Sai Baba of Shirdi, also known as Shirdi Sai Baba , was an Indian spiritual master who is regarded by his devotees as a saint, a fakir, a satguru and an incarnation (avatar) of Lord Shiva. He is revered by both his Hindu and Muslim devotees during, as well as after his lifetime.
According to accounts from his life, he preached the importance of realization of the self, and criticized love towards perishable things. His teachings concentrate on a moral code of love, forgiveness, helping others, charity, contentment, inner peace, and devotion to the God and guru. He stressed the importance of surrender to the true Satguru, who, having trod the path to divine consciousness, will lead the disciple through the jungle of spiritual training.
Shirdi Sai Baba also condemned distinction based on religion or caste. It remains unclear if he was a Muslim or a Hindu. This, however, was of no consequence to Sai Baba. His teaching combined elements of Hinduism and Islam: he gave the Hindu name Dwarakamayi to the mosque in which he lived, practised both Hindu and Muslim rituals, taught using words and figures that drew from both traditions, and took samadhi in Shirdi. One of his well-known epigrams, Allah Malik (God is King) and Sabka Malik Ek (One God governs all), is associated with both Hinduism and Islam. He is also known to have said Look to me, and I shall look to you.
Sai Baba’s date of birth including his birthplace remains unknown and is debatable due to lack of evidence and no definitive information exists to prove it. Sai Baba’s real name remains unknown. The name ‘Sai’ was given to him by Mhalsapati when he arrived at Shirdi, a town now in the west Indian state of Maharashtra. The word ‘Sai’ refers to a religious mendicant but can also mean ‘God’. In several Indian and Middle Eastern languages the term ‘Baba’ is an honorific signifying grandfather, father, old man or sir. Thus Sai Baba denotes holy father, saintly father or (venerable) poor old man.
Some of Shirdi Sai Baba ‘s disciples became famous as spiritual figures and saints, such as Mhalsapati, a priest of the Khandoba temple in Shirdi, and Upasni Maharaj. He was revered by other saints as well, such as Saint Bidkar Maharaj, Saint Gangagir, Saint Janakidas Maharaj, and Sati Godavari Mataji. Sai Baba referred to several saints as ‘my brothers’, especially the disciples of Swami Samartha of Akkalkot.