Karmapa

His Holiness the Karmapa: The technology of the heart

The name “Karmapa” means “the one who carries out Buddha-activity,” and for seventeen lifetimes, a karmapa has embodied the teachings of Buddha in tibet. The 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, was born a nomad in Tibet in 1985 and recognized by the Dalai Lama in 1992 as the 17th Karmapa. The young boy was brought to the Tsurphu monastery to live and study for his life as a spiritual teacher and activist.

At age 14, he made a daring flight from Tibet, and now works from a temporary camp in Dharamsala, near his friend the Dalai Lama. (After the Dalai Lama, he’s seen as Tibetan Buddhism’s second-highest-ranking spiritual leader, though the two men lead different schools within the faith.) In 2008, he made a long visit to the United States, where he spoke and taught at Buddhist centers around the country. And in 2009 he toured Europe, speaking about faith — but also about protecting the environment.

Translator: The way I feel right now is that all of the other speakers have said exactly what I wanted to say. (Laughter) And it seems that the only thing left for me to say is to thank you all for your kindness.

Translator: But maybe in the spirit of appreciating the kindness of you all, I could share with you a little story about myself.

Translator: From the time I was very young, onward, I was given a lot of different responsibilities, and it always seemed to me, when I was young, that everything was laid out before me. All of the plans for me were already made. I was given the clothes that I needed to wear and told where I needed to be, given these very precious and holy looking robes to wear, with the understanding that it was something sacred or important.

Translator: But before that kind of formal lifestyle happened for me, I was living in eastern Tibet with my family. And when I was seven years old, all of a sudden, a search party arrived at my home. They were looking the next Karmapa, and I noticed they were talking to my mom and dad, and the news came to me that they were telling me that I was the Karmapa. And these days, people ask me a lot, how did that feel. How did that feel when they came and whisked you away, and your lifestyle completely changed? And what I mostly say is that, at that time, it was a pretty interesting idea to me. I thought that things would be pretty fun and there would be more things to play with.

(Laughter)

Translator: But it didn’t turn out to be so fun and entertaining, as I thought it would have been. I was placed in a pretty strictly controlled environment. And immediately, a lot of different responsibilities, in terms of my education and so forth, were heaped upon me. I was separated, largely, from my family, including my mother and father. I didn’t have have many personal friends to spend time with, but I was expected to perform these prescribed duties. So it turned out that my fantasy about an entertaining life of being the Karmapa wasn’t going to come true. It more felt to be the case to me that I was being treated like a statue, and I was to sit in one place like a statue would.

Translator: Nevertheless, I felt that, even though I’ve been separated from my loved ones — and, of course, now I’m even further away. When I was 14, I escaped from Tibet and became even further removed from my mother and father, my relatives, my friends and my homeland. But nevertheless, there’s no real sense of separation from me in my heart, in terms of the love that I feel for these people. I feel, still, a very strong connection of love for all of these people and for the land.

Translator: And I still do get to keep in touch with my mother and father, albeit infrequently. I talk to my mother once in a blue moon on the telephone. And my experience is that, when I’m talking to her, with every second that passes during our conversation, the feeling of love that binds us is bringing us closer and closer together.

Translator: So those were just a few remarks about my personal background. And in terms of other things that I wanted to share with you, in terms of ideas, I think it’s wonderful to have a situation like this, where so many people from different backgrounds and places can come together, exchange their ideas and form relationships of friendship with each other. And I think that’s symbolic of what we’re seeing in the world in general, that the world is becoming smaller and smaller, and that all of the peoples in the world are enjoying more opportunities for connection. That’s wonderful, but we should also remember that we should have a similar process happening on the inside. Along with outward development and increase of opportunity, there should be inward development and deepening of our heart connections as well as our outward connections. So we spoke and we heard some about design this week. I think that it’s important for us to remember that we need to keep pushing forward on the endeavor of the design of the heart. We heard a lot about technology this week, and it’s important for us to remember to invest a lot of our energy in improving the technology of the heart.

Translator: So, even though I’m somewhat happy about the wonderful developments that are happening in the world, still, I feel a sense of impediment, when it comes to the ability that we have to connect with each other on a heart-to-heart, or a mind-to-mind, level. I feel that there are some things that are getting in the way.

Translator: My relationship to this concept of heart-to-heart connection, or mind-to-mind connection, is an interesting one, because, as a spiritual leader, I’m always attempting to open my heart to others and offer myself up for heart-to-heart and mind-to-mind connections in a genuine way with other people, but at the same time, I’ve always been advised that I need to emphasize intelligence over the heart-to-heart connections, because, being someone in a position like mine, if I don’t rely primarily on intelligence, then something dangerous may happen to me. So it’s an interesting paradox at play there. But I had a really striking experience once, when a group from Afghanistan came to visit me, and we had a really interesting conversation.

Translator: So we ended up talking about the Bamiyan Buddhas, which, as you know, were destroyed some years ago in Afghanistan. But the basis of our conversation was the different approach to spirituality on the part of the Muslim and Buddhist traditions. Of course, in Muslim, because of the teachings around the concept of idolatry, you don’t find as many physical representations of divinity or of spiritual liberation as you do in the Buddhist tradition, where, of course, there are many statues of the Buddha that are highly revered. So, we were talking about the differences between the traditions and what many people perceived as the tragedy of the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, but I offered the suggestion that perhaps we could look at this in a positive way. What we saw in the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas was the depletion of matter, some solid substance falling down and disintegrating. Maybe we could look at that to be more similar to the falling of the Berlin Wall, where a divide that had kept two types of people apart had collapsed and opened up a door for further communication. So I think that, in this way, it’s always possible for us to derive something positive that can help us understand one another better.

Translator: So, with regard to the development that we’ve been talking about here at this conference, I really feel that the development that we make shouldn’t create a further burden for us as human beings, but should be used to improve our fundamental lifestyle of how we live in the world.

Translator: Of course, I rejoice in the development and the growth and the rise of the noble land of India, the great country of India, but at the same time, I think, as some of us have acknowledged, we need to be aware that some aspects of this rise are coming at the cost of the very ground on which we stand. So, as we are climbing the tree, some of the things that we’re doing in order to climb the tree are actually undermining the tree’s very root. And so, what I think it comes down to is a question of, not only having information of what’s going on, but paying attention to that and letting that shift our motivation to become more sincere and genuinely positive. We have hear, this week, about the horrible sufferings, for example, that so many women of the world are enduring day-to-day. We have that information, but what often happens to us is that we don’t really choose to pay attention to it. We don’t really choose to allow that to cause there to be a shift in our hearts. So I think the way forward for the world — one that will bring the path of outer development in harmony with the real root of happiness — is that we allow the information that we have to really make a change in our heart.

Translator: So I think that sincere motivation is very important for our future well-being, or deep sense of well-being as humans, and I think that means sinking in to whatever it is you’re doing now. Whatever work you’re trying to do now to benefit the world, sink into that, get a full taste of that.

Translator: So, since we’ve been here this week, we’ve taken millions of breaths, collectively, and perhaps we haven’t witnessed any course changes happening in our lives, but we often miss the very subtle changes. And I think that sometimes we develop grand concepts of what happiness might look like for us, but that, if we pay attention, we can see that there are little symbols of happiness in every breath that we take.

Translator: So, every one of you who has come here is so talented, and you have so much to offer to the world, I think it would be a good note to conclude on then to just take a moment to appreciate how fortunate we are to have come together in this way and exchanged ideas and really form a strong aspiration and energy within ourselves that we will take the good that has come from this conference, the momentum, the positivity, and we will spread that and plant it in all of the corners of the world.

His Holiness the Karmapa: Tomorrow is my Talk.

Translator: Lakshmi has worked incredibly hard, even in inviting me, let alone everything else that she has done to make this happen, and I was somewhat resistant at times, and I was also very nervous throughout this week. I was feeling under the weather and dizzy and so forth, and people would ask me, why. I would tell them, “It’s because I have to talk tomorrow.” And so Lakshmi had to put up with me through all of that, but I very much appreciate the opportunity she’s given me to be here. And to you, everyone, thank you very much.

(Applause)

HH: Thank you very much.

(Applause)

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Tibetan Lama cleared in cash inquiry, report says

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Associated Press: Indian authorities cleared one of Tibetan Buddhism’s most revered lamas on Friday in an investigation into $1.35 million in cash discovered last month at his headquarters in northern India, a news report said. Rajwant Sandhu, the top civil servant in Himachal Pradesh State, said the money found during a raid on the monastery of the Karmapa, above, Tibetan Buddhism’s third most important leader, had been donated by his followers, the Press Trust of India news agency reported. The Karmapa had no links to the money…

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since the affairs of his trust are managed by his followers, Ms. Sandhu said. “The Karmapa is a revered religious leader of the Buddhists, and the government has no intentions to interfere in religious affairs of the Buddhists,” she said, according to the P.T.I. Last week, the state police said the Karmapa’s followers violated Indian tax and foreign currency laws in collecting the donations.

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Tibetan lama faces scrutiny and suspicion in India

His daring escape from Tibet seemed out of a movie. Then only 14, Ogyen Trinley Dorje was one of Tibetan Buddhism’s most revered incarnate lamas, and his journey through the icy passes of the Himalayas was viewed as a major embarrassment for China. The youth arrived in India in early 2000 to a euphoric greeting from Tibetan exiles.

India, though, was less certain about what to do with him. Intelligence agencies, suspicious of his loyalties and skeptical of his miraculous escape, interrogated him and tightly restricted his travel. He remains mostly confined to the mountainside monastery of a Tibetan sect different from his own. And that spurred an idea: He wanted his own monastery. Eventually, his aides struck a deal to buy land.

Now, the 17th Karmapa, as he is known, has seen his quest for a monastery unexpectedly set off a national furor, fanned by Indian media that have tapped into growing public anxiety about Chinese intentions on their disputed border.

The Indian police are investigating the Karmapa after discovering about $1 million in foreign currency at his residence, including more than $166,000 in Chinese currency. Flimsily sourced media accounts have questioned whether he is a Chinese spy plotting a monastic empire along the border.

“Monk or Chinese Plant?” asked an editorial in The Tribune, a national English-language newspaper.

Many Tibetans scoff at the spying allegations. But the episode starkly exposes the precarious position of the Dalai Lama and the exiled movement of Tibetan Buddhism he has led since he fled China in 1959. The Tibetan cause depends heavily on Indian good will, particularly as China has intensified efforts to discredit and infiltrate their exile organization.

Tensions are rising between India and China over a variety of issues, including…

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Tibet. Sophisticated hackers, traced to China, have penetrated computer systems in Dharamsala and at Indian government ministries. China has long blamed Tibetan exiles in India for fueling instability across the border in Tibet. But now India, too, seems more wary of Tibetan activities; the Indian police are investigating new Tibetan monasteries near the border for possible ties to China, a police official said.

Meanwhile, Chinese leaders are betting that the Tibetan movement will fracture after the eventual death of the Dalai Lama, who is 74; they have even declared their intent to name his successor.

Indian suspicions about the Karmapa are a particular problem. He has a global following and, at 25 years old, he is viewed as a potential future leader of the movement — a possibility deeply compromised if Indian authorities consider him a foreign agent.

“What Tibetans must address is the idea that Tibetans could be considered a security threat to India and not an asset,” said Tsering Shakya, a leading Tibet specialist. “But the idea that a boy at the age of 14 was selected as a covert agent by a foreign government to destabilize India — and the assumption the boy will assume leadership of the Tibetan movement and eventually work against India — is worthy of a cheap spy novel.”

For the past week, Tibetans have rallied behind the Karmapa, with thousands of monks holding candlelight vigils at his residence. Tibet’s political leaders, including the Dalai Lama, have called on the Karmapa’s aides to correct any financial irregularities but have dismissed any suspicions about the Karmapa’s being a Chinese agent.

“Baseless, all baseless,” said Samdhong Rinpoche, the prime minister of the Tibetan government in exile. “Not a fraction of anything that has a base of truth.”

Many Indian intelligence agents have distrusted the Karmapa from the start. He was a unique case, since both the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government had endorsed him. He would explain his escape as an act of principle; he was being pressured to denounce the Dalai Lama, and Chinese officials also were forbidding him to study with high lamas outside China. Many investigators were unconvinced, wondering how such an important figure could slip so easily over the border.

On Wednesday, when the procession of monks arrived to offer support, the Karmapa described the current controversy as a “misunderstanding” and expressed confidence in the fairness of Indian authorities.

“We all have taken refuge and settled here,” he said. “India, in contrast to Communist China, is a democratic country that is based on the rule of law. Therefore, I trust that things will improve and the truth will become clear in time.”

Within Tibetan Buddhism, the Karmapa ranks third after the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, with each man believed to be reincarnated through the centuries. After the death of the previous Karmapa, a bitter feud broke out between the high lamas charged with identifying his successor: at least two other people now claim to be the Karmapa, though a majority of Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, recognize Ogyen Trinley Dorje.

But this dispute has complicated efforts by the Karmapa to claim the monastery built by his predecessor in the Indian border region of Sikkim. Indian officials have blocked him from taking ownership until claims from rival Tibetan factions are resolved — which is why, given the uncertainty over the duration of the legal fight, the Karmapa sought land for a new monastery, his aides say.

The land deal led to the current controversy. On Jan. 26, India’s Republic Day, police officers apprehended two men at a highway checkpoint after discovering about $219,000 in Indian rupees inside their car — money they said had come from the Karmapa. The next day, the police raided the Gyuto Monastery and found boxes of cash from more than 20 countries, including China; officers arrested the financial officer overseeing the Karmapa’s charitable trust and continue to investigate the Karmapa himself.

“He ran from China,” said P. L. Thakur, the police inspector general in Dharamsala. “Tibet is under China. Why and how has this currency come here? For what purpose? Why was it being kept there?”

Naresh Mathur, one of the Karmapa’s lawyers, said the money was from the devotees who for the past decade had come from around the world for the Karmapa’s blessing. By custom, they leave an offering, usually envelopes of cash; the Chinese renminbi, he said, are from Tibetans or other Chinese who have made a pilgrimage to Dharamsala.

Mr. Mathur said the Karmapa’s aides were unable to deposit the money because they were awaiting a decision on their application — made several years ago — for government approval to accept foreign currency. In the interim, they say, the money is stored where the officers found it — in boxes kept in a dorm room shared by monks.

Mr. Mathur also denied any suggestion that the land deal was secretive or illegal, and he said that it was the seller who demanded cash.

On Friday, the Karmapa offered blessings to devotees who lined up to meet him in his fourth-floor reception room. Among them was a group of Chinese followers from the manufacturing hub of Shenzhen. Aides say that bookkeeping mistakes may have been made in recording the donations, but that the intent is to handle the money the right way.

“We will be making changes,” said Deki Chungyalpa, a spokeswoman for the Karmapa. “Like hiring a professional accountant who is not a monk.”

For many Tibetans, the broader concern is about the future of the Tibetan movement itself. Tenzin Tsundue is a Tibetan activist who once unfurled a “Free Tibet” banner at an appearance by President Hu Jintao of China. He says India has always been a steadfast friend of Tibetans, providing a home for as many as 120,000 Tibetan refugees, yet now he worries its support may be wavering.

“This country that we are so grateful to is alleging the Karmapa is a spy for China,” he said. “And we can’t understand that at all.”

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Buddha’s not smiling: examining knee-jerk reporting about the Karmapa

‘Is the Karmapa a Chinese spy?’ ‘Is the possible successor to the Dalai Lama a Chinese mole?’ ‘Is this another clever ploy of China to take control of the border regions?’ The media have gone berserk with speculations about the Karmapa Lama. Sadly, the coverage has failed to do any groundwork research. This episode not only exposes the way the Indian media works but also jolts the Tibetan faith in Indian democracy and harms India’s long-term interests in Tibet.

The police raid found a few crore (100,000) rupees worth of cash. At most, this may be a case of financial irregularity or non-transparent dealings by the managers of the Karmapa’s monastery for which they should be held accountable. Raising questions about a person being a spy for another country is a serious matter. It destroys his or her reputation. The news stories reflect a witch-hunt and betray the lack of an understanding of Tibetan life in India.

Ogyen Trinley Dorje is the 17th Karmapa, the oldest lineage in Tibetan Buddhism and the head of the Karma Kagyu sect. He is one of the rare lamas recognised by both the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government. There is nothing conspiratorial about it. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, China was more accommodative of Tibet-based religious figures, consulting and coordinating the choice of reincarnations with the Dalai Lama and other lamas in exile. This accommodativeness came to an end with the crisis over the Panchen Lama’s reincarnation in 1995.

The Karmapa’s selection after the demise of the 16th Karmapa was not without its own controversy as there is a rival candidate, Trinley Thaye Dorje, who had the backing of a senior Karma Kagyu figure, the Shamarpa. The Shamarpa is reputed to have close connections within the Indian security establishment and bureaucracy. But most Tibetans have accepted the Dalai Lama’s choice. In fact, within China-controlled Tibet, veneration for the Karmapa is next only to that of the Dalai Lama. Even within the Gelug (the sect of the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama) monasteries in Tibet, one comes across the Karmapa’s picture and it is clear that for ordinary Tibetans, the Karmapa’s proximity to the Dalai Lama adds to his sacredness.

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It is true that the Karmapa has avoided making anti-China political statements and Beijing has therefore not denounced him. Again, there is nothing suspicious about this. The Chinese had refused to openly criticise even the Dalai Lama in 1959 until he made a public statement after his exile. Beijing does not want to denounce the Karmapa and thus contribute to the creation of another globally recognised figurehead around which the Free Tibet movement will mobilise. Moreover, in recent history, Karmapas have avoided overly political positions since in the traditional Tibetan State, the Gelug sect was dominant. By focusing solely on religious affairs, the present 17th Karmapa is following the footsteps of his previous reincarnation.

It is unfortunate that without appreciating the nuances of sectarian politics within Tibetan Buddhism and Sino-Tibetan relations, the Indian media portrayed the Karmapa’s apolitical stance as suspicious. Continuing speculation about the Karmapa’s escape from Tibet in 1999 reminds me of a Japanese conspiracy theory film where the filmmaker argued that he was ‘sent’ to Sikkim to get control over the ‘Black Hat’ kept in Rumtek monastery in Sikkim. Interestingly, this film was given to me in Beijing!

Decades of repression during the Cultural Revolution has not been able to shake the belief that Tibetans have in their lamas. The Indian media’s onslaught on the Karmapa will only reaffirm Tibetan respect for the Karmapa. But it will certainly backfire for India as followers of Tibetan Buddhism in exile, in the border regions, in Tibet and in the rest of the world, will resent this humiliation of the religious figure. Had it been the Shahi Imam or Baba Ramdev, would the media have taken such liberties in going to town with such an unconfirmed story?

Hardline officials in China must be laughing their heads off at the Indian media circus. They know that this will not only create confusion in the exiled Tibetan community in India, but will also create a disenchantment about India among Tibetans inside China. India has let the Tibetans down on many occasions since the late 1940s when the latter sought help and support in making their claims for independence internationally and in 1954 when the Panchsheel agreement was signed with China over the old Tibetan State. India has provided refuge to more than 100,000 Tibetan exiles. But we must not forget that the exiled lamas provide a stability and keep the people in the borderlands pacified in a manner more effective than the Indian military. Tibetans are over-generous with their gratitude to their Indian hosts and are hesitant in reminding India of a small inconvenient truth: until 1951, the disputed border regions were neither Chinese nor Indian but Tibetan. In return, the very least Indians could do is not malign Tibetan religious leaders before they are even proved guilty of their misdemeanour. Is that too much to ask?

Dibyesh Anand is an associate professor of international relations at Westminster University, London and the author of Tibet: A Victim of Geopolitics
The views expressed by the author are personal

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Tibetan Buddhism can solve global conflicts: Karmapa

The four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism are trying to find common ground to carry forward Lord Buddha’s teachings in way they can be used to resolve geo-political conflicts, says Thrinley Thaye Dorje, the 17th spiritual head of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.

‘The awareness that the four schools have to find common ground is getting stronger. It will happen because unity among the Buddhist sects is crucial to world peace,’ 27-year-old Thrinley Dorje told IANS in an interview in Bodh Gaya, the seat of Gautama Buddha’s enlightenment.

‘It can solve conflicts because the teachings of Buddha are based on bringing inner and outer peace,’ he added.

The four schools are the ancient Nyingma tradition, the Karma Kagyu school, the Sakya school and the…

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Gelug school. The last three are relatively new when compared to the eighth century Nyingma tradition.

The Karmapa (the high monk) was in the town to preside over the commemoration of the 900th anniversary of the Karma Kagyu school of Vajrayana Buddhism in Tibet. The order traces its lineage to north Indian monk Tilopa and was formally founded by Dusum Kyenpa (1110-1193) – known as the high monk with the black crown. The Karma Kagyu sect manages the affairs of the Rumtek monastery in Sikkim.

Thrinley Dorje believes that although traces of Buddhism have existed in the Himalayas for a long time, globalisation and modernism have helped it spread on a larger scale.

‘Globalisation has brought the world together. Even 45 years ago, Buddhism was not heard of outside East and Southeast Asia,’ he said.

He said, ‘In general, all the four (Tibetan) Buddhist schools are built on the same foundations’.

‘They believe in carrying the teachings of the Buddha forward. The difference is in the way of interpreting and teaching the tenets of the Buddha. Our way of teaching is transmission which emphasises on meditation. Our lineage is one of meditation,’ the Karmapa said.

The seat of the 17th Karmapa of the Karma Kagyu sect has been a subject of controversy. After the death of the 16th Karmapa in 1981, two young masters, 27-year-old Thrinley Dorje and 25-year-old Ogyen Trinley Dorje, have been contenders to the post. Both have been enthroned as the spiritual heads.

The Chinese government and the Dalai Lama however approve of Ogyen Trinley Dorje. Born in Tibet, both the lamas fled to India in the 1990s and have been identified as reincarnations of great Buddhist spiritual masters.

Thrinley Dorje does not miss his homeland or feel distanced from Tibet.

‘There is not much of a distance because globalisation has strengthened bonds between Tibet and India. My bonds are stronger from the perspective that when I meditate, the physical gap becomes a relative thing – it’s nothing more than an idea,’ said the Buddhist master, who was born in Tibet.

‘In our state of meditation, we (Tibet and I) are very much connected. It is like the way I connect to my students at the opposite side of the globe through meditation,’ he added.

Thrinley Dorje has meditated in isolation for 12 years before being deemed fit for the post. He was identified as a holy reincarnation at the age of two and a half by a monk of the Sakya Pa school in Tibet, who informed the Karma Kagyu monastery in Nepal about the ‘boy and his previous life’.

He was led through the rites of passage after an early initiation by a Kagyu red hat lama, Shamarpa Mipham Chokyi Lodro, who traditionally instructs the Karmapa on the complex doctrines of the sect.

‘Tibet has four major schools of Vajrayana Buddhism (that incorporates tantrik Buddhism),’ he said.

Thrinley Dorje said he was ‘trying to make Buddhism relevant to youth’.

‘The awareness about the faith is rising worldwide and it is one of the ways to reach out to the people. The world finds it easy to emotionally connect to Buddhism,’ he said.

One way that could help youth harness the power of the Buddha in them was to ‘remain close to the family’, the master said.

‘Youth must respect their parents and remain devoted to them. Respect and devotion to parents are vital to Gautama’s teachings, especially in modern times,’ Thrinley Dorje said.

‘The modern times are very exciting and interesting. And if one does not engage in the right way, it can be quite harmful. The transition to modern times must be peaceful,’ he added.

He advocated ‘compassion, tolerance and patience for the monks in Tibet, who were being persecuted.’ ‘If we have compassion, tolerance and peace, situations change because you will not repeat history,’ he said.

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