Sai Baba is the most revered saints to have lived in the recent history of India. He lived in the 19th century in a small and sleepy town called Shirdi located in Maharashtra. He preached the significance of realization of the self and denounced greed and love for material and perishable things. Baba’s preachings to love, care for and help every living being, and of forgiveness, and not harbouring feelings of hate, as well as of surrendering to the true Satguru who will guide the devotee through the material and perishable world to attain divine consciousness.
Sai Baba did not practice any religion and condemned discrimination based on religion, caste and creed. It is not known if he was a Muslim or a Hindu. He lived an ambiguous life and never identified himself with any of the religions. He would not clearly answer questions asked about himself and would in fact get angry when asked. Baba encouraged people to adopt the combined teachings of both the religion. Baba himself practiced the rituals of both the religions. He lived in a mosque which he had named ‘Dawrakamayi’. Sai Baba Samadhi Mandir in Shirdi is visited by hordes of devotees from all religions. His millions of disciples, who are not confined to a single community or religion, simply see a divine guru in Baba who leads them on the right path.
Sai Baba lived in Shirdi under a Neem tree for many years. He would meditate under this neem tree sitting motionless in asana for long hours. He was later persuaded by people to reside in a mosque (Dwarkamayi). Baba lived a solitary life of a fakir. In the mosque, he would meditate and maintain a sacred fire called dhuni. Baba would use the sacred ash of dhuni to cure people of their sickness. Even today the temples of Sai Baba maintain an eternal fire, which people deeply revere and take its ash along with them. Throughout his life Baba helped the needy, forgave even those who were once hostile towards him, cured people of their sickness, changed many lives with his teachings and set people on the right path and led them to believe in and surrender to the guru. His actions, knowledge and miracles he performed made him a highly revered saint among people.
Sai Baba’s teachings encouraged people to believe in one God (sabka malik ek). He asked people to chant God’s name, read holy books and practice good and moral code of conduct. Baba promoted the message of God and interpreted the meaning of what the holy scriptures of Qur’an, Ramayana, and Bhagvad Gita stated. He was particularly impressed by the philosophy of Bhagvad Gita. He asked people to live morally, love and respect others, denounce discrimination based on religion, cast and creed, and encouraged charity and sharing. He gave the message of unity, living in harmony and of respect. Sai Baba particularly stressed on developing two important traits in oneself – Shraddha (faith) and Saburi (patience). These were so important to Baba that every Sai Baba temple displays these two words on either side of Baba’s statue.