1. You are deluded if you still long for happiness.
2. You are totally deceived if you actually think that you can find happiness, and it does not matter what you do or how hard you try.
3. It is true however that a certain kind of happiness will become available to you when you have abandoned all hope of ever being happy.
Perhaps you might expect to read these three statements on the program that you would hold in your hand if you were to attend the theater of the absurd. This evening we are seeing a performance of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. In this comedy two characters are waiting for Godot to come, but he never comes. In our lives Godot is whatever we think will finally bring fulfillment and happiness. For some it might be a university degree, for others it might be a marriage, the birth of a child, or a professional career. We may indeed obtain the degree, the marriage, the child, or the career, but genuine satisfaction never comes. Godot never comes.
It would seem that I formulated my three statements in order to summarize existentialist philosophy. The fact is, however, that I was not thinking of Jean-Paul Sartre when I wrote the three sentences, but of Gautama Buddha. The Four Noble Truths have been rephrased and recast in modern language and have become my Three Noble Truths. But while existentialism has the capability of annoying us to the extent that most people try to forget it as soon as possible so that they can simply go on with their lives, Buddhism is respected as a world religion with many adherents. Although it is usually someone else's religion, we tend to know what that religion entails. Usually it is a matter of sitting in a meditation posture before a statue of the Buddha. Everyone breaths slowly and practices mindfulness. A little thought will tell you that repetition has dulled the teaching of the Buddha. Buddhism is safe, but when the Buddha said, "Be a light unto yourself, betake yourselves to no external refuge" he was not talking about something that was safe. He was in effect describing his own experience, in which he began to have very troubling thoughts, and there was no Master to commend him for his understanding and his progress upon the path. There was no path. There was only the stark confrontation with life, which today would probably occur not under a bohdi tree, but in a small hotel room with a bare light bulb. The modern would-be Buddha wonders to himself or herself, shall I put an end to this farce, or shall I wait for something (I don't know what) to happen, and maybe then I will figure it out.