Teachings and practices
Sai Baba opposed all persecution based on religion or caste. He was an opponent of religious orthodoxy – Christian, Hindu and Muslim. Although Sai Baba himself led the life of an ascetic, he advised his followers to lead an ordinary family life.
Shirdi Sai Baba, leaning against the wall of his masjid, with devotees
In his personal practice, Sai Baba observed worship procedures belonging to Hinduism and Islam; he shunned any kind of regular rituals but allowed the practice of namaz, chanting of Al-Fatiha, and Qur’an readings at Muslim festival times. Occasionally reciting the Al-Fatiha himself, Baba also enjoyed listening to moulu and qawwali accompanied with the tabla and sarangi twice daily.
Sai Baba encouraged his devotees to pray, chant God’s name, and read holy scriptures. He told Muslims to study the Qur’an, and Hindus to study texts such as the Ramayana, Bhagavad Gita, and Yoga Vasistha. He advised his devotees and followers to lead a moral life, help others, love every living being without any discrimination, and develop two important features of character: faith (Shraddha) and patience (Sabr). He criticized atheism. In his teachings, Sai Baba emphasized the importance of performing one’s duties without attachment to earthly matters, and of being content regardless of the situation.
Sai Baba interpreted the religious texts of both Islam and Hinduism. He explained the meaning of the Hindu scriptures in the spirit of Advaita Vedanta. His philosophy also had numerous elements of bhakti. The three main Hindu spiritual paths – Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, and Karma Yoga – influenced his teachings.
Sai Baba said that God penetrates every thing and every being. He emphasized the complete oneness of God which was very close to the Islamic tawhid and the Hindu doctrine of the Upanishads. Sai Baba said that the world is transient, and that only God and his gifts are eternal. He emphasized the importance of devotion to God – bhakti – and surrender to his will. He also talked about the need of faith and devotion to one’s spiritual guru. He said that everyone was the soul and not the body. He advised his followers to develop a virtuous character, and taught them that all fate was determined by karma.
Sai Baba left no written works. His teachings were typically short, pithy sayings rather than elaborate discourses. Sai Baba would ask his followers for money (dakshina), some of which he would give to the poor and other devotees the same day, and the rest was used to buy wood to maintain Dhuni. According to his followers, this was done to rid them of greed and material attachment.
Sai Baba encouraged charity, and stressed the importance of sharing. 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 certainly be 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 favorite sayings of his were: “Why do you fear when I am here”, and “He has no beginning… He has no end.”
Sai Baba made twelve assurances to his devotees:
- Whosoever puts their feet on Shirdi soil, their sufferings will come to an end.
- The wretched and miserable will rise to joy and happiness as soon as they climb the steps of the mosque Dwarakamayi.
- I shall be ever active and vigorous even after leaving this earthly body.
- My tomb shall bless and speak to the needs of my devotees.
- I shall be active and vigorous even from my tomb.
- My mortal remains will speak from my tomb.
- I am ever living to help and guide all who come to me, who surrender to me, and who seek refuge in me.
- If you look at me, I look at you.
- If you cast your burden on me, I shall surely bear it.
- If you seek my advice and help, it shall be given to you at once.
- There shall be no want in the house of my devotee.
- If you take a step towards me, I will take 100 steps towards you
How much these notes are true?
Worship and devotees
Main article: Shirdi Sai Baba movement
The Shirdi Sai Baba movement began in the 19th century, while he was living in Shirdi. A local Khandoba priest – Mhalsapati Nagre – is believed to have been his first devotee. In the 19th century Sai Baba’s followers were only a small group of Shirdi inhabitants and a few people from other parts of India. The movement started developing in the 20th century, with Sai Baba’s message reaching the whole of India. During his life, Hindus worshiped him with Hindu rituals and Muslims considered him to be a saint. In the last years of Sai Baba’s life, Christians and Zoroastrians started joining the Shirdi Sai Baba movement.
Shirdi is among the major Hindu places of pilgrimage. The first Sai Baba temple is situated at Bhivpuri, Karjat. The Sai Baba Mandir (Hindu temple) in Shirdi is visited by around twenty thousand pilgrims a day and during religious festivals this number can reach up to a hundred thousand. Shirdi Sai Baba is especially revered and worshiped in the states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, and Gujarat.
The Shirdi Sai movement has spread to the Caribbean and to countries such as the United States, Australia, Malaysia, and Singapore. The Shirdi Sai Baba movement is one of the main Hindu religious movements in English-speaking countries.
Sai Baba had many disciples and devotees:
- Nana Saheb Chandorkar: Deputy Collector – legend has it that Sai Baba saved this man’s daughter from labor complications.
- Ganapath Rao: police constable who resigned to become an ascetic,and also known as DasGanu, He was an itinerant who spread Sai Baba’s message.
- Tatya Patil: had immense faith in Sai Baba and served him until Sai Baba took samadhi. He is also known to be Sai Baba’s younger brother.
- Baija Mai kote patil: Sai Baba treated her as his mother.She was Tatya Patil’s mother.
- Haji Abdul baba: He served Sai Baba until Sai Baba died in 1918.
- Madhav Rao Deshpande: Later known as Shama, one of the staunch devotees of Sai Baba.
- Govindrao Raghunath Dabholkar (Hemadpant): Sai Baba allowed him to write the Shri Sai Satcharita.
- Mahalsapati Chimanji Nagare : A priest of Khandoba Temple.
- RadhaKrishna Mai: A great devotee of Baba, cleaned the temple every day and looked after Baba’s needs.
108 Shirdi Sai Baba Slogans (mantras) are sung by devotees in praise of him as worship.