Who is Shirdi Sai Baba?
Sai Baba, a Yogi, a great Indian Guru of modern times regarded by his devotees as a Saint. Hindu devotees see him as a Sadguru, an incarnation of Shiva or Dattathreya, while Muslim devotees see him as an enlightened Peer or Qutub. Baba’s illustrious life as evidenced by well documented stories and miracles puts him in a unique place in the recent spiritual history of India. The first temple for Baba was built in Bhivpuri, Karjat. It is not uncommon to see at least one Shirdi Baba Mandir in every mid to large size city in present day India. In the United States and other countries, Baba Mandhir can be found in many major cities. Also you will find devotees in many parts of the globe and from different faiths, including Christians and Zoroastrians.
The most important source of Baba’s life comes from Shri Sai Satcharita, written in 1916 in Marathi, by Govindrao Raghunath Dabholkar, who Baba nicknamed Hemadpant. Another biographer, Ganesh Shrikrishna Khaparde described daily life of Baba. According to sources, very little is known about Baba’s time and place of birth, family and early childhood. What is known is Baba grew to be a Fakir(meaning a member of Muslim holy sect, who lives by begging) among Fakirs, with his attire resembling that of a Fakir. Approximately at age 16, Baba came to the village of Shirdi (Ahmednagar district) of Maharashtra and spent most of his life in that area. In Shirdi, you will see Baba’s grave (Samadhi) in the temple and also a mosque that he regularly visited. Around 1910, Baba’s fame began to spread beyond the region, with people flocking from as far as Kolkatta. Baba took Samadhi (a state before nirvana in which there is no longer consciousness of self or of any object) on October 15, 1918.
What is unique about Baba?
Baba’s uniqueness was in his practice of Advaitha Vedantha and Bhakthi Yoga, Jnana Yoga, and Karma Yoga and he shunned religious orthodoxy. His teachings included both Hinduism and Islam. For example, Baba named the mosque that he lived Dwarakamayi, and he often said “Sab ka Malik Ek,” (One God governs All), and “Allah Malik”(God is King). Baba practiced an ascetic life and asked his followers to practice an ordinary family life. Important features in his teachings were: Shraddha (faith) and Saburi (patience) and performing one’s duties without attachment to materialistic things and being content irrespective of situations. Baba emphasized a moral code: love, forgiveness, charity, contentment, inner peace, and devotion to God and Guru. In the mosque, Baba maintained a sacred fire that he referred to as “dhuni,” from which came the custom of giving sacred ash “udhi” to visitors.
Baba gave utmost importance to charity and act of sharing, and he said, “If any men or creature come to you, do not discourteously drive them away, receive them well and treat them with respect. Sri Hari will be certainly pleased if you give water to the thirsty, bread to the hungry, clothes to the naked, and your verandah to strangers to sit and rest.”
Baba’s 11 Assurances to Devotees