When he was an unknown fakir he was practically ignored and treated by most of the villagers as of no account. Suddenly one day an incident occurred which brought a thorough change in the situation.
He always had his Mosque, wherein he lived, lit up with three or four -earthen lamps, according to the view common to both Hindus and Muslims that places of worship should be lit up at night.
So, he went round begging for oil from the Vanis or, oil mongers. There were only two such shops and they supplied him with oil, gratis. The oil pressman also supplied him with oil. One day it struck these people that either they should make Baba realise their importance or should have some fun at his expense and they told him mockingly that they had no oil.
Baba had to return to his mosque with his oil tin pot empty. It was already dusk. The vanis and ganamdar came behind him to see what he was going to do in the darkness and thereby to have some fun.
Baba took some water from the water jar and shaking up the little bit of oil sticking to the tin, drank it up. Then he too pure, aqua from the water pot and filled his four earthern lamps with it. He placed in each of them a cotton wick and struck up a match and lighted it. The spectators thought at first that cotton soaked in water could not possibly be lit up. But to their great surprise, the lamps were lit up and went on burning the whole night.
After a little time, consternation seized the guilty vanis and ganamdar, and being terribly afraid that Baba, having shown himself to be a man of mystic power, might curse them just as Viswamitra cursed Rambha and Konkanava killed a crane with a glance, fell at his feet and prayed that he should not curse them.
Baba was the exact opposite of what they thought. He was not a magician resenting contempt and anxious to seize an advantage. On the other hand, Baba was more like the Bhikshu Monk in Bhikshugita and had a true motherly heart, and noted that these men now repenting were in the proper mood to receive instruction to alter their conduct, and he gave them wholesome advice which was what they needed most.
First he asked them, ‘You really had oil with you when you said you had none, eh?’
They admitted that they had uttered falsehood. Then Baba told them never to utter falsehood. Falsehood displeases the God of truth. There was, therefore, no necessity for Baba to curse them.
Next he pointed out to them how unsocial and wicked their conduct was. The lights were needed for the use of all who visited the mosque and the public would be inconvenienced if there were no lights. He asked them if they had not come to the Mosque to enjoy the pain which they expected him to endure while remaining in darkness. They admitted the fact.
He then pointed out that persons who took delight in others’ miseries instead of sympathising with them would be punished by God. God is mother to all and loves all equally. If you hurt a child and tell the mother that you have hurt the child, will the mother be pleased? Thus they had displeased God by coming to rejoice in his miserable plight or supposed miserable plight in the absence of lamp oil.
He asked them never again to take pleasure in other’s distress, or in the words of W.W. Wordsworth “never to blend our pleasure or our pride with sorrow of the meanest thing that feels“.
They promised. Thus, after giving them excellent pieces of advice, so badly needed by them and by many people now, he dismissed them from his presence. The effect of this incident was marvellous.
source: Life of Sai-Baba by B.V. narasimha swami