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.
Only disciples exist –– because they are consciously disciples, they choose to be disciples. A guru does not choose, he acts. The action is one with his living so that he teaches by his very act. His teaching and his living are two aspects of a single existence. His very sitting, standing, walking, his talking, his silence — everything is an indication. Something happens through the guru’s very existence and the disciple always has to be ready to receive it. A disciple means one who has an open mind, a receptive mind so he is not just learning but receiving. That is why trust is a basic component of being a disciple.
Whenever we are confronted with the unknown, no logic, no rational explanation is possible. Whenever we are confronted with the unknown, only trust can lead us. If I say something about the known then you can discuss it with me because you also know it. We can argue about it, we can talk about it — a dialogue is possible. But if I talk about something that is absolutely unknown to you, then no dialogue is possible and there can be no argument. There can be no rational approach to it because reason can only work around the known.
The moment the unknown comes in, reason is useless: it becomes meaningless. Thinking is absurd because you cannot think about the unknown. It is just as if you are blind and I talk to you about light. You can only take what I say on trust; there is no other way.
The relationship between the disciple and the guru is a relationship of intimate trust. That doesn’t mean blind faith, because the guru never expects you to believe in him — that is not an expectation. But the very nature of the unknown is such that you cannot go a single step further without trust. Trust is required of the disciple because he will not be able to take a single step into the unknown without trusting the guru. The unknown is dark, the field is uncharted — it is not bliss, it is not the ultimate — and the guru is always saying, “Jump into it! Do it!” But before you can jump, trust is needed or you will not jump. And knowledge can only come through a jump.
In science, a hypothesis is needed before there can be an experiment. Hypothesis means a tentative belief. If the experiment proves the hypothesis then it becomes a truth, but if the experiment disproves it, it becomes an untruth. But without a hypothesis, a tentative belief, there can be no experiment.
It is exactly the same with religion: trust is needed just as a hypothesis is needed in science. But there is a great difference between a scientific attitude and a trustful attitude. A person can believe hypothetically in a scientific proposition and yet be skeptical about it. Reverence is not needed because it concerns an objective phenomenon — you can experiment with it and see how it turns out. But in religion, a hypothetical belief is not enough because you are not tackling an objective problem that is outside you. You are tackling yourself; it is a subjective phenomenon. You will have to be involved, committed. You will not be doing the experiment from outside, you will be the experiment. You will have to jump in and become part of it. Great trust is needed.
So the relationship between guru and disciple is one of great trust, intimate love, reverence. But these things are not demanded. The moment they are demanded they become exploitation; the moment they are forced they become violent, because no one should force himself on anybody. It is not an enforcement on the part of the guru, it is a willingness on the part of the disciple to allow the guru to work.
But ordinarily, the disciple is unwilling and the guru is forcing. Then everything becomes nonsense. The moment the guru tries to force something on someone, it cripples, it destroys, it kills, because it is a violent act against someone else’s ego. But if the disciple is willing, if he gives the guru his complete trust — if it is not forced, if it is his own willing surrender — then a great transformation happens: the disciple is transformed by his very surrender.
This is a very decisive act: to surrender oneself to someone else completely, totally. It is not just faith in someone else, it is basically faith in oneself. You cannot surrender yourself if you are not confident enough about your decision, because it is a great decision — total and unconditional. Whenever a disciple surrenders himself his will is involved, and out of his will a decision is born. The disciple becomes a crystallized personality through surrender because the decision is so great and so total, so absolute and unconditional.
No surrender can be conditional; there can be no condition with the guru. You cannot say, “If you do this then I will surrender.” Then it will not be surrender. There is no “if” — you surrender totally. You say, “Do whatsoever you like. I am in your hands. Ask me to jump into a wall, and I will jump!”
This very decision to surrender totally is transforming and crystallizing. The attitude of the disciple is always one of total surrender. Then the guru is able to do anything because, through your total receptivity to him, you can be in communion with him. Then by and by you change.
The matter is delicate, it is very sensitive. To change a living being, to change a human personality, is the greatest, most arduous, most delicate thing. The human personality is so complex, it is in so much conflict, with so much that is suppressed and perverted, that to change it and to make it flower in ecstasy, to make it a worthy present for the divine, is the greatest art or science possible.
But you must remember that what I have been talking about always comes from the disciple, never from the guru. If it comes from the guru then Krishnamurti is right: then gurudom is one of the most subtle and destructive exploitations. But Krishnamurti is not right really, because surrender has never been a demand of the guru; it is a basic condition for discipleship. Without the guru or a relationship of trust, it is very difficult to progress spiritually. In fact, it is not possible.
There is every possibility that a person may flower without any guru, but that person too will have to surrender, he will have to trust — if not a particular person then the whole. The basic requirements must be fulfilled. Whether they are fulfilled in connection with a person or not is immaterial.
It is easier to trust a person than to trust the whole. If you cannot trust a person you can never trust existence as such. If you cannot surrender in a personal relationship, you can never surrender to the impersonal divine. So the guru is a step toward the impersonal, a way to help one toward surrender to the whole, to existence itself.
To the human mind, all relationships are personal. It may be love, it may be respect, it may be anything, but it is personal. So the first step toward the realization of truth or of cosmic being is also bound to be personal. Someone will have to be used as a jumping board.
And there are other things also….
Words cannot communicate much that is meaningful as far as spirituality is concerned. The very phenomenon is such that it is inexpressible. If you hear some instrumental music, you cannot convey the meaning of it through words. You can use judgmental words — good, bad — but they do not convey anything. You can only convey your feelings, and those too, very inadequately.
If you have seen a flower, you can say it is beautiful. But that does not convey anything. Your words never convey the actual realization of the moment because they can mean anything to the person to whom they are conveyed. A person who has never seen beauty in any flower will hear your words and understand the meaning of them without understanding anything at all, because the word beauty does not mean anything to him.
Even concepts such as beauty are not totally expressible — we can only try to express them. Spiritual things are so impeccable, so silent, so infinite, that language destroys them. Words confine them to such a narrow sphere that the meaning cannot be conveyed. That is why I said that religion cannot be taught.
However difficult, mathematics can be taught because it is symbolic, and symbols can be conveyed. Physics can be taught because there is nothing inexpressible about it. But the nearer you come to the human heart — for example, in poetry — the more you feel that your words have not conveyed the thing, that something has been left behind. The container is there, but the content has been left behind. The words have reached, but the meaning has been left behind. The flower has been received, but the perfume has died in the very giving of it.
Words are at the midpoint between science and religion. In science everything can be conveyed; in religion nothing can be conveyed. These are the three roads: science, which means reason, and is expressible; poetry and art, which are emotion, and are expressible up to a certain point beyond which they become inexpressible; and religion, spirituality, which is absolutely inexpressible. That is why the relationship between guru and disciple is not that of teacher and pupil.