Entering into the path may arise via one of two ways: either through pain (dukkha) or pleasure (bliss).
There’s a vast array of experiences that can initiate a person onto the spiritual path. But it seems that for most of us we begin our spiritual quest either through pain or pleasure. It’s through one of these two gateways that the first initiation takes places.
The Gate of Pain
For some people they may come to the path as the result of personal tragedy, bereavement or loss. As the Master Sangharakshita puts it,
“Their whole existence is disturbed and upset as though a great earthquake in which everything they cherished or held dear is laid low. In this wreck, this ruin of their lives, they start questioning, start looking deeper, start wondering about the meaning and purpose of existence.”
These experiences via the gate of pain can come in many forms: through the loss of a loved one, losing ones job, financial ruin, the ending of a relationship, physical illness, physical harm, mental, emotional or physical trauma, consistent and chronic stress, etc.
There sometimes arises in this category a type of malaise. Life may be relatively OK. But we may find ourselves thinking, “There’s gotta be more to life than this.”
The Gate of Pleasure
For some other it may arise because of a spontaneous mystical experience.
Some kind of rare and magnificent moment of ecstasy, insight, a feeling of oneness, a wellspring of love, which of no real attempt of their own making, grips them, lifts them into a new state of awareness. One usually filled with fullness, oneness, awareness, clarity, stillness, and love. This new dimension completely changes the way that they see things.
These experiences via the gate of pleasure can come in many forms: being in nature (seeing a sunset), listening to music, looking at a beautiful painting, gazing at someone they love, reading something that makes the world stop, and from meditation (just to name a few). It may even come about in old age. As one is free from responsibilities and has the time to look back on the total experience of life. And even some have come to this via a dream.
However one may enter upon the path, the next stage can only be called the Spiritual Quest. As we go off in search of meaning and insight in order to make sense of our world that has now been thrown into a type of chaos.