In 1917, Baba once called Abdul Baba, Nana Chandorkar, Mhalsapathi, Das Ganu and others and started asking each of them: "Do you know who you are?" Each of them replied: "I am your sishya (disciple)." Baba said: "Nonsense! Don't use that term any longer. I have no disciples in this world. I have countless devotees. You do not recognise the distinction between a disciple and a devotee. Anyone can be a devotee. But that is not the case with the disciple. A disciple is one who carries out implicitly the commands of the guru (the preceptor). The mark of the sishya is total devotion to the preceptor. Only the man who says, ‘I have none in the world other than the preceptor,' is a disciple. How far have you respected My injunctions? How are you entitled to claim that you are My disciples? Only the one who follows Me like My shadow can claim to be My disciple. The devotee is one who prays to the Lord wherever he may be. Hence, there is a big difference between a disciple and a devotee. The disciple and the preceptor are like two bodies with one spirit. The disciple should have no sense of separateness from the preceptor. He should feel, ‘I and you are one.' There are no such disciples to be found in the world. There are millions of devotees, but no disciples."
On hearing this, Shyam was in deep pain. He felt within himself: "Apart from serving at Your Feet, I have no other concern." Baba then went into another room and called Shyam inside. "In this entire world, for Me you are the only disciple. All others are only devotees." At that moment, Shyam fell at the Feet of Baba, and cried out, "You alone, You alone" (are my refuge) and breathed his last.
In all his life of over 82 years, Baba had never shed a tear in the presence of devotees. When Shyam passed away He shed three drops of tears. The devotees present there said: "Swami! Why do You feel so grieved? All are in Your hands." Baba replied: "Dear boys! I am not grieving at all. Almost all his sins had been wiped out already. By the three tear drops I shed, the remaining sins (of Shyam) have been washed away."
All that Baba said or did was for the good of the devotees alone.
Towards the end, Abdul Baba came to Baba. Baba told him: "I shall appear again and give you darshan." "When will that be?" asked Abdul. Baba told him: "It will be after eight years."
"The first advent of Sai was in Maharashtra. The second advent will be in Madras," Baba said. It should be noted that when this form (Sathya Sai) made its advent, Andhra Pradesh was part of Madras Presidency.