What is the guru/disciple relationship?
First of all, a guru is not a teacher; a guru is a person who has attained to a religious mode of living. Religion is not information, it cannot be taught because religion is a way of living. The very presence of the guru is a communion. And to one living in contact with him, something is communicated – though not through words. The relationship is so intimate that it is less like teacher and pupil and more like lover and beloved.
The guru must himself be enlightened, he must himself have attained, because one cannot communicate that which one has not realized. Religious experience can be communicated only when it is firsthand. A teacher need not be self-realized, but a guru must be. A teacher can give secondhand information from scriptures or traditions, but a guru cannot. A guru is a person who has realized truth. Now he is the original source; he himself has encountered reality, he is face to face with it. And the disciple comes in contact with a firsthand knowing because whatsoever is said or communicated to him by the guru is on his own authority.
Secondly, a guru is not aware of his guruship; he cannot be. A guru cannot claim that he is a guru – there is no claim like that. A person can only know whether or not he has fulfilled the condition of egolessness; otherwise he cannot encounter truth. Truth is encountered only when the ego is absolutely absent.
I always say that in religion, in spirituality, only disciples exist – because the guru is not present, he is only a presence. His very non-claiming, his nonegoistic, nonteaching attitude, and his living the truth, are the communion. So a person who claims to be a guru is only a teacher, he is not a guru.
There is no word in English to translate the word guru because the relationship between guru and disciple is basically Eastern. No such relationship has ever existed in Western culture and tradition, so no one in the West can understand what a guru is. At the most they can understand what a teacher is.
The relationship between guru and disciple is so intimate…it is like love. The reverence that is felt is like love, but with one difference: love is parallel, and reverence is for one who is above, one who is higher. Love creates friendship because the lover and the loved one are on the same level. Reverence too is a kind of love but with a great difference: it is not on the same level; one person is higher. If there is a loving intimacy with the higher personality, reverence is automatically created around a guru. But it is not expected, it is not demanded.