In Geeta, Chapter 9 verses 32 and 33 have implications related to the superiority of particular varna and gender over the others.

The verse states that "EVEN Women and Shudra can attain God". Does this mean that in general circumstances they are not able to attain god ?

maam hi paartha vyapaashritya ye (a)pi syuh paapa-yonayah |

striyo vaishyaas tathaa shudraas te (a)pi yaanti paraam gatim ||9.32||

Let us see its meaning in the Sankara bhashya which is the first and most famous commentary on Geeta.

Sankara Bhasya:

maam hi yasmaat paartha vyapaashritya - maam aashrayatvena grheetvaa, ye api syu: paapa-yonaya: ; paapaa yonir yeshaam te paapa-yonaya: ; syu: - bhaveyu: | paapa-yonaya: paapa yonir yeshaam te paapa-yonayah paapa-janmaana: | ke te ? ity aaha—striyo vaishyaas tathaa sudraa: tepi yaanti - gacchanti, paraam - prakrshtaam gatim ||9.32||

for; O son of Prtha, ye api, even those; papayonayah syuh, who are born of sin;-as to who they are, the Lord says-striyah, women; vaisyah, Vaisyas, tatha, as also; sudrah, Sudras; te api, even they; yanti, reach, go to; the param, highest; gatim, Goal vyapasritya, by taking shelter; mam, under Me-by accepting Me as their refuge.

Note what he has said here – papayonaya: are those who are born sinners (papa janmaana:) ke te? - Who are they ? striya: - women, vaishya: people of the vaishya caste, sudra: of the sudra caste.

Further, the verse 9.32 shoud not be read in isolation. While the verse 32 defines papa yonaya:, the verse following that ie 33 defines punya yonaya: as per shankara bhashya:

kim punar braahmanaa: punyaa bhaktaa raajarshayas tathaa |

anityam asukham lokam imam praapya bhajasva maam ||Geeta 9.33||

shankaras bhashya :

kim punar braahmanaa: punyaa: punya-yonayo bhaktaa raajarshayas tathaa raajaana: ca te rshaya: ceti raajarshaya: | yata evam, ato(a)nityam kshana-bhanguram asukham ca sukha-varjitam imam lokam manushya-lokam praapya purushaartha-saadhanam durlabham manushyatvam labdhvaa bhajasva sevasva maam ||9.33||

Brahmins and kshatriyas who have taken to austerity are punya yonaya:. Now if you link this verse 33 with verse 32 you will know that while Brahmins and kshatriyas are classified as punya yonaya: vaishyas sudras and women are defined as paapa yonaya: isn’t this quite explicit ?

Now many scholars have interpret this verse of 9.32 in a different way like this,

O son of Pritha, those who take shelter in Me, though they may be sinners, women, vaishyas [merchants] and shudras [workers]—can attain the supreme destination.

Here they have separated "papayoni" as a separate FOURTH category apart from women, vysya, and Shudras. But this does not fit as a meaning because in the preceeding verse, the word "punya-yoni" an antonym of "Papayoni" related to kshatriyas and brahmins is used.

Even if that is the case then grouping women, shudra, vysya with papayoni is not a good remark either. It equates them to a lower category of sinners or low grade people.

So how do such verses find its place in geeta which brands women and shudras etc as born sinners? Is it a possible interpolation?

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    papayoni here means socially handicapped. The Vedic religion of that era did not think women and shudra are eligible for moksha. Gita is demolishing the Vedic position and is stating that women and shudras can also know God. Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 14:09
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    @PradipGangopadhyay from which dictionary you derived such meaning? is shankara bhashya wrong then? Please quote which verses in Vedas say that women and shudra not eligible for moksha ? Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 14:12
  • This conversation has been moved to chat.
    – The Destroyer
    Commented Jun 15, 2017 at 5:34
  • @RakeshJoshi wait??? You are not a dwaiti?? Oh I am so sorry. I think I confused you with someone else. I'm really sorry for all the comments I made. I hereby withdraw all the comments. Again I apologize for all the hasty comments. Sorry. 🙏
    – user22253
    Commented Jul 16, 2021 at 14:08
  • @PradipGangopadhyay The Vedic religion of that era did not think women and shudra are eligible for moksha. Reference??
    – user32378
    Commented Mar 12 at 19:48

7 Answers 7


In chapter 10, verse 34 Lord Krishna says:

मृत्यु: सर्वहरश्चाहमुद्भवश्च भविष्यताम् |

कीर्ति: श्रीर्वाक्च नारीणां स्मृतिर्मेधा धृति: क्षमा ||

Meaning: I am the all-devouring Death, and I am the origin of those things that are yet to be. Amongst feminine qualities I am fame, prosperity, fine speech, memory, intelligence, courage, and forgiveness.

These are the best qualities of women and Krishna is saying that these qualities are Krishna Himself. Hence, Lord Krishna would never disparage women.

Coming to the verse 9.32:

मां हि पार्थ व्यपाश्रित्य येऽपि स्यु: पापयोनय: |

स्त्रियो वैश्यास्तथा शूद्रास्तेऽपि यान्ति परां गतिम् ||

Translation: All those who take refuge in me, whatever their birth, race, sex, or caste, even those whom society scorns, will attain the supreme destination.

This translation is given by Swami Mukundananda. And His commentary is:

There are souls who have the good fortune of being born in pious families, where they are educated in good values and virtuous living from childhood. This is a consequence of their good deeds in past lives. Then, there are also souls who have the misfortune of being born in families of drunks, criminals, gamblers, and atheists. This is also the result of sins committed in past lives. Here, Shree Krishna states that irrespective of birth, sex, caste, or race, whoever takes complete shelter of him will attain the supreme goal. Such is the greatness of the path of devotion that everyone is eligible for it, whereas in other paths there are strict criteria for eligibility.

After these statements Swami ji explains about the eligibility criteria.

The next verse 9.33:

किं पुनर्ब्राह्मणा: पुण्या भक्ता राजर्षयस्तथा |

अनित्यमसुखं लोकमिमं प्राप्य भजस्व माम् ||

Translation: How much more this is so of the righteous brahmanas, the devotees and the saintly kings. Therefore, having come to this temporary, miserable world, engage in loving service unto Me.

Hence, there is no punya-yoni in sanskrit verse. Not sure from where the punya-yoni came here.

Is it a possible interpolation?

Yes, it is an interpolation. At least the word striyo in 9.32 might be added much later.

  • The verse 32 and 33 are linked. The first verse talks of women, shudra, vyshya and related to papayoni. Then who are remaining? brahmins and kshatriyas which are mentioned in the preceding verse hence they are naturally linked to punya-yoni. The third word "punyaa" of the verse 33 is related to this. In sankara bhashya too punyayoni word is there because the verses talk of papayoni and punya yoni. Why you feel that only striyo is an interpolation and not shudras and vysya? is it ok to brand them born sinners? Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 7:08
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    @RakeshJoshi I'm justifying only about women using 10.34 verse by Krishna. Hence I said at least the word striyo .
    – user6981
    Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 7:27
  • You should probably add word-for-word meaning from the same link: "pāpa yonayaḥ—of low birth; striyaḥ—women; vaiśhyāḥ—mercantile people; tathā—and; śhūdrāḥ—manual workers;" - I don't understand how 'women', 'mercantile people', 'manual workers' etc disappear from the translation :) Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 21:57
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    @sv. cos this translation words are incorrect. you can refer dictionary for the same. Commented Jun 15, 2017 at 6:52
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    The translation by Swami Mukundananda is wrong. Anyone can tell that who will have even a basic knowlegde of Sanskrit.
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 10:55

We are not in any kind of loss with these verses, the reason of these verses will fall in any of these three cases.

Best case- There is no discrimination.

- Lord Krishna paused while referring women, castes & pāpayonoyah. In written form this translates (his pause) as Even of low origin, women, vaishyas, or sudras, they also attain the highest goal. So low origins & women or castes are separated by comma. Then low origins are interpreted as animals, birds or outcastes only.

Average case- This was said 5k years ago.

Contexts & meanings are changed over the time. In that time, Stri used to translate accurately as an uneducated woman inherently ignorant of Godliness not a normal women.

Worst case- There is discrimination.

In this case, āchārya Abhinavgupta says.

The word pāpayonoyah refers to beings of low origin. These beings are animals, birds, reptiles etc. Women are included among the creatures of low origin because of not being properly educated. Vaishyas are included because they are always engaged in activities such as agriculture, etc. Shudras are mentioned because they are not entitled to take part in any of the Vedic rituals and because of the fact that they are dependent on others for earning their living. However, it should be known that even if these creatures take refuge in they also attain the highest abode.

And the sayings are although bitter are no doubt the truth.

  • Why there have been no Saptrishis other than Brahmins? Why Gautam
    Buddha & Mahavir or Janak turned out to be a Kshatriya?
  • How many women got enlightened? What's the ratio of women getting enlightened to men getting enlightened?
  • How many Vaishyas or Shudras got enlightened? What's the ratio of them getting enlightened to Brahmin or Kshatriya getting enlightened?

If you simply analysing the above questions you will get the explanation of the verse.

Having said that, note the following points-

  • For all powerful & Beautiful God, Brahmins & Kshatriyas have nothing special to impress God nor God needs to appease them. Lord Krishna meant to say about Aptitude only. He already declares in previous verses his vision full of equality among all creatures. Kshatriyas have tendencies to fight & aptitude to run kingdom. When the tendency of fight is introverted, they slay the senses & mind to get liberated & aptitude to run kingdom is when introverted they become Jnani Yogi & Karma Yogi. Similarly, self control & right conduct is nature of a Brahmin. Note that one can either take many births to become Brahmin or single birth to become, all depends on intensity of spiritual process. Because only Brahmins are eligible for moksha as I explained in this answer.

  • Pāpayonoyah word is used in context of Spirituality. Low birth according to Lord Krishna is a birth not interested in God inherently. It doesn't mean an inferior birth.

  • According to āchārya Abhinavgupta, what a Man can achieve in 1 year, same can be achieved by women in 12 days. So, Women are more capable to get enlightened than men. They can enlightened easily but they don't. Because of their inherent nature to involve much into the family, relationships & aversion to non attachments. i.e Women have more emotions comparatively to men. These emotions are usually used in running a family or relationships than to be devotee.

  • Varna is a state of soul, every soul goes through these states. Many takes many births to cross these states. But few crosses these states in single birth.

Also note this finally-

I'm the same in all beings. None I hate nor particularly like. But those who worship me with devotion, they stand in Me & I also in them. BG. 9.30

Note that I'm just representing broader view, & such generalization is not effectively working in Kaliyuga (more precisely, recent centuries). Kaliyuga is less organized, anything happening anywhere.

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    This looks like a low quality answer. Take both the verses and its respective commentaries into consideration. Please prove where is commas and pauses while narrating geeta? if not then it will be a misleading information. This question is not about Abhinavguptas view on women but the specific verse. Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 16:13
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    @RakeshJoshi Sir, I've given 3 cases, i think reason will fall in any of these only. To make it high quality, I will need to ask Lord Krishna why he said so. Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 16:37
  • Sir @RakeshJoshi But the reason will fall in one of these 3 cases only. Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 16:43
  • oh thats a revelation !! but it could be last case also, an interpolation. Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 16:45
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    I think Average case may not be factually correct. Women in those times were educated. Even during Adi Shankara times, Ubaya Bharati was well educated. I think Stri meaning was not uneducated women.
    – The Destroyer
    Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 6:59

The translation of Gita 9.32 is usually incorrect.

māṁ hi pārtha vyapāśritya ye’pi syuḥ pāpa-yonayaḥ |

striyo vaiśyās-tathā śūdrās-te’pi yānti parāṁ gatim ||

Gita 9.32

The word Papa Yoni is literally translated as sinful birth. How can a yoni be sinful? The correct translation is

'O son of Pritha! Taking refuge in Me, women, Vaisyas, Sudras and likewise men who are of socially inferior birth, attain to the highest spiritual goal.’

Gita 9.32

(I am again putting the above verse in a block quote since this is how Swami Tapasyananda translates it.)

Gita does not consider women and sudras to be incapable of attaining moksha. Gita in fact is stating the complete opposite. It is telling all people, which most probably includes Arjuna, who do look down upon women and sudras that women and sudras are also capable of the highest spiritual goal. Gita 9.32 is a message of hope and equality.

Let me point out here a shloka from Vivekacudamani that supports my point.

The man who, having by some means obtained a human birth, with a male body and mastery of the Vedas to boot, is foolish enough not to exert himself for self-liberation, verily commits suicide, for he kills himself by clinging to things unreal.

Vivekcudamani 4

Vedism and much later even Vedanta thought that women cannot attain moksha. A male body is necessary for moksha. Gita is opposing that thought and saying that women can attain moksha. How can you interpret papayoni as sinful womb given that Gita is opposing the prevalent Hindu thought? If the word papayoni really means sinful womb then the most logical consequence would be that women being of sinful wombs cannot obtain moksha. Moreover all men born of women with sinful wombs would also be sinful. Gita 9.32 would look like complete nonsense The word papayoni thus has to be interpreted as socially oppressed in the context in which it appears.

Why does it mean socially oppressed? The reason is as the Vivekcudamuni shloka shows that society looked down upon women and shudras. Gita's position is diamterically opposite. I can't see how anyone can accuse Gita of sexism when it opens the door to moksha to women in defiance of societal opinion.

I would like to say a little bit about interpretation of Hindu scripture. It is generally held in the interpretation of Hindu scripture that context matters. One cannot just literally translate a term. One has to show that the translation makes sense in the context. I am giving the example of Prana in Brahma Sutra. Prana usually means vital force. However in some context the usual meaning is incorrect and one has to interpret Prana as Brahman.

On that very ground, Prana (is Brahman).

....Just as in the use, “The father of the father”, it is clear that the grandfather who is indicated by the nominative case is different from the one indicated by the sixth case (with of); so also in “the Vital force of the vital force” it becomes apparent from the difference in words, that some Vital force, different from the familiar one, is referred to; for the very same thing cannot be indicated to be different from itself by saying: “He is his”. Moreover, it is to be understood (from the context) that if something is referred to by a different word in its own context, it must be itself alone that is thus spoken of.

Brahma Sutra Bhasya of Sri Sankaracharya I.i.23

In the case of Gita 9.32 the most striking thing is Gita’s assertion that women, Shudras etc will also attain moksha. This is striking because it is fairly certain that this was not the popular Hindu view. So given this context it is difficult to interpret papayoni literally given that Gita rejects the popular position that women, Shudras etc would not attain moksha. Only an insane author would say that sinners by birth would attain moksha. So the only way to make sense of the Gita verse is to use Shankara’s advice of interpreting a word according to the context. In the case of Gita 9.32 this pretty much forces us to interpret papayoni as socially oppressed.

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    Before posting such a thing why dont you refer Sankara translation and also refer 9.33 which defines punya yoni. Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 12:49
  • If they are by default equal in spirituality what is the need of even mentioning that even shudra and women can atrain god? That.would mean that in general they are not supposed to get it ! Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 12:54
  • Sankara is known to have casteist views and is wrong on this issue. Read Vivekananda's criticism of Sankara. Punya Yoni does not mean meritorious Yoni. You have to look into the context. A Yoni is neither papa nor a punya organ. Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 12:59
  • Yes, the Vedism did not think that women and shudras can attain god. Krishna in Gita 9.32 is criticizing the Vedism of that time. Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 13:01
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    I am talking of Vedism, the popular school at that time, and not the Vedas. Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 13:15

To Acharya Abhinavagupta, it's neither an interpolation nor referring to women, Vaishyas and Shudras as "papayonahah" but rather completely fourth category i.e. animals. Krishna is basically trying to show that even people considered underprivileged in society can attain Him when He talks about women, Vaishyas and Shudras.

This is what Acharya Abhinavagupta says while commenting on this verse:

The word papayonayah refers to beings of low origin (birth). These beings are animals, birds, and reptiles, etc. Women are included among the creatures of low origin because of not being properly educated. Vaisyas are included because they are always engaged in activities such as agriculture, etc. Sudras are mentioned because they are not entitled to take part in any of the Vedic rituals and because of the fact that they are dependent on others for earning their living. However, it should be known that even if these creatures take refuge in the Lord, they also attain the highest abode. In thousands of Purdnic stories we find examples where the extremely compassionate Lord grants liberation to creatures of low origin. One of these stories is the story entitled “Liberation of the elephant Gajendra”. Now, if creatures of low birth attain liberation, then what to say about learned brahmanas and ksatriyas. Some other commentators, however, explain that by verse 33 the Lord Krsna did not intend to say that women, etc., could attain liberation, but rather his intention was to praise the brahmana and kfatriya castes. These commentators are rejecting the all merciful nature of God because of their limited knowledge. They do not realize that Paramesvara is the great and all merciful Lord. In this way they contradict the Lord’s words such as, “None I hate nor particularly like”, as well as other similar statements expressing clearly the same idea. By doing this they are forcefully bringing the notion of duality into the highest reality. This in spite of the fact that the nondual nature of the highest reality has been abundantly proved with non-refutable arguments. They are also not aware that their way of thinking is contradictory to other cigamas as well. However, when asked: How can you say something like this? These people, whose minds are influenced by the evil of caste, etc., which is deeply engrained in their innermost beings, make grimaces by lowering their eyes and faces because of greed, dissimulation and shame, and talking nonsense in front of all people become the objects of ridicule to all. Therefore, only the explanation that was previously offered by me renders auspiciousness to all.


This is very mind boggling verse, no doubt. It has haunted me for long. Being a staunch Hindu myself, I found it difficult to reconcile myself to these kind of verses.

Let me share my understanding.

O son of Pritha, those who take shelter in Me, though they be of SINFUL birth — women, vaishyas [merchants] and shūdras [workers] — can attain the supreme destination.

In this translation, Krishna is branding "women, shudras, vaishyas" as people of sinful birth.

Now, what is a SIN ?

In christianity, SIN is something that Adam and Eve committed and we being from the same lineage, we all should suffer for that sin. No chance of escape until you surrender to Christ.

In Hinduism, as long as you have "weaknesses in your mind". When you have weaknesses and not yet perfected mind, you take a SINFUL birth.

What are the qualities of a Sinful birth? You are interested in just 3 time meals and nothing else (Shudra). You are interested in amassing wealth and building businesses that aid your desires (Vaishya). Limitations entrusted by your birth ( women)... why women ? OK. Important question. There is a famous Movie dialogue.. "To become a father it takes 3 Minutes.. while to become a mom, it takes 9 months !!! " So, if you are into "9 month sabbatical from normal proceedings of life" it will for sure have repercussions. Like... you may have to depend upon somebody... Also, if you become a Queen of a state and you are pregnant. Assume so. Now, if there is a enemy attacking your kingdom, you cant go and fight. Again dependency. These are limitations infused upon one by birth.

Also, If somebody is a Man in this birth, for him to look down upon women birth as inferior is not sane because, if that man fails to utilise his birth for attaining the supreme, he may have to take another birth and he could be a woman or an animal !!

So, now if these are the natures of Sinful birth,, then what is sinless birth? or a higher-birth ?

It simply means, somebody has progressed far in the right direction... That does not mean he has not had SINFUL births in the past. Because our shastras say everybody starts their journey as a Shudra.

In this progress, he has become a Bramhana or a Rajarshi (saintly king). Saintly Kings are more interested in establishing sanity in society so that there is no play of evil minds. Similarly, a Bramhin is interested in knowing the eternal truths ( who am I, Is there anybody behind everything in this universe). Bramhins are less interested in either amassing wealth or establishing empires or anything else except the truth of existence. This in no way a guarantee that somebody who is a brahmin will not take a sinful birth again. As the verse itself says "reach the supreme". If they fail to reach in that birth and deteriorate themselves to bad thoughts,, they will take a sinful birth.

So, here Krishna is saying,

Even if you have taken a sinful birth( birth with weaknesses),, that does not stop you from attaining the supreme in this very birth. No limitations of his birth can stop an individual from reaching the highest ideal although somebody may have taken a lead with a higher birth (less weaknesses), that can be easily bridged by a person of lower birth too.

  • Many more such verses to follow :) Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 12:26
  • Thanks Sree Charan for the scissors and Make up. Things look decent. Thank u :) Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 6:11
  • Did you see the next verse which talks of punya yoni? Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 11:02
  • Yes. Punya Yonis are for people who have progressed... in the right direction. Every Soul starts its Journey through a Papa yoni - with defects. What is the defect ? Mind that runs after material pleasure. Mind that is Running Outside... in Katha Upanishad we can see these verses. Only Avatars are Born Perfect. And.. I would suggest you to read one article by Swami Vivekananda "Paper On HInduism". ramakrishnavivekananda.info/vivekananda/volume_1/… Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 14:36
  • Punya Yonis means, they get birth in contexts that offer you a favourable condition to attain the supreme. That does not mean, Mother is good... Mother can be a Prostitute, but beside that brothel may live a saintly person. You come in contact with that person.. and your JOurney for "Reaching the supreme" get a great push because of that Saint.... Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 14:51

Aren't we experiencing the practical implication of it? How does it make sense if we are unable to relate his statements to effects and analyse whether it is useful for humanity? Should we learn : No living beings born in world were the the most supreme power of universe. Some may have heart broad as sky but they are not a 100% correct either in action or word. If we recognize this we will be able to accept our Krishna or Jesus or other God alike souls with their flaws. It will also help to give up extremist behaviour and develop more clarity. If you are to follow Gita rigidly- 1. There is less scope of building ones own identity as inherited positions are considered superior to hard work.

  1. No one in world is free from dependence so who is a sudra is a question. People considered low category and made weaker have been bearing unlimited psychological, physical exploitation from ages. At least the implications of preachings do not favour humanity.

3.Even today some people consider themselves as God's because of availability of means and superior knowledge on how to monitor and control others nerves and everything about life and death and how to exploit them without being visible to kaanoon or being caught.
Likewise there are also people using the same power for welfare.

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    i do not follow it rigidly. Yes flaws should be accepted that is my point precisely. Commented Nov 12, 2018 at 0:26

Arjun is the aspirant, devotee. Krsna at that time is name of divine energy manifested by Arjun when his kundalini rose, all chakras activated. He is ksatriya by training. Dhanurved says all varnas fought with mantra shakti including women. Ancients were ALL spiritual and martial. They also learnt other tasks like cooking, animal husbandry etc. Everyone studied in residential gurukuls(military+spiritual)and came up the ranks. Being ksatriya implied very strong body, both gross and sukshma. Lot of strength is required to handle rising surge of electrical energy of kundalini. Those whose overall level of expertise & calibre was lower were called Vaisya, Sudra. Hence their ability to sustain kundalini may not be adequate and they will not attain divine by that method. Ancients all practiced Kubjikamata tantra. Stree refers to straina bhava implying lack of ruthless perseverance. Not necessarily female gender. Krishna is saying even people of comparative lower spiritual and physical calibre can achieve their own level of perfection and experience divine. Easier to understand if we substitute word divine with success. People of any age, profession can be successful in their chosen field and class by focusing on divine. We're not supposed to compare ourselves with Arjuna nor assume he is weak. Yogasutra says when kundalini rises body, mind feels weak momentarily. But that same divine helps to adjust to this new power. Like when Clark Kent discovered his power as superman for first time. He faltered for some minutes then got the hang of it.

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