outside is a slave of the senses.

On the other hand, we can control what lies within us, which is the same Universal Energy.

  • ਬਸਤਾ ਤੂਟੀ ਝੁੰਪੜੀ ਚੀਰ ਸਭਿ ਛਿੰਨਾ ॥ ਜਾਤਿ ਨ ਪਤਿ ਨ ਆਦਰੋ ਉਦਿਆਨ ਭ੍ਰਮਿੰਨਾ ॥ ਮਿਤ੍ਰ ਨ ਇਠ ਧਨ ਰੂਪਹੀਣ ਕਿਛੁ ਸਾਕੁ ਨ ਸਿੰਨਾ ॥ ਰਾਜਾ ਸਗਲੀ ਸ੍ਰਿਸਟਿ ਕਾ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮਿ ਮਨੁ ਭਿੰਨਾ ॥: (If a person) lives in a broken hut, his clothes are all tattered; he is not of high caste, no respect, and he wanders around (due to misfortunes and no respect); he has neither a friend, nor a beloved, nor wealth, nor beauty, nor relation or Kinsman; (in spite of such misfortunes) if his mind is soaked in Naam (Giaan or Wisdom), consider him the King of the whole world. (sggs 707).

There is also the mistaken notion that to be happy one has to abandon family, life and living. The Gurmat Wisdom does not agree with this faulty thinking (Soch). If a person abandons his family and society to go sit on mountain-tops, live in caves, or wander around in jungles etc., his slumbering mind attached to Maya will follow him wherever he goes!

  • ਪੂੰਅਰ ਤਾਪ ਗੇਰੀ ਕੇ ਬਸਤ੍ਰਾ ॥ ਅਪਦਾ ਕਾ ਮਾਰਿਆ ਗ੍ਰਿਹ ਤੇ ਨਸਤਾ ॥ ਦੇਸੁ ਛੋਡਿ ਪਰਦੇਸਹਿ ਧਾਇਆ ॥ ਪੰਚ ਚੰਡਾਲ ਨਾਲੇ ਲੈ ਆਇਆ ॥੪॥: You worship fire (ਧੂਣੀਆਂ ਤਪਾਂਣਾਂ) and wear saffron colored robes. Smitten by calamity (distress, trouble…), you run away from your home. Leaving your country, you wander in foreign lands. (But your Mayaic mind) brings the five pariahs (i.e., Bikaar: lust, anger, greed, etc.) with it. ||4|| (sggs 1348).

Bhav Saagar‘ is within the ‘Sukh Saagar‘. We must and will return to the ‘Sukh Saagar’ through the sacred Jot Saroop.

In short, thus, Happy or Joyous people (i.e., the Gurmukhs) are capable of claiming mastery of what lies within, NOT what lies outside. It’s so because the one who is able to draw the Energy from within is skillful of the Gurmat Wisdom.

  • ਲਖ ਖੁਸੀਆ ਪਾਤਿਸਾਹੀਆ ਜੇ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਨਦਰਿ ਕਰੇਇ ॥: If ‘Satguru‘ (true Wisdom-ਸੱਚ ਦਾ ਗਿਆਨ) is in my life, then (I understand that) I have got the happiness of millions of kingdoms! (sggs 44).

7 comments

  1. This reminds me of a saying :

    When you desire the good

    You make room for the bad (not achieving your desires)

    Thank you T Singh Ji !

  2. Sukh and Dukh are essential part and parcel of life and there is no escape as Guru Nanak Sahib puts it:
    ਨਾਨਕ ਬੋਲਣੁ ਝਖਣਾ ਦੁਖ ਛਡਿ ਮੰਗੀਅਹਿ ਸੁਖ ॥ ਸੁਖੁ ਦੁਖੁ ਦੁਇ ਦਰਿ ਕਪੜੇ ਪਹਿਰਹਿ ਜਾਇ ਮਨੁਖ ॥: O Nanak, it is absurd to ask to be spared from pain by begging for comfort. Pleasure and pain are the two garments given, to be worn in the Court of the Lord. (Raag Maajh M. 1, GGS. 149-4).

  3. Thank you for putting this up. My grandfather just passed away and the last quoting from the granth sahib could not have described him better. Reading this, I felt like guru ji was writing about my grandfather.

  4. Good comment!

    The more he becomes aware of his eternity, the less sway does his kamarupa hold over him. Is that the meaning of this post?

    Essentially!

    The sensory world can never give us any real satisfaction…

    Certain desires may not be in keeping with Dharma. They are fancies that come and go.

    So while fulfilling desires one has to make sure that one’s actions and efforts conform to Dharma – mind linked to the True Nature, Naam…

    Baabaa Nanak says:

    ਹਉ ਮੁਆ ਮੈ ਮਾਰਿਆ ਪਉਣੁ ਵਹੈ ਦਰੀਆਉ ॥ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਥਕੀ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਜਾ ਮਨੁ ਰਤਾ ਨਾਇ ॥ (sggs 1091).

  5. This is a beautiful post. Thank you.

    Before a man reaches self-consciousness, the desires and sorrows of his kamarupa catalyze awareness of his external world, as he is yet too immature in his eternal being to have awareness of the world around him from his own internal activity. The generic desires and sorrows of his kamarupa give him awareness of his external world as, perhaps, the flesh of his hand gives his bones awareness of the physical world – it is a glove of sentience. The more he becomes aware of his eternity, the less sway does his kamarupa hold over him. Is that the meaning of this post?

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