This article is about the “Shirdi” Sai Baba, an Indian religious figure who lived from the mid-19th to the early 20th century. See Sai Baba for other persons calling themselves Sai Baba.
Sai Baba of Shirdi or Shirdi Sai Baba (c. September 27, 1838 – October 15, 1918), born under an unknown name, was an Indian guru and fakir, who is regarded by his Hindu and Muslim followers as a saint. In his life and teachings he tried to embrace and reconcile both faiths: Sai Baba lived in a mosque, was buried in a Hindu temple, embraced Hindu and Muslim practices, and taught using words and figures that drew from both traditions. One of his well known epigrams says of God: “Allah Malik” (“GOD is the Owner of us All.”)
There is no clear record of Sai’s given name, nor of his origins. Sai arrived at the village of Shirdi in Maharashtra state when he was about sixteen years old. He took up residence in a Khandoba temple, where a villager (Mahalsapathi) at worship first called him Sai (“saint”).
He fostered an extremely simple and ascetic life: living in the village as a mendicant monk, and sleeping on the floor in the temple, and later in a dilapidated mosque.
Sai soon began to attract followers who addressed him by the name Baba (“father”). He worshipped both at Hindu temples and Muslim mosques, and encouraged tolerance between the faiths.
Numerous miracles were attributed to him. He did not discourage such attributions, and his fame spread. Many pilgrims came for his blessings, and he attracted large crowds even for the most mundane of his activities.
Sai remained in Shirdi all his life. Baba breathed His last with His head resting on one of His devotees lap. His last words were, “Place my Body in Buti’s wada (mansion), I’ll get peace there only. People will serve me only if I’m placed in Buti’s wada.” Thus as per His last wish He was buried in the “Buty Wada” also known as Samadhi Mandir.
His religion, philosophy and practices
By his example, Sai sought to unite the seemingly disparate religious communities of Muslim and Hindus. He regularly recited Hindu and Muslim prayers, such as the Hindu prayer Vishnu sahasranama. Many of his Hindu followers consider him to be an avatar (incarnation) of Shiva and Dattatreya.
He left no written records; Sai’s teachings were oral: typically short, pithy sayings rather than elaborate discourses. Sai often seemed to lose his temper with those around him. His followers believe that he only pretended to get angry, in order to teach humility and foster right spiritual action.
Sai encouraged charity. He said: “Unless there is some relationship or connection, nobody goes anywhere. If any men or creatures come to you, do not discourteously drive them away, but receive them well and treat them with due respect. Shri Hari (God) will be certainly pleased if you give water to the thirsty, bread to the hungry, clothes to the naked and your verandah to strangers for sitting and resting. If anybody wants any money from you and you are not inclined to give, do not give, but do not bark at him like a dog.” Other of his favourite sayings were: “Why do you fear when I am here”, “He has no beginning… He has no end”, “All things arise from him and into him they return”. Sai Baba made eleven assurances to his devotees:
1. Whosoever puts their feet on Shirdi soil, their sufferings will come to an end.
2. The wretched and miserable will rise to joy and happiness as soon as they climb the steps of the mosque.
3. I shall be ever active and vigorous even after leaving this earthly body.
4. My tomb shall bless and speak to the needs of my devotees.
5. I shall be active and vigorous even from my tomb.
6. My mortal remains will speak from my tomb.
7. I am ever living to help and guide all who come to me, who surrender to me and who seek refuge in me.
8. If you look to me, I look to you.
9. If you cast your burden on me, I shall surely bear it.
10. If you seek my advice and help, it shall be given to you at once.
11. There shall be no want in the house of my devotee. http://saibaba.ws/avatar/shirdisaibabaselevenssayings.htm
His eleven famous sayings are:
1. No harm shall befall him who sets his foot on the soil of Shirdi.
2. He who cometh to My Samadhi, his sorrow and suffering shall cease.
3. Though I be no more in flesh and blood, I shall ever protect My devotees.
4. Trust in Me and your prayer shall be answered.
5. Know that My Spirit is immortal. Know this for yourself.
6. Show unto Me he who sought refuge and been turned away.
7. In whatever faith men worship Me, even so do I render to them.
8. Not in vain is My Promise that I shall ever lighten your burden.
9. Knock, and the door shall open. Ask and ye shall be granted.
10. To him who surrenders unto Me totally I shall be ever indebted.
11. Blessed is he who has become one with Me. http://www.saibabaofindia.com/shirdi_sai_baba.html#100sayings
Sai started an ever-burning dhuni fire, and distributed its udhi (ash) among his followers. (Ash has symbolic meaning in Hinduism.) He often demanded money (dakshina) from his visitors, which he gave away to others the same day. Followers believe that this action was meant to help them be rid of greed and material attachment.
The best-known book about Sai is the Shri Sai Satcharita, written by Govindrao Raghunath Dabholkar, who Sai nicknamed Hemadpant. The book, which is quite devotional in style, recounts Sai’s life, teachings, and stories of his miracles.
Many of his followers believe that Sai will continue to do miracles despite not being physically present.
Sai Baba is among the most popular of Indian saints, and continues to have a large following. His image seems to be everywhere: it may be seen on shrines, lockets, billboards and cars of Hindus. While he is recognizable throughout India, his devotees are especially numerous in the state of Maharashtra, the place of his birth and in Andhra Pradesh. His samadhi is a well-known place of pilgrimage.
Many religious teachers, groups and organizations promote his teachings and devotion to Sai. Among the most prominent is the Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust, which also takes care of the shrines and temples in Shirdi.
Some followers of Sai Baba achieved fame as spiritual figures: these include Upasni Maharaj of Sakori and Meher Baba of Ahmednagar.
At least three gurus and two youngsters have claimed to be the reincarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba. By far the most famous is Sathya Sai Baba (born circa 1926-1929) who lives at Puttaparthi Andhra Pradesh, India. Another guru who claims to be Shirdi Sai Baba’s reincarnation is Bala Sai Baba.
A Hindi film was made in 1977 on his life and Sudhir Dalvi played the title role