The student is not aware that he is accidental, that he is only curious, that the search has not begun yet – because deep in his heart he is not ready to go on a long pilgrimage.
The disciple knows perfectly well that he is a disciple. The first rays of understanding, awareness, have penetrated his being. He knows for sure that he is no longer a student. He feels it deep in his heart, without any doubt, that the miracle has happened: he has become a disciple. He feels the dedication, he feels the love, he feels the commitment. Even if it takes lives to reach, he knows he is on the right path and he will certainly reach. He knows perfectly well that he has found the master.
It is not an intellectual understanding; it is something intuitive, just like love. In fact the Zen masters have called it “the great affair.” Love is a small affair, but to find a master is a great affair because there is no other love that will be deeper and more fragrant and more profound than that which exists between the disciple and the master. And the disciple is perfectly aware of it.
But the devotee is again a totally different phenomenon. The devotee never knows – not because he is unconscious like the student. Devotion comes so slowly, not making any noise. You don’t hear the footsteps.
The disciple simply grows just as the child grows and becomes a young man and the young man grows and one day becomes old…but you cannot find when it happened. The disciple grows slowly, slowly into a devotee. And to be a devotee is such a total transformation that only the master becomes aware that you have changed from the disciple to the devotee. You yourself cannot be aware of it.
But the difference between the unawareness of the student and the absence of awareness of the devotee is tremendous. The devotee is so full that there is no place left from where he can stand aloof and be aware of what is happening. He is completely enveloped with the experience – and it is so absorbing that he cannot be watchful of it.
To be watchful, to be alert, you need a certain distance. The devotee has lost all distance. It is the master who recognizes for the first time the change, that the climate has changed: the disciple is no longer a disciple.
Another Sufi story may help you. Sufis have such beautiful stories, such unparalleled stories, that each story opens a new vision.
This Junnaid I mentioned was himself once a seeker. He used to tell his disciples, “When I met my master, the master never looked at me for three years. I was sitting from morning till evening. So many people were coming and going and he was talking to people and he did not look at me – as if I did not exist for him yet. But I was persistent because I had felt the presence of the master and I had tasted the sweetness of his surroundings. I remained. In fact the more he ignored me, the more I became certain that there is some secret in his ignoring me.”