I feel and know in my heart, I am your disciple. I don’t feel I am yet a devotee although I aspire to be one. Is it the nature of being a devotee that one knows one has become one? Or does the innocence of the devotee make the awareness of it not possible?
Antar Farid, the question you are asking is certainly significant. Its significance is very subtle. I will have to go step by step to make it clear to you.
These are the stages a seeker moves through: the student, the disciple, the devotee. The fourth is also there but it does not belong to the seeker, it belongs to the one who has arrived; that’s why I am not counting it. The seeker is on the path. The student is not aware that he is a student. He may think he is a disciple, he may think he is a devotee; he functions absolutely unconsciously.
I am reminded of a case – it happened in the life of a Sufi mystic, Junnaid:
A man came; he wanted to be a disciple. Junnaid looked at him for a long time. The man started feeling a little nervous: Why is he looking at him for so long and so silently?
Finally Junnaid said, “To be a disciple is very difficult.”
The man said, “Then I am ready to be a devotee.”
Junnaid said, “That is even more difficult. The only thing that is not difficult here is to be a master.”
The man said, “If that is the case, I am ready to be the master.”
Junnaid told his disciples and devotees, “This is a case of unconsciousness. He is not even a student, but the longing is to be a master if it is easier.”
The student comes almost accidentally. Perhaps he reads a book, perhaps a friend talks to him and he becomes curious. But curiosity is so superficial; it cannot make you committed and devoted for a long journey. It is very momentary; hence the student is not accepted in the mystery schools. He is too unripe; he has to wander a few days more or perhaps a few lives more before he can be accepted by a master as a disciple. Another Sufi story will explain it to you clearly….
A man left his home and his village in search of a master. Just outside the village he met an old man sitting under a tree, so silently and so peacefully that he thought, “Perhaps he may know somebody who is a master; otherwise, how am I going to find…?”
Each master is so unique that there are no symptoms that can be recognizable. The young man went to the old man sitting under the tree and asked him, “Do you know a master?”
The old man said, “Certainly. Do you also want to know him?”
He said, “That’s why I have asked you. Show me how I can reach the master and how I will recognize him.”