Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi was a yogi and guru who gave the world the keys to happiness: Shraddha (Faith) and Saburi (Patience). He never asked his followers to give up their religion. His life illustrated love and forgiveness, charity and satisfaction, and devotion to the guru and God. His teachings combined elements of Hinduism and Islam and sought to achieve communal harmony between the two religions.
He has attracted devotees from all over the world, though he has never traveled and never cared about celebrity. Again and again his devotees discovered that he knew his innermost thoughts and details of their lives. He practiced healing, health, happiness and prosperity, and conceived couples without children. However, their true purpose was to awaken in them a desire for spiritual life. Thousands of people considered him a wonderful saint with miraculous powers, but his deepest entourage knew that he was in the very embodiment of God. Some said of Datta, others of Shiva, and others saw ecstatic visions of their own Guru or chose Ishta (the personal icon of God) when they watched it. He himself only said that he was the humble servant of God and he rained and encouraged all who were in contact with him. Many books have been written about Shirdi Sai Baba, but the Shri Sai Satcharita, the story of the life and actions of Sai Baba (quoted below) was written in his own life and is best known among the devotees of Sai. Just before leaving his body, he told a disciple that he would be reborn in a certain village in 8 years and that is how it happened. (See the section on Sathya Sai Baba.)
Sai Baba was first seen when he was a sixteen year old boy sitting under a neem tree in Shirdi. Nobody knew his origin or his past. Even then, he seemed to be filled with Brahman’s knowledge. He had no desire for worldly objects, even in dreams. He expelled Maya (illusion) and Mukti (enlightenment) served at his feet. This young boy, fair, intelligent and very handsome, was first seen under a Neem tree sitting in an Asan (meditative posture). The people of the village were astonished to see such a young boy practice severe penances, as hot and cold as they are. During the day he did not associate with anyone and at night he was not afraid of anyone. People wondered where this young man came from. His form and features were so beautiful that a simple appearance made him love everyone. He went to nobody’s door, still sitting near Neem’s tree. Externally, he looked very young. but by his action he was really a great soul. He was the epitome of passion and an enigma for all.
A saint name Gangagir who frequented Shirdi said of him seeing him for the first time “Blessed is Shirdi, who got this precious jewel”. Another saint named Anandanath said, “This is a precious diamond indeed, although he seems to be an ordinary man, you will realize it in the near future.”
Peace or calm was his ornament and he was the repository of wisdom. He did not like perishable things and was always absorbed in self-realization. He did not know or care about honor or dishonor. The name of Allah was always on his lips. Its interior was as calm as the deep sea. Although he was sitting in one place, he knew all the transactions in the world. Although he is a Siddha (realized), he acted as a sadhaka (disciple on the spiritual path). He was sweet, humble and happy …
Shortly after arriving in Shirdi, Baba showed his mastery of the subject. He liked lights and used to borrow oil from traders to keep clay dishes with wicks that burned all night in the masjid (temple). After a while, the traders got together and decided not to give any oil. Then they sought to see what Baba would do. Unperturbed, Baba poured water into her oil pot, took a sip, then filled all her dishes with clay and lit them. To the merchants’ surprise and dismay, the wicks started to burn and continued to burn all night. Afterwards, the traders repented and apologized.