A Sufi junid was once recounting to his disciples his long journey from student to disciple to devotee, before he filly made the transition from a seeker to become a great master himself.
“When I first took up with my master, he did not look at me for three years. I would be sitting from morning till evening. So many people would come and go and he would talk to them. Not once did he glance towards me, as if I did not exist for him at all. But I was persistent. I had felt the presence of the master and tasted the sweetness of his surroundings. So I remained. In fact, the more he ignored me, the more I became certain there was some secret in his behavior.
After three years, the master looked at me for the first time. It was the recognition that I was no longer a student, but a disciple. After all, a student would have taken leave in three years. No student can stay that long waiting for just a look from his master.
Another three years passed and he did not look at me again. Then one day, he smiled at me. It went like a sharp sword into my heart. Why had he smiled? I was given no chance to ask.
Three more years passed. Then came the day when he called me close, kissed me on the forehead and said, ‘My son, you are now ready. Go forth and spread the message.’
But he had given me no message! Still, if he was saying I am ready, it must have been so. Touching his feet, I left.”
Concluding his reminiscence, the junid explained to his disciples: “In nine years, thus it was that my master prepared me. At each turning point, he gave the indication. When he became certain I was a disciple and whatever happened I was going to stay there, he looked at me. It was a look showering so much love and compassion, I could have waited for it for three lives — three years was nothing! I was bathed in a new experience.
“For in those three years, my mind had stopped functioning. I had simply gone on looking at my master, his every gesture. I had found nothing to think about, and had even forgotten the purpose I was there for. The day he looked at me, I suddenly knew my purpose and was fulfilled immensely.
“But then three years again passed, and when he smiled, every fiber of my being felt his smile. It was a soft touch, but went deep into my heart. I knew something had happened, but was not aware what. I had passed from disciplehood into devoteehood.
“The day he kissed me on the forehead, he sealed my growth into a master. It was his fil message, which took me years to figure out.”
The kiss of the master to the devotee, to the disciple, is a declaration that the merger has happened. He who had come as a seeker was filly ready to spread around the fragrance filling up his being.
The student is unconscious. The disciple starts becoming conscious. The devotee is so conscious that he cannot be conscious of his consciousness. It has to come as a recognition from the master, because the distance between devotee and master is nil. Through a process spontaneous and tural, the devotee grows into a master.