Howsoever I desist from introducing Shirdi Sai Baba, the Spiritual Master, in a language full of oriental hyperbole, it taxes my vocabulary when I attempt to write on Him. It is easy to overstate His miracles, as has generally been the practice, but difficult to relate His magnificence and hyperkinetic influence on people over the past few decades
– Dr Chandra Bhanu Satpathy
Shri Shirdi Sai Baba was first seen in Shirdi as a youth in his teens, in the second half of the 19th century. The exact date and place of birth, family name and parentage of Baba are still shrouded in mystery. He was a Hindu or a Muslim is still not clear, because Baba never encouraged questions on such issues. He sported a moustache and beard, donned a long robe and head gear like some of the Sufis, and yet had a perforation in the ears like the Hindus. He spoke in Urdu, Hindi, Marathi and some South Indian languages. He participated in Hindu and Muslim festivals. His approach in short, was universal and humanitarian.
By the fifteenth of October 1918, when Shirdi Sai completed His earthly sojourn, Shirdi had turned from an insignificant village of Maharashtra into a spiritual haven, teeming with devotees, spiritual seekers, mendicants of different religions, celebrities like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, curious onlookers, government officials, psalm and hymn singers, rural acrobats, British government officials and spies, traders and even beggars. Shirdi Sai Baba the Sadguru to the Hindus and a Fakir (dervish) to the Muslims, was the axis (the word axis is like the word Qutab in Sufi parlance and usually refers to Sufi saints) around which the life of His devotees revolved. Many people, who have recorded their encounter with Shirdi Sai Baba in books and personal diaries, are unequivocal in their opinion – they were captivated by His divine charm and overcome by His compassion. He was the divine protector of all those who visited Him, having accepted Him as their spiritual guide. To Sai Baba, differentiation in fate and pedigree of the devotees made no difference. Visitors were at a loss to decide if His divine personality, full of miracles or His humaneness, full of compassion, was the more imposing, as He simultaneously displayed a surfeit of both.
As spiritual rebels of their time, the Masters broke all barriers including those imposed by caste and class. The Perfect Masters are spiritual rebels who want to bring a change in society through peaceful means that would make life simpler.
Why are the devotees attracted to Shri Sai, so intensely? Why do they accept Him as an essential part of their existence? The devotees, born after the Samadhi of Baba, have only read about Him, visited Shirdi, prayed at His tomb and some other places related to Him. Yet, to them Baba truly exists and helps them in many ways. They get from Him a lot of solace, courage and help, at times unexpectedly, almost bordering on miracle.
The word for God in Sanskrit is Brahma. Etymologically, the word Brahma means ‘that which expands automatically’. Any place or any person who is imbued with divine power will automatically attract devotees and visitors from near and far. Anyone meeting such a person will be automatically drawn towards Him, remain attached with Him till his end and would attribute divinity to Him. This is the reflection of the divinity in Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi. Such a powerful spiritual personality rarely advents on earth and, as some believe, only once in a seven hundred year cycle of time does such a power incarnate on earth and becomes the Master of the Age, as ordained by God. During that age or period, He is responsible for the spiritual evolution of all human beings on earth. Since He acts as the agent of God during that period of time, His spiritual personality looms large. As the present century advances, the whole world and humanity will experience the influence of this old Fakir.
The Muslim influence was weakening and the use of the Urdu language was gradually declining, and at the same time, Christianity and the English language was gaining prominence due to the introduction of British rule in india. Within this unsettled confluence, Hinduism was confronted with the dilemma of protecting its identity. Against this background, only a spiritual Master like Sai Baba of Shirdi could have the courage to bring these disparate groups together, in one place, and treat everyone equally
One day at Shirdi, Baba, in a state of spiritual ecstasy, had revealed, ‘Main guli guli mein rahene wala hun’, He uttered it in rustic Marathi language, which means ‘I shall be there in every lane’. Today, if one visits even Delhi the capital of India, one will be surprised to see Baba’s statues not only in temples, but under trees and every nook and corner. This is the Sai Age, which has made its advent with full glory.