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The First Step

Most people know the saying 'a thousand-mile journey begins with the first step'. This also applies to the gradual Buddhist path of morality, concentration and wisdom. Bhikkhu Bodhi writes about this beautifully in his book 'The All-Embracing Net of Views':

It is the experience of suffering (dukkha) that impels a person to seek the teachings of the Buddha, but it is wisdom or understanding that leads one to accept the teaching and set foot on the path.

For, in order to enter the path one must come to understand that suffering is not a mere accidental encroachment on life that can be relieved by simple palliatives, but something inherent in sentient existence itself; and one muct come to realize that its cause is not some set of avoidable circumstances, but one's own delusions and desires, which one can set right by following the prescribed path.

This is the first essential step without which the great march to liberation could never begin. And just as the last step of a lengthy journey does not differ in nature from the first, but only in its position in the series, so the final breakthrough of wisdom by which ignorance is shattered and enlightenment gained does not differ in essence, but only in strength, clariry, and power of penetration, from the first stirring of wisdom that led a person to begin that long and trying march.