Aug 24 2016

Yoka Genkaku – There is the leisurely one

Published by under Poetry

[1] The re is the leisurely one (from The Shodoka)
by Hsuan Chueh of Yung Chia / Yoka Genkaku

English version by Robert Aitken

There is the leisurely one,
Walking the Tao, beyond philosophy,
Not avoiding fantasy, not seeking truth.
The real nature of ignorance is the Buddha-nature itself;
The empty delusory body is the very body of the Dharma.


/ Image by ahermin /

It’s a sleepy morning here, overcast after many long days of summer heat and sun. And this poem appealed to me. It suggests to me the drowsy way of enlightenment.

There is the leisurely one,
Walking the Tao, beyond philosophy,
Not avoiding fantasy, not seeking truth.

Not through effort, but through quiet being and quietly seeing.

Not trying to control the mind or force silence or a specific way of seeing. Simply observing. The movement of the world, the movement of thoughts, they come, they go. Watching these flickering phenomena though drowsy eyes, they tell us more about the spacious depths than their jostling surfaces. We yawn behind a hand as we watch the show.

An enlightenment for sleepy mornings.

The real nature of ignorance is the Buddha-nature itself;
The empty delusory body is the very body of the Dharma.

To clarify what is meant here by “ignorance” and the “delusory body” it may be helpful to mentally substitute the concept of Maya, which is the world of seeming and illusion. It is the world of apparent thingness and separation, when underlying it is the real world of unity and interbeing. Our ideas about the world, confused as they usually are by the illusions of Maya, lead us into a state of ignorance as to the true nature of reality. But as we quiet and honestly see, then that ignorance itself is seen not so much as a barrier to truth but an invitation to look deeper. Ignorance is itself of the Buddha-nature.

Likewise, all of our ideas about who we are within a separate physical body amidst a world of separated bodies, that “delusory” point-of-view surprisingly relaxes into the recognition that there is only the presence of Dharma, the outpouring “way” of the Eternal.

=

A confession: I sat down this morning thinking I would pick a short poem and not try to add many of my own words by way of commentary. I feel like I’ve been a bit long-winded lately. And here I am writing another longish commentary. Someday soon I may recover the virtue of succinctness. But not today, apparently.


Recommended Books: Hsuan Chueh of Yung Chia / Yoka Genkaku

Buddhism and Zen


Hsuan Chueh of Yung Chia / Yoka Genkaku

China (665 – 713) Timeline
Buddhist : Zen / Chan
Taoist

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Aug 24 2016

continuously ask

Continuously ask: What is right here?
What is this sensation? This emotion?
This thought? This experience?
Then ask: Who is experiencing it?

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Aug 22 2016

Video: Ducks in Search of the Moon – Ekphrastic Haiku by Gabriel Rosenstock

Published by under Poetry,Videos

A reading of ekphrastic haiku in both Irish and English by Gabriel Rosenstock. “Ekphrastic” poetry is poetry inspired by art. Each haiku is accompanied by a painting that inspired it.

These will make you pause and think… and chuckle, some of them.

Ducks in Search of the Moon from Jim Swift on Vimeo.

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Aug 19 2016

Mansur al-Hallaj – Kill me, my faithful friends

Published by under Poetry

Kill me, my faithful friends
by Mansur al-Hallaj

English version by Andrew Harvey

Kill me, my faithful friends,
For in my being killed is my life.

Love is that you remain standing
In front of your Beloved
When you are stripped of all your attributes;
Then His attributes become your qualities.

Between me and You, there is only me.
Take away the me, so only You remain.

— from Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom, by Andrew Harvey / Eryk Hanut


/ Image by detail24 /

Nothing like a death wish in the opening lines of a poem to startle us to attention–

At first reading, this poem by Hallaj is really rather disturbing. Why is he begging his “faithful friends” to kill him? Even the language of being “stripped” has an element of violence to it. Yet, with all of that, why does the poem seem to emanate such bliss?

When Hallaj asks to be killed, he follows by saying that “in my being killed is my life.” He is not talking about physical death, he is talking about the mystic’s death, the death of the ego-self, ecstatic annihilation in God. And in that annihilation, true life is found. This is what he implores his faithful friends to grant him.

Such a radical loss of the ego is like standing naked, “stripped of all your attributes” before God, the Beloved. When that occurs, we recognize the divine qualities are actually our own qualities and have been all along.

Hallaj’s final lines are especially rich in meaning. When there is “me and You,” that is, a sense of duality or separation between you and God, “there is only me.” The ego-self, the “me,” shades all perception so everything, even the idea of God, only reflects the ego back to itself.

This is why we must “take away the me.” When we do that, when we drop the ego-sense, then no “me” remains and the Divine is found to be present everywhere.


Recommended Books: Mansur al- Hallaj

Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems Perfume of the Desert: Inspirations from Sufi Wisdom Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi Early Islamic Mysticism: Sufi, Quran, Miraj, Poetic and Theological Writings (Classics of Western Spirituality) Sufi Poems: A Mediaeval Anthology
More Books >>


Mansur al- Hallaj

Iran/Persia (9th Century) Timeline
Muslim / Sufi

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Aug 19 2016

the solution

The solution
is in the present.

No responses yet

Aug 17 2016

Vidyapati – All my inhibition left me in a flash

Published by under Poetry

All my inhibition left me in a flash
by Vidyapati

English version by Azfar Hussain

All my inhibition left me in a flash,
When he robbed me of my clothes,
But his body became my new dress.
Like a bee hovering on a lotus leaf
He was there in my night, on me!

True, the god of love never hesitates!
He is free and determined like a bird
Winging toward the clouds it loves.
Yet I remember the mad tricks he played,
My heart restlessly burning with desire
Was yet filled with fear!


/ Image by http://vishnu108.deviantart.com/ /

I’m back. I took time last week to make some good progress on the next Poetry Chaikhana anthology. I’ll let you know as it is closer to being ready for publication. Soon!

=

All my inhibition left me in a flash…

Whew! Don’t these verses raise a little color to your cheeks?

This excerpt is such a beautiful example of how the soul, the individual self can yearn for God with such a passion that it can be described in erotic terms. Much like Jayadeva’s sacred-erotic classic Gitagovinda, Vidyapati also sings of the passionate love between Radha and Krishna.

The speaker here is Radha, recalling her love-play with Krishna. Radha represents the individual soul who has fallen in love with God, Krishna. It is her intense love that draws Krishna to her. This “burning” desire purifies the soul, elevating it into a finer and more subtle state, becoming like the heavenly “cloud” that draws the divine “bird.”

The soul is “restless” with desire for union with the Divine, but also “filled with fear” — for union means we lose ourself and become God’s own.

I especially like the first few lines, the way Vidyapati plays with double meanings. Radha breathlessly says “…he robbed me of my clothes,” while the soul is saying that God removed all superficial identity. Just as we cover the nakedness of our bodies with clothes, we also try to hide our natural state in order to present a socially acceptable facade. We craft a whole new identity with the clothing we wear. The way a person dresses tells us his or her work, wealth, age, social connections, etc. But they are not who we truly are. Our vestments become masks reflecting the ego. In divine union, we are not the business executive, the struggling artist, the son of so-and-so, the wife, the mother, the spiritual seeker. No, divine union makes us naked; we are simply as we are. We can bring nothing but our bare selves to that sacred meeting.

But in this naked state, we are surprised — stunned — by our very wholeness. We suddenly recognize that we have been using the clothing of ego to hide from a false sense of shame. We have spent our entire lives feeling somehow broken, incomplete, disappointed. We’ve labored under the false notion that there was something wrong with being who we were, so we cover our true nature with social roles, with accomplishments, trying to so impress people (mostly ourselves) hoping that no notice will be taken of who we really are underneath all those layers. But when we truly get naked, when we finally strip down and see ourselves as we are, we are transfixed by a vision of wholeness and immensity and joy. Though no rational explanation can be offered, this vision of reality is recognized as our true nature, our true Self. This is how Radha, the soul, can truthfully proclaim in ecstasy that “his body became my new dress.” In divine union, the identity shifts from the ego to the vast Being we call God. That is the only real identity.

“He was there in my night, on me!” In truth, “he” has claimed us in all ways. And, in the resulting joy, all inhibition — that is, all false shame and fear — leaves “in a flash.”

Still feeling that flush? You should! That flush is the flush of life, the flush of life force, the flush of anticipated union…


Recommended Books: Vidyapati

In Praise of Krishna: Songs from the Bengali


Vidyapati, Vidyapati poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Vidyapati

India (1340? – 1430) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu : Vaishnava (Krishna/Rama)

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Aug 17 2016

retrain our eyes

We need to retrain our eyes to see
the spaces between and the secrets behind.

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Aug 05 2016

Dame Catherine Gascoigne – One thing alone I crave

Published by under Poetry

One thing alone I crave / Unum sit mihi totum
by Dame Catherine Gascoigne

English version by Stanbrook Abbey


One thing alone I crave
namely
All in everything

This One
I seek
the only One
do I desire

Rooted in One
is all
from the One
flows all

This is the very One
I seek
will have
only then
be filled

Unless I drink
this Spring
I thirst
for nowhere else sup I to be fulfilled

What or Who this One is
I may not say
can never feel
Nothing
more or less
is there to say

For the One is not simply in all
the One Being is over all

YOU are my GOD
holding me
within my very SELF

* Reprinted by permission, Copyright Stanbrook Abbey 1999


/ Image by NotBalckEnough /

Such striking, evocative phrases of the mystic’s quest for the unified One…

One thing alone I crave
namely
All in everything

… and …

Rooted in One
is all
from the One
flows all

I particularly like the lines:

What or Who this One is
I may not say
can never feel
Nothing
more or less
is there to say

For the One is not simply in all
the One Being is over all

This touches on a dilemma mystics all over the world encounter. Why is it that Dame Catherine asserts that, “Nothing more or less is there to say”? The problem is that there is no language for the all-encompassing Reality (“the One”) encountered by mystics.

The reasoning mind understands reality by dissecting it. The intellect slices reality into manageable pieces that it can comprehend and manipulate. We use a limited language to describe a limited, fragmented notion of reality. But the Divine Presence witnessed by mystics in deep communion is the Wholeness of reality.

But the One permeates everything and has no boundaries. “For the One is not simply in all / the One Being is over all.” How then can the poor intellect hope to describe that which is “All in everything”?

This doesn’t mean the intellect can’t try, by resorting to metaphor (and poetry), but the communication of this divine Truth ultimately comes not through words but through participation. We silently take people by the hand and lead them to the fountain, inviting them to drink for themselves.

And, another secret– the encounter with the Divine is inexplicably linked with the discovery of one’s true self…

YOU are my GOD
holding me
within my very SELF

Dame Catherine Gascoigne, Dame Catherine Gascoigne poetry, Christian poetry Dame Catherine Gascoigne

England (1600 – 1676) Timeline
Christian : Catholic

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Aug 05 2016

escape

Freedom is not escape,
but deep presence.

No responses yet

Aug 03 2016

Mary Oliver – Thirst

Published by under Poetry

Thirst
by Mary Oliver

Another morning and I wake with thirst
for the goodness I do not have. I walk
out to the pond and all the way God has
given us such beautiful lessons. Oh Lord,
I was never a quick scholar but sulked
and hunched over my books past the
hour and the bell; grant me, in your
mercy, a little more time. Love for the
earth and love for you are having such a
long conversation in my heart. Who
knows what will finally happen or
where I will be sent, yet already I have
given a great many things away, expect-
ing to be told to pack nothing, except the
prayers which, with this thirst, I am
slowly learning.

— from Thirst: Poems, by Mary Oliver


/ Image by aeravi /

Another morning and I wake with thirst
for the goodness I do not have.

I suppose that’s the state of human existence. We wake and the thirst kicks in. There is always something we want, we crave, that somehow is missing but necessary for us to feel whole. Most of the time we don’t really know what that something is. We think it is this or that, this person, that thing, this feeling, that experience. But then, when we attain them, we may go to sleep satisfied but wake up the next morning and thirst again. The thirst remains. And so we refocus it on something else, a new thing, a new experience. And we begin again.

I walk
out to the pond and all the way God has
given us such beautiful lessons.

We start to pay attention (hopefully) and examine the thirst more deeply. This thirst, this ache, resides in a deeper part of ourselves, and it cries out for a deeper connection with reality.

Like the poet, I tend to find intimations of that deeper reality when I am quiet and surrounded by the rhythms and life of the natural world. I notice that my heart relaxes and opens, and my focus expands. My thoughts becomes less grasping and more fluid.

But is that too one more experience held onto, one more fixation that ultimately limits my ability to satisfy the thirst I feel?

Love for the
earth and love for you are having such a
long conversation in my heart.

Any experience of beauty and fulfillment requires a delicate touch. If we become attached to its outer form, then the inner, soul-nourishing liquid begins to trickle away. When we say to ourselves, that meditation, that walk, that person, made me feel so wonderful yesterday, so I will repeat it today and tomorrow, then we have lost the essence that fed our spirit. The trick is to recognize the real thing beneath the thing. The real thing is intangible, subtle, fluid, and not contained or limited by the outer form. If it can be grasped or controlled, that’s the husk and not the sweet sap.

At first this recognition is frustrating. It is like a tug-of-war within the heart, the comfort and familiarity of outer forms everywhere on display upon the face of the earth, with the slow recognition every form is really just a symbol, an incomplete representation of what lies within. And it’s that inner substance that alone satisfies. The path to mastery, I suspect, is to be able to dowse those secret waterways, remaining undistracted by outer forms and formulations of what has worked in the past. Even patterns of prayer and communion that fed us at one stage can fall barren. We are then challenged to let go of our fixation on the familiar in order to rediscover the sacred directly. For it is that living, nourishing fullness of spirit is always the real and only goal.

Yet the one is not entirely separate from the other. Landmarks and forms are useful pointers. So we have this dynamic relationship of inner and outer, complimentary and sometimes in conflict.

Who
knows what will finally happen or
where I will be sent, yet already I have
given a great many things away, expect-
ing to be told to pack nothing…

Why then do we so mightily cling to outer things? When that underground flow of life nourishment has moved on, then our focus must move with it. The material things that were once a conduit for us but no longer, let us pass them on for they may feed another. And when we leave the earth, we will still follow that secret flow, not the things that briefly pointed the way to some wellspring.

…except the
prayers which, with this thirst, I am
slowly learning.

Here I am sipping from a tall glass of water watching the sun dance on the leaves of the aspen outside my window. Have a beautiful day!


Recommended Books: Mary Oliver

Why I Wake Early New and Selected Poems House of Light Thirst: Poems American Primitive
More Books >>


Mary Oliver, Mary Oliver poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Mary Oliver

US (1935 – )
Secular or Eclectic

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Aug 03 2016

heart of the tree

Even when its leaves are rustled by the wind
the heart of the tree is still.

You are the same.

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Jul 29 2016

R. S. Thomas – The Bright Field

Published by under Poetry

The Bright Field
by R. S. Thomas

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

— from Soul Food: Nourishing Poems for Starved Minds, Edited by Neil Astley / Edited by Pamela Robertson-Pearce


/ Image by Heather Ruiz /

I first discovered R. S. Thomas’s work just a few years ago, and I am still surprised by how much his simple, direct language rings in my mind.

This poem, for example. It moves through each phrase, saying nothing more than is needed, then steps into the next line. It conveys an easy patience, no rush, no ornament. You can almost hear the poet’s aging voice, a slow, dark syrup.

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it…

This seems to be a poem about being present enough, still enough, grateful enough to really encounter the gift each moment offers to us.

We can be so busy and purposeful that we glance but don’t see, that we brush past without truly touching and feeling.

I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it.

It takes courage to really meet the living moment, and more than a bit of eccentricity.

I remember how I used to go for long walks through the neighborhoods of Eugene, Oregon and, later, Boulder, Colorado, and I would just pause to really look at an interesting bush, or crane my neck up to look at the silhouetted leaves of a tree at twilight. And I would just go into rapture. That moment, that place, that light, that moment of recognition. I would lose myself in the wholeness of the perfect intersecting moment.

I have had my share of strange looks, of course. Once a pickup truck pulled up while I was staring up at a majestic cottonwood in wonder, and the man rolled down his window, stuck his head out, and asked, “What is it? What do you see?” I had no words. “It’s the tree,” was all I managed. “It’s beautiful.” He muttered something to his wife in the passenger seat, and they drove away laughing. They clearly thought I was high on something. But, as I’ve said elsewhere, I’ve never done drugs, and never even had a glass of wine or beer. I was just drunk on that moment.

This is really an important key, giving ourselves permission to be odd enough to pause and to really see where that magically whole sense of life is just waiting for us to notice.

It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

In the busyness of our days and the importance of our life goals, we imagine that there is nothing there. At most it is a pretty scene or a pleasant moment. But it is intangible. It doesn’t give us anything. It doesn’t pay the bills or bring us love. It doesn’t resolve an argument or advance our careers. Such moments seem nice, but ephemeral.

But that’s when we aren’t really looking. We glance but we don’t really see. We aren’t really pausing to notice the radiance and life right there, right in front of us, in that field, in that tree, in that corner of the room.

When we really allow our attention to shift, when we let go of that constant “hurrying to a receding future” or “hankering after an imagined past,” and allow ourselves to really settle into where we actually are and the encounters of this moment, the world opens up, it glows, and so do we. In the smallest space of time that we call right now, we discover the immensity of eternity waiting there for us, shining. And we are somehow gathered up into a wholeness we always hungered for but didn’t fully believe existed.

Stillness and seeing, eccentricity and ecstasy. And a walk in a field. That’s a good spiritual formula, if you ask me.


Recommended Books: R. S. Thomas

For Lovers of God Everywhere: Poems of the Christian Mystics Soul Food: Nourishing Poems for Starved Minds R. S. Thomas: Selected Poems R. S. Thomas (Everyman Poetry) R. S. Thomas: Collected Poems 1945-1990
More Books >>


R. S. Thomas, R. S. Thomas poetry, Christian poetry R. S. Thomas

Wales (1913 – 2000) Timeline
Christian

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3 responses so far

Jul 29 2016

what should be

Forget about what should be.
Discover what is.

No responses yet

Jul 27 2016

Derek Walcott – Earth

Published by under Poetry

Earth
by Derek Walcott

Let the day grow on you upward
through your feet,
the vegetal knuckles,

to your knees of stone,
until by evening you are a black tree;
feel, with evening,

the swifts thicken your hair,
the new moon rising out of your forehead,
and the moonlit veins of silver

running from your armpits
like rivulets under white leaves.
Sleep, as ants

cross over your eyelids.
You have never possessed anything
as deeply as this.

This is all you have owned
from the first outcry
through forever;

you can never be dispossessed.

— from Sea Grapes, by Derek Wolcott


/ Image by Long-Pham /

Let the day grow on you upward

I love this opening line. It plays with that phrase that something can grow on us, that we slowly become acclimated it, harmonizing with it over time, befriending it, until it becomes a part of us.

through your feet,
the vegetal knuckles,

to your knees of stone,
until by evening you are a black tree…

And in this poem, the day and the earth are the same. We not only accept it, but we accept it into our body. We become, in a sense, possessed by the life of the earth as we participate in the day until, by evening we have become a “black tree,” that is, strong, rooted in the earth, filled with a patient, steady life that is one with the world around us.

the new moon rising out of your forehead

That image of the new moon, perhaps a thin crescent, rising from our forehead, evokes in my mind the iconography of India, Shiva with the crescent moon of enlightenment upon his brow.

You have never possessed anything
as deeply as this.

Are we possessed by the earth and life and the day, or do we possess it? Self and earth, they participate in each other. They yield into each other.

Everything else, wealth, role, home, these things shift and evolve, coming into our lives, sometimes leaving to return in another form. But the land and the day and the deep self, the root reality of all things, they are truly in us, in our bones and flesh. They are not merely things we seek and hold; they are what we are. And so the poet concludes with–

This is all you have owned
from the first outcry
through forever;

you can never be dispossessed.

Something I find very grounding and deeply healing about Walcott’s poem.

Have a beautiful day upon this beautiful earth!


Recommended Books: Derek Walcott

Sea Grapes Collected Poems 1948 – 1984 The Poetry of Derek Wolcott 1948 – 2013 Omeros White Egrets: Poems
More Books >>


Derek Walcott, Derek Walcott poetry, Christian poetry Derek Walcott

St. Lucia & UK (1930 – )
Christian

More poetry by Derek Walcott

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Jul 27 2016

into mystery

Even the most mundane day
is a journey into Mystery!

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Jul 22 2016

Denise Levertov – Variation On A Theme By Rilke

Published by under Poetry

Variation On A Theme By Rilke
by Denise Levertov

(The Book of Hours, Book I, Poem 1, Stanza 1)

A certain day became a presence to me;
there it was, confronting me — a sky, air, light:
a being. And before it started to descend
from the height of noon, it leaned over
and struck my shoulder as if with
the flat of a sword, granting me
honor and a task. The day’s blow
rang out, metallic — or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.

— from Breathing the Water, by Denise Levertov


/ Image by Janne Hellsten /

Isn’t this a wonderful poem?

The Rilke verse referenced is–

The hour is striking so close above me,
so clear and sharp,
that all my senses ring with it.
I feel it now: there’s a power in me
to grasp and give shape to my world.

(translation by Anita Barrows & Joanna Macy)

To be touched on the shoulder with the flat of a sword, rather than the cutting edge, is to be symbolically struck as part of the traditional knighting ceremony. perhaps accompanied by a task or quest. This is such a fascinating way to describe how the day itself can touch us, strike us in such a way that we become instantly present, aware, alive. That blow of sudden awareness ennobles us and opens us to new possibilities.

We resonate with the touch. A ringing bell perfectly marks the moment. The sound penetrates our thoughts, yet it carries silence in its wake. We become aware of the space between things, the quiet between our thoughts, inducing stillness and presence, while echoing out to touch all the world. Our whole self begins to sing.

Today, as every day, is a perfect day to ring out like a bell awakened…


Recommended Books: Denise Levertov

Denise Levertov: Selected Poems Poems of Denise Levertov: 1960-1967 Breathing the Water The Great Unknowing: Last Poems Candles in Babylon
More Books >>


Denise Levertov, Denise Levertov poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Denise Levertov

US (1923 – 1997) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic : Beat
Jewish

More poetry by Denise Levertov

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Jul 22 2016

imagination is essential

Imagination is essential.
It is the psychic flexibility
to see with new eyes.
Imagination can break the trance
of the ego.

No responses yet

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