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This is neither an original thought nor a magic spell – but I think it might be a good way to go to minimise the kind of suffering we are liable to inflict on ourselves, so I’m writing a reminder to myself.

My seven keys to happiness:

  • Accept others as they are.
  • Accept yourself as you are.
  • Accept what other people give you graciously and don’t require or expect them to give you more than they are able or willing to give.
  • Accept you’re unlikely to change any other person, their behaviour or their priorities.
  • Adjust your exposure to other people individually depending on how much of them and their behaviour you can deal with.
  • Don’t take things personally – you are not the centre of other people’s universes and their behaviour may not have anything to do with you.
  • Don’t attach too much importance to anything – everything will pass.
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Buddhism is not a belief system. It’s not about accepting certain tenets or believing a set of claims or principles. … It’s about examining the world clearly and carefully, about testing everything and every idea. Buddhism is about seeing. It’s about knowing rather than believing or hoping or wishing. It’s also about not being afraid to examine anything and everything…

The Buddha himself invited people on all occasions to test him. “Don’t believe me because you see me as your teacher,” he said. “Don’t believe me because others do. And don’t believe anything because you’ve read it in a book, either. Don’t put your faith in reports, or tradition, or hearsay, or the authority of religious leaders or texts. Don’t rely on mere logic, or inference, or appearances, or speculation.”

The Buddha repeatedly emphasised the impossibility of ever arriving at Truth by giving up your own authority and following the lights of others. Such a path will lead only to an opinion, whether your own or someone else’s.

The Buddha encouraged people to “know for yourselves that certain things are unwholesome and wrong. And when you do, then given them up. And when you know for yourselves that certain things are wholesome and good, then accept them and follow them.”

The message is always to examine and see for yourself. When you see for yourself what is true – and that’s really the only way that you can genuinely know anything – then embrace it. Until then, just suspend judgement and criticism.

The point of Buddhism is to just see. That’s all.

(Extract from “Buddhism plain and simple” by Steve Hagen (Penguin 1997)

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