Day 12

Day 12 concludes Chapter 7, The Parable of the Magic City, and completes the Third Volume of the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma.

Following the appeals of the Brahman-heavenly-kings of the 10 directions, Gerat-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence Tathagata turned the wheeel of the Dharma.

The wheel of this teaching could not be turned by any other one in the world, be he a sramana, a brahmana, a god, Mara or Brahman. The Buddha said, ‘This is suffering. This is the cause of suffering. This is extinction of suffering. This is the Way to extinction of suffering.’

“Then he expounded the teaching of the twelve causes, saying, ‘Ignorance causes predisposition. Predisposition causes consciousness. Consciousness causes name-and-form. Name-and-form causes the six sense organs. The six sense organs cause impression. Impression causes feeling. Feeling causes craving. Craving causes grasping. Grasping causes existence. Existence causes birth. Birth causes aging-and-death, grief, sorrow, suffering and lamentation. When ignorance is eliminated, predisposition is eliminated. When predisposition is eliminated, consciousness is eliminated. When consciousness is eliminated, name-and-form is eliminated. When name-and-form is eliminated, the six sense organs are eliminated. When the six sense organs are eliminated, impression is eliminated. When impression is eliminated, feeling is eliminated. When feeling is eliminated, craving is eliminated. When craving is eliminated, grasping is eliminated. When grasping is eliminated, existence is eliminated. When existence is eliminated, birth is eliminated. When birth is eliminated, aging-and-death, grief, sorrow, suffering and lamentation are eliminated.’

The sixteen princes, however, wanted something more than the teaching for Sravakas.

‘World-Honored One! All these Sravakas of great virtue, many thousands of billions in number, have already done [what they should do]. World-Honored One! Expound to us the teaching of Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi! If we hear that teaching, we will study and practice it. World-Honored One! We wish to have the insight of the Tathagata. You know what we have deep in our minds.’

Seeing the sixteen princes having renounced the world, eight billion followers of the wheel-turning-holy-king begged the king to allow them to do the same. He conceded to them immediately.

The Buddha assented to the appeal of the sramaneras, but it was twenty thousand kalpas afterwards that he expounded to the four kinds of devotees the sutra of the Great Vehicle called the ‘Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma, the Dharma for Bodhisattvas, the Dharma Upheld by the Buddhas.’

The results were inconclusive:

When the Buddha completed the expounding of this sutra, the sixteen sramaneras kept, recited and understood this sutra in order to attain Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. The sixteen sramaneras, [who were] Bodhisattvas, received this sutra by faith. Some Sravakas understood it by faith, but the other Sravakas and other living beings, thousands of billions in number, doubted it.

It took 8,000 kalpas without rest for the Buddha to complete his expounding of the sutra. When finished he retired to sit quietyly in dhyana-concentration for 84,000 kalpas. During this time, the 16 Bodhisattva-scramaneras “sat on a seat of the Dharma, expounded the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma to the four kinds of devotees for eighty-four thousand kalpas, and saved six hundred billion nayutas of living beings.”

Each of the 16 princes who had become Bodhisattva-scramaneras became a Buddha. The 16th was Sakyamuni. “I attained Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi in this Saha-World.”

Those living beings as many as there are sands in the River Ganges, whom I taught [when I was a sramanera], included you bhiksus and those who will be reborn as my disciples in Sravakahood after my extinction.

PARABLE OF THE MAGIC CITY

Bhiksus! I, the Tathagata, am like the leader. I am your great leader. I know that the bad road, which is made of birth-and-death and illusions, is dangerous and long, and that we should pass through it and get off it. If you had heard only of the One Vehicle of the Buddha, you would not have wished to see or approach the Buddha, but would have thought, ‘The Way to Buddhahood is too long for us to pass through unless we make painstaking efforts for a long time.’

I knew that you were mean and timid. In order to give you a rest halfway, I expounded expediently to you the teaching of Nirvana by the two vehicles. To those who attained the two [vehicles], I say, ‘You have not yet done all that you should do. You are near the wisdom of the Buddha. Think it over and consider it! The Nirvana you attained is not true. I divided the One Vehicle of the Buddha into three only expediently.’

I say this just as the leader, who saw that his party had had a rest in the great city which he had made by magic in order to give them a rest, said to them, ‘The place of treasures is near. This city was not true. I made it by magic.”

The lessons of the chapter are then repeated in gathas:

It is difficult to meet a World-Honored One.
He appears only once in a very long time.
When he appears, he causes all the worlds to quake
In order to awaken all living beings.

And:

Those who heard the Dharma from those sramaneras
Are now living under those Buddhas.
To those who are still in Sravakahood
[The Buddhas] teach the Way to Buddhahood.

I was one of the sixteen sramaneras.
You were among those to whom I expounded the Dharma.
Therefore, I now lead you with expedients
To the wisdom of the Buddha.

Because I taught you in my previous existence,
I expound the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma
In order to lead you into the Way to Buddhahood.
Think it over! Do not be surprised! Do not be afraid!

Finally:

The Buddhas expound the teaching of the Three Vehicles
Only as an expedient.
There is only the One Buddha-Vehicle.
The two [vehicles] were taught only as resting places.

Daily Dharma – Jan. 31, 2016

If after my extinction anyone rejoices, even on a moment’s thought, at hearing even a gāthā or a phrase of the Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma, I also will assure him of his future attainment of Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi.

The Buddha declares these lines to Medicine-King Bodhisattva at the beginning of Chapter Ten of the Lotus Sūtra. Other teachings had described beings becoming enlightened after making exorbitant offerings or strenuous practices over many lifetimes. In the teaching of the Wonderful Dharma, a single moment of joy at hearing the Dharma is enough to assure us that we will become enlightened.

The Daily Dharma is produced by the Lexington Nichiren Buddhist Community. To subscribe to the daily emails, visit zenzaizenzai.com

Day 11

Day 11 continues Chapter 7, The Parable of the Magic City

Continuing the story of the enlightenment of Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence Buddha a very, very long time ago:

The Buddha said to the bhiksus:

When Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence Buddha attained Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, five hundred billion Buddha-worlds in each of the ten quarters quaked in the six ways, and all those worlds, including those intercepted from the brilliant rays of light of the sun and the moon by the neighboring worlds, were illumined [by great rays of light], and the living beings of those worlds were able to see each other for the first time. They said to each other, ‘How did you appear so suddenly?’ The palaces of the gods of those worlds, including the palace of Brahmans, also quaked in the six ways. The great rays of light which illumined all those worlds were brighter than the rays of light emitted by those gods.

In each direction Brahman-heavenly-kings were surprised to find their palaces illumined twice as bright as ever before. The Brahman-heavenly-kings of each of the 10 directions wondered (using the Zenith as the example):

Our palaces are adorned
More brightly than ever.
Why are they illumined
By this powerful light?

We have never seen nor heard
Of such a wonderful thing as this before.
Did a god of great virtue or a Buddha appear
Somewhere in the universe?

From each of the 10 directions, the Brahman-heavenly-kings traveled toward the light bringing offerings of heavenly flowers and their palaces.

They [reached the Well-Composed World and] saw that Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence Tathagata was sitting on the lion-like seat under the Bodhi-tree of the place of enlightenment, surrounded respectfully by gods, dragon-kings, gandharvas, kiqrnaras, mahoragas, men and non-human beings. They also saw that the sixteen princes were begging the Buddha to turn the wheel of the Dharma.

After offering the flowers and their palaces to the Buddha, the Brahman-heavenly-kings sang their praises:

How good it is to see a Buddha,
To see the Honorable Saint who saves the world!
He saves all living beings
From the prison of the triple world.

The All-Knower, the Most Honorable One of Gods and Men,
Opens the gate of the teachings as sweet as nectar,
And saves all living beings
Out of his compassion towards them.

There has been no Buddha
For the past innumerable kalpas.
Before you appeared,
The worlds of the ten quarters were dark.

The living beings in the three evil regions
And asuras are increasing.
The living beings in heaven are decreasing.
Many fall into the evil regions after their death.

They do not hear the Dharma from a Buddha.
Because they did evils,
Their appearances are getting worse;
And their power and wisdom, decreasing.
Because they did sinful karmas,
They lose pleasures and the memory of pleasures.
They are attached to wrong views.
They do not know how to do good.
They are not taught by a Buddha;
Therefore, they fall into the evil regions.

Now you have appeared for the first time after a long time,
And become the eyes of the world.
You have appeared in this world
Out of your compassion towards all living beings,
And finally attained perfect enlightenment.

We are very glad.
All the others also rejoice at seeing you,
Whom they have never seen before.

Our palaces are beautifully adorned
With your light.
We offer them to you.
Receive them out of your compassion towards us!

May the merits we have accumulated by this offering
Be distributed among all living beings,
And may we and all other living beings
Attain the enlightenment of the Buddha!


To be continued

Daily Dharma – Jan. 30, 2016

He will have correct memory and the powers of merits and virtues. He will not be troubled by the three poisons. He will not be troubled by jealousy, arrogance from selfishness, arrogance from self-assumed attainment of enlightenment, or arrogance from self-assumed acquisition of virtues. He will want little, know contentment, and practice just as you do.

The Buddha gives this description of the person who keeps and practices the Lotus Sūtra to Universal-Sage Bodhisattva (Fugen, Samantabhadra) in Chapter Twenty-Eight of the Lotus Sūtra. Powers of merits are what we have when we see things clearly. The three poisons are greed, anger and ignorance. The practice of Universal-Sage is to support and encourage everyone who takes on this difficult practice of the Wonderful Dharma. This is another Bodhisattva who gives us an example of how we can live in this world of conflict.

The Daily Dharma is produced by the Lexington Nichiren Buddhist Community. To subscribe to the daily emails, visit zenzaizenzai.com

Day 10

Day 10 concludes Chapter 6, Assurance of Future Buddhahood, and opens Chapter 7, The Parable of a Magic City.

One after another, Subhuti, Great Katyayana and Great Maudgalyayana each receive assurances from Sakyamuni that they will become Buddhas in their future lives. Then he adds a blanket assurance:

The five hundred disciples of mine
Are powerful and virtuous.
They also shall be assured
Of their future Buddhahood.
They will become Buddhas
In their future lives.

The chapter ends by dangling this tidbit:

Now I will tell you
About my previous existence
And also about yours.
All of you, listen attentively!

Chapter 7, The Parable of the Magic City, opens with a description of infinity. It goes like this in gathas:

According to my remembrance,
There lived a Buddha, an Honorable Biped,
Called Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence,
Countless kalpas ago.

Suppose someone smashed
All the earth-particles
Of one thousand million Sumeru-worlds
Into ink-powder.

He went, [carrying the ink-powder with him,]
And inked a dot as large as a particle of dust
On the world at a distance of one thousand worlds.
He repeated the inking until the ink-powder was exhausted.

Suppose the worlds
Through which he went,
Whether they were inked or not,
Were smashed into dust.

It is innumerable kalpas,
More than the number
Of the particles of dust thus produced,
Since that Buddha passed away.

But perhaps just as important:

I remember the extinction of that Buddha
As vividly as if he had passed away just now,
By my unhindered wisdom; I also remember
The Sravakas and Bodhisattvas who lived [with him].

Bhiksus, know this!
My wisdom is pure, wonderful,
Free from asravas and from hindrance.
I know those who lived innumerable kalpas ago.

The story of Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence’s enlightenment underscores the role played by gods, Brahman-heavenly-kings play and the four heavenly-kings play:

[Before he attained Buddhahood,] he sat at the place of enlightenment and defeated the army of Mara. He wished to attain Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, but could not because the Dharma of the Buddhas had not yet come into his mind. He sat cross-legged without moving his mind and body for one to ten small kalpas. During all that time the Dharma of the Buddhas did not come into his mind.

[Before he sat at the place of enlightenment,] the Trayastrimsa Gods prepared him a lion-like seat a yojana high under the Bodhitree so that he might be able to attain Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi on that seat. When he sat on that seat, the Brahman-heavenly-kings rained heavenly flowers on the area extending a hundred yojanas in all directions from that seat. From time to time withered flowers were blown away by fragrant winds and new flowers were rained down. [The Brahman-heavenly-kings] continued this offering to him for fully ten small kalpas. [After he attained Buddhahood also,] they continued raining flowers until he passed away.

[When he sat on that seat,] the four heavenly-kings beat heavenly drums, and the other gods made heavenly music and offered it to him. They continued these offerings also for fully ten small kalpas. [After he attained Buddhahood also,] they continued these offerings until he passed away.

Before Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence left home, he had 16 sons. These sons act as a Greek chorus, urging the Buddha to turn the wheel of the Dharma:

You, the Hero of the World, are unequalled.
Adorned with the marks
Of one hundred merits,
You have obtained unsurpassed wisdom.
Expound the Dharma and save us
And other living beings of the world!

Expound the Dharma, reveal the Dharma,
And cause us to obtain that wisdom!
If we attain Buddhahood,
Others also will do the same.

You, the World-Honored One, know
What all living beings have deep in their minds,
What teachings they are practicing,
And how much power of wisdom they have.

You know their desires, the merits they obtained,
And the karmas they did
In their previous existence.
Turn the wheel of the unsurpassed Dharma!

Daily Dharma – Jan. 29, 2016

The Buddha said to Universal-Sage Bodhisattva: “The good men or women will be able to obtain this Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma after my extinction if they do the following four things: (1) secure the protection of the Buddhas, (2) plant the roots of virtue, (3) reach the stage of steadiness [in proceeding to enlightenment], and (4) resolve to save all living beings. The good men or women will be able to obtain this sūtra after my extinction if they do these four things.”

For us who aspire to this difficult practice of the Wonderful Dharma, the Buddha gives this guide in Chapter Twenty-Eight of the Lotus Sūtra. For us to have even heard of this sūtra in this life we must have already done these four things. In order to maintain this practice, we need to use the Buddha’s protection for the benefit of all beings, not just for our benefit alone. We need to nourish the virtuous seeds we have already planted, remain steady and confident on the path to enlightenment, and sustain our determination to maintain our respect for everyone.

The Daily Dharma is produced by the Lexington Nichiren Buddhist Community. To subscribe to the daily emails, visit zenzaizenzai.com

Day 9

Day 9 covers Chapter 5, The Simile of Herbs, and introduces Chapter 6, Assurance of Future Buddhahood.

The Parable of the Burning House and its lesson about the need for expedients to convince people to leave the “burning house” of the Triple World was followed by the Parable of the Rich Man and His Poor Son and its lesson about the need to nurture the realization of our equality with our “rich father,” the Buddha. Now we come to the Simile of Herbs and its lessons about the rain of the Dharma and the reason why its effects differ according to the species of the plants.

To begin with, we need to realize that the Buddha is aware of our situation:

Kasyapa, know this! I, the Tathagata, am the King of the Dharma. Nothing I say is false. I expound all teachings with expedients by my wisdom in order to lead all living beings to the stage of knowing all things. I know what region a living being will be taken to by what teaching, and what a living being has deep in his mind. I am not hindered by anything in knowing all this. I know all things clearly, and show my knowledge of all things to all living beings.

This knowledge is reflected in the effects of the rain of the Dharma:

Those plants were given more or less water by the same rain from the same cloud, and grew differently according to their species. They obtained different flowers and fruits although they grew on the same ground and received water from the same rain.

This is again reflected in the refrain, “if they have not yet done so”:

I will cause all living beings to cross [the ocean of birth and death] if they have not yet done so. I will cause them to emancipate themselves [from suffering] if they have not yet done so. I will cause them to have peace of mind if they have not yet done so. I will cause them to attain Nirvana if they have not yet done so. I know their present lives as they are, and also their future lives as they will be. I know all. I see all. I know the Way. I have opened the Way. I will expound the Way. Gods, men and asuras! Come and hear the Dharma!’

Thereupon many thousands of billions of people came to hear the Dharma from me. Having seen them, I knew which were clever, which were dull, which were diligent, and which were lazy. Therefore, I expounded to them an innumerable variety of teachings according to their capacities in order to cause them to rejoice and receive benefits with pleasure.

The “innumerable variety of teachings” does not mean different:

The various teachings I expound are of the same content, of the same taste. Those who emancipate themselves [from the bonds of existence,] from illusions, and from birth and death, will finally obtain the knowledge of the equality and differences of all things. But those who hear or keep my teachings or read or recite the sutras in which my teachings are expounded, or act according to my teachings, do not know the merits that they will be able to obtain by these practices. Why is that? It is because only I know their capacities, appearances, entities and natures. Only I know what teachings they have in memory, what teachings they have in mind, what teachings they practice, how they memorize the teachings, how they think of the teachings, how they practice the teachings, for what purpose they memorize the teachings, for what purpose they think of the teachings, for what purpose they practice the teachings, and for what purpose they keep what teachings. Only I see clearly and without hindrance that they are at various stages [of enlightenment]. I know this, but they do not know just as the trees and grasses including herbs in the thickets and forests do not know whether they are superior or middle or inferior. My teachings are of the same content, of the same taste. Those who emancipate themselves [from the bonds of existence,] from illusions, and from birth and death, will finally attain Nirvana, that is, eternal tranquility or extinction. They will be able to return to the state of the Void.

And in gathas:

Though I water all living beings of the world
With the same rain of the Dharma,
They practice the teachings
Of the same taste differently
According to their capacities,
Just as the herbs and trees
In thickets and forests
Grew gradually according to their species.

And:

I now expediently reveal the Dharma with this simile.
I expound one truth with various discourses.
This simile is only one of the expedients
Employed by my wisdom,
Just as a drop of sea water is
Part of the great ocean.

In the opening of Chapter 6, Assurance of Future Buddhahood, we learn that Maha-Kasyapa will one day become a Buddha called Light in a world called Light-Virtue. This news heartens Great Maudgalyayana, Subhuti and Maha-Katyayana, who offer this simile describing what the news means to them:

Suppose a man came
From a country suffering from famine.
Now he saw the meal of a great king.
He did not partake of it in doubts and fears.
After he was told to take it by the king,
He took it at once.
We are like that man.
We know the defects of the Lesser Vehicle.
But we do not know how to obtain
The unsurpassed wisdom of the Buddha.

Although we hear you say [to us],
“You will become Buddhas,”
We are still in doubts and fears about it,
Just as that man was about the meal.
If you assure us of our future Buddhahood,
We shall be happy and peaceful.

You, the Great Hero, the World-Honored One,
Wish to give peace to all the people of the world.
If you assure us of our future Buddhahood, we shall be
Like the man who was permitted to take the meal.

Daily Dharma – Jan. 28, 2016

Needless to say, boundless will be the merits
Of the person who hears this sūtra with all his heart,
And expounds its meanings,
And acts according to its teachings.

The Buddha sings these verses to Maitreya (whom he calls Ajita – Invincible) in Chapter Eighteen of the Lotus Sutra. The merits we gain through our study and practice of the Lotus Sūtra do not make us better than any of the other beings with whom we share this world. Merits accumulate when we strip away our delusions and see the world for what it is. We sometimes focus on what we can do to change the world, thinking that merely changing how we look at the world will have little effect. It is only when we see things for what they are that we can act effectively. Otherwise we are merely reinforcing the delusions of ourselves and others.

The Daily Dharma is produced by the Lexington Nichiren Buddhist Community. To subscribe to the daily emails, visit zenzaizenzai.com

Day 8

Day 8 concludes Chapter 4, Understanding by Faith, and closes the second volume of the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma.

I have a great affinity for the parable in this chapter. The PARABLE OF THE RICH MAN AND HIS POOR SON offers the flip side of the discussion begun in Chapter 2 on the need for expedients and expanded in Chapter 3 with the PARABLE OF THE BURNING HOUSE.

Told from the perspective of the elders among the Buddha’s followers, we see how the son does not believe he deserves riches and how the father uses expedients to help his son come to realize he is his son and does deserve to be a rich man.

World-Honored One! The great rich man is you. We are like [his son, that is,] your sons because you always tell us that we are your sons. World-Honored One! We once had many troubles in the world of birth and death because of the three kinds of sufferings. We were so distracted and so ignorant that we clung to the teachings of the Lesser Vehicle. At that time you caused us to think over all things and to clear away the dirt of fruitles discussions about them. We made strenuous efforts according to the teachings [of the Lesser Vehicle] and attained Nirvana as a day’s pay. Having attained it, we had great joy, and felt satisfied [with the attainment of it]. We said, ‘We have obtained much because we made efforts according to the teachings of the Buddha.’ But when you saw that we clung to mean desires and wished to hear only the teachings of the Lesser Vehicle, you left us alone. You did not tell us that we had the treasure-store, that is, the insight of the Tathagata. You expounded the wisdom of the Buddha[, that is, the Great Vehicle] with expedients, but we did not aspire for that vehicle because, when we had obtained the day’s pay of Nirvana from the Buddha, we thought that we had already obtained enough. We did not wish to have what you had showed and expounded to the Bodhisattvas by your wisdom.

Never looking beyond “a day’s pay,” satisfied with everyday accomplishments.

The poor son came to his father,
And took custody
Of the things of his father,
But wished to take none of them.

The same can be said of us.
We did not wish to have the treasure-store
Of the teachings of the Buddhas
Although we expounded it [to the Bodhisattvas].

We were satisfied with the elimination
Of illusions within ourselves.
What we accomplished was that elimination.
We did nothing more.

You told us
To purify the world of the Buddha
And teach all living beings.
We heard this, but did not wish to do so
Because we had already attained the truth:
“All things are void and tranquil.
Nothing appears or disappears.
Nothing is larger or smaller.
Nothing has asravas.
Nothing is subject to cause and effect.”
Having thought this, we did not wish
To do [the Bodhisattva practices].

In the long night
We did not care
For the wisdom of the Buddha.
We did not wish to have it.
We thought:
“The Dharma we attained is perfect.”

And finally:

The rich man knew
That his son was base and mean.
Therefore, he made him nobler
With expedients,
And then gave him
All his treasures.

In the same manner,
You knew that we wished
To hear the Lesser Vehicle.
Therefore, you did a rare thing.
You prepared us with expedients,
And then taught us the great wisdom.

Today we are not what we were then.
We have obtained
What we did not expect
To obtain
Just as the poor son obtained
The innumerable treasures.

World-Honored One!
We have attained enlightenment, perfect fruit.
We have secured pure eyes
With which we can see the Dharma-without-asravas.

We observed the pure precepts of the Buddha
In the long night.
Today we have obtained the effects and rewards
[Of our observance of the precepts].
We performed the brahma practices for long
According to the teachings of the King of the Dharma.
Now we have obtained the great fruit
Of the unsurpassed Dharma-without-asravas.

We are Sravakas in this sense of the word.
We will cause all living beings
To hear the voice telling
Of the enlightenment of the Buddha.

We are Arhats
In the true sense of the word.
All gods and men,
All Maras and Brahmans
In the worlds
Should make offerings to us.

You, the World-Honored One, are the great benefactor.
By doing this rare thing,
You taught and benefited us
Out of your compassion towards us.
No one will be able to repay your favors
Even if he tries to do so
For many hundreds of millions of kalpas.
No one will be able to repay your favors
Even if he bows to you respectfully,
And offers you his hands, feet or anything else.

Selected Quotes


Here you will find books that I have purchased – sometimes more than once and in multiple formats – and read. Included on this website are extensive quotes I’ve taken from these books. I’ve done this for my own use as a way of helping me remember. (Anyone under 60 will just have to take my word for it.) If you don’t own one of these books, you are strongly encouraged to purchase it. Each book is linked to a website where it can be purchased.

If you wish to dwell in the enlightenment of the Buddha,
And to obtain the self-originating wisdom,
Make offerings strenuously to the keeper
Of the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma!

If you wish to obtain quickly the knowledge
Of the equality and differences of all things,
Keep this sutra, and also make offerings
To the keeper of this sutra!

Chapter 10, The Teacher of the Dharma

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The Doctrine of Nichiren bookcoverNichiren, Leader of Buddhist Reformation in Japan bookcoverSpring Writings bookcoverSummer WritingsBasic Buddhist ConceptsBuddha Seed book coverbook coverbook coverQuestions and Answers book cover


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