These teachings were always given by A Guru who gave more than what can even be grasped in writing this is an interpretation and with any interpretation there is always going to be personal opinions.
When you read through let resonate deep within in you ,what you know to be true and anything that does not resonate let it go
Sri Bhagavan Dattatreya is worshipped as a benevolent Hindu deity rather than a teacher of highest essence. A practically unknown guru, he is regarded as an avatar of Lord Shiva by the Shivites.
The Vaishnavites claim him to be an avatar of Vishnu.
These individual claims sink into the oblivion as the Absolute takes His various manifestations and Dattatreya evolves as a great guru for all times.
Datta taught by the way he lived. He was the maha-yogi of all yogis.
Lord Dattatreya is symbolically depicted with three heads each representing Brahma Tatwa, Vishnu Tatwa and Shiva Tatwa.
The All powerful creative cause is Brahma, sustaining energy is Vishnu and annihilating energy is Shiva. Srishti, Sthithi and Laya energies are three heads.
He is shown with six hands,
In his hands He holds a damaru - a drum;
a chakra - discus like weapon;
the shankha - conch shell;
a japa-mala or rosary;
kamandala or water vessel and a trisula or trident.
The rotating discus -chakra is a round circle with no beginning and no end.
Like the universe, it too is constantly moving, always in a flux. He uses this chakra to destroy all kinds of karmic bonds of His devotees.
With the japa-mala he holds a rosary with which He counts His devotees, liberating them by merely thinking of their name.
The kamandala holds the nectar of pure wisdom.
With this He revives the souls thirsty for knowledge, liberating them from the endless cycle of life and death.
The trident is used for killing the ego.
The drum is used to awaken those souls who are still sleeping in the slumber of ignorance.
The conch shell is used to sound the the pranava ‘OM’ the primordial sound and the first word of the Hindu scriptures.
The conch is also symbolical of the attributes of the Trimurthi and the sound it emanates as composition of AUM: Akara - the Creator/Initiator, Brahma; Ukara -Sustainer/Protector, Vishnu; Makara - Destroyer/Terminator, Maheswara.
In combination with the conch of the Lord, they sound as the eternal Omkara –Datta. In Sanskrit, "Datta" means gift, hence, Omkara is the eternal gift of God to all.
The four dogs of Dattatreya are representations and embodiments of the four Vedas.
They follow the Lord as "hounds of heaven, watchdogs of the ultimate Truth". They help the Lord in "hunting" and finding pure souls, wherever they may be born.
Lord Dattatreya is depicted with the cow named Kamadhenu. This divine cow grants the wishes and desires of all those who seek the Lord. She grants all material and spiritual wishes of His devotees.
He stands in front of the Audumbara tree.
This is the celestial wish -yielding tree.
It fulfills the wishes of those who prostrate before it.
Audumbara is the bearer of nectar.
Dattetraya went in search of the Absolute at an early age. It is said that he spent a major part of his youth wandering the hills of North Mysore through Maharashtra into Guajarat and as far as the holy Narmada River. Scriptures say that he meditated on Gandhmadana Mountains and that he attained realisation near Gangapur. It is speculated Datta has a 4000 years history although his birth and death dates are unknown.
He is said to have been born on a Wednesday, the 14th day of the full moon in the month of Margashirsha.
Datta does not give much importance to caste distinction, in fact his teachings denied the importance attached to the caste system in spiritual life.
He was of the period when Veda and Tantra merged to be a single cult.
It was a period when most renouncers were stark or near-naked; condition of ‘digambara’. Digambarameans ‘clothed in the sky’ or ‘sky as the garment’ symbolizing that the sadhu is one with his environment. Nudity has its own place in Hinduism and a regular part of sadhus’ life. One may take the view that it is an expression of going before God completely impoverished as a primordial state child. Shiva-Shakti depictions of nakedness might have served as a pattern of life for renouncers who desired one-ness to undertake the best possible discipline.
Datta is also known as Avadhoot meaning one who has shaken off all worldly desires. The way of life of nature was the highest ideal in Shiva-Shakti pantheon despite the sprouting of civilization and artificial life.
The ascetics were beyond these and practiced Brahma-vidya. While they understood that knowledge pointed to realization, it alone could not reach the ultimate goal. Before the soul could be free, the mind must be made free and the body had to be free before the mind became free. Physical developments were essential to the extent it helped overcome past conditioning of the mind.
His basic teachings were that nature is a cosmic teacher and by observing nature one gets enlightened. Dattatreya is depicted with a natural surroundings of birds, animals and the five elements rich with life. He is approached more as a benevolent god than as a teacher of the highest essence of Indian thought.
Dattatreya is credited as the author of the Tripura Rahasya given to Parasurama, a treatise. This is a treatise on Advaita Vedanta. Datta, most probably adjusted to meet the needs and understanding of the disciples. Taking the case of Parashuram, a Brahmin who became a disciple of Dattatreya, he was first initiated into the rituals for the worship of the Mother Goddess Shakti in her Tripura form as destroyer of the three cities or Gunas.
Over time, Parashuram developed to understand the higher teachings which were gradually infused. Datta given no significance for caste seems to have meant that realization and liberation was not a property of a select minority but as a supreme attainment and perceived as a continuous process. His methods exposed the need for a guru. Datta emphasized ‘prathiba’, ‘sahaja’ and ‘samsara’ to a considerable extent in his teachings as was in the Tantrik or non-Vedic agamas.
Datta emphasised on ‘prathiba’ in his Avadhuta Gita. ‘Prathiba’ Prathiba’ means vision, insight, intuition, inner understanding, unconditioned knowledge, inner wisdom, awareness, awakening.
This is not to be confused with enlightenment or realisation.
It is then the insight illumination which is the open gateway to the final goal. It is the inner transformation which enables the aspirant to distinguish Reality from the sham. In some way it can be visualised as a bridge between the mind and the Real Self. In Yoga Aphorisms or Sutras, Patanjali expresses ‘pratibha’ as the spiritual illumination which is attained through yoga discipline to enable the disciple to know all else. The frequent use of this word in Avadhuta Gita is intended to show that insight-illumination is necessary to clear and pave the way to understand worldly puzzles and complicated ideas.
Sahaja simply means natural. It not only implies natural on physical and spiritual levels, but on the mystic level of the miraculous. It means that easy or natural state of living without planning, design, contriving, seeking, wanting, striving or intention. It is that nature which, when once established, brings the state of absolute freedom and peace. Sahaja is a natural state which balances reality between the pairs of opposites and maintains harmony of the Cosmos. Thus ‘sahaja’ expresses one who has reverted to his natural state, free from conditioning. It typifies the outlook which belongs to the natural, spontaneous and uninhibited man, free from innate or inherited defects. As such even nakedness of the sadhus is considered to be ‘sahaja’. By his own demeanor Datta shows man’s instinct for naturalness and primordial perfection not only of the physical and spiritual level but at the mystical level. A parallel is made to plants and trees which do not grow according ‘svadharma’ or rules and obligations incurred at birth. Nature only has ‘svabhava’ meaning its own inborn self or essence as its guidance. In other words ‘what is to come must come of itself’ to manifest in a state of absolute freedom. Taoism speaks of ‘sahaja’ as a highest virtue – the loss of the peculiar naturalness or unselfconsciousness. One finds this state in an innocent child which is always in its ‘sahaja’ state unless interfered to by society. In his semi-naked state Datta was just as unconscious of others nakedness as he was of his own. “The person who has conquered the baser self and has reached to the level of self mastery: he is at peace, whether it be in cold or hot, pleasure or pain, honoured or dishonoured" – Bhagavad Gita.
It is said that one would only comprehend the Avadhuta Gita after understanding the word ‘samsara’. It is also found in the Upanishads and Tantra scriptures where the sages used the word to mean ‘higher truths’. What is ‘higher truth?’ It means the essential unity of all things -- of all existence, the equipoise of equanimity, the supreme bliss of harmony, that which is aesthetically balanced, undifferentiated unity, absolute assimilation, the most perfect unification and the highest consummation of Oneness.
To Dattatreya it meant a stage of realisation of the Absolute Truth where there was no longer any distinction to be felt, seen or experienced between the seeker and the Sought. ‘Samsara’ is explained by Gorakhnath who authored the Nathas texts as a state of absolute freedom, peace and attainment in the realisation of the Absolute Truth. He placed it on a higher level than samadhi. Thus ‘samarasa’ implies the joy and happiness with perfect equanimity and tranquility, maintained after the Samadhi state and continued in the waking or conscious state; a form of permanent ecstasy and contemplation which the saint maintains at all times. Datta practiced ‘samsara’ as a matter of adjusting himself to the complications of the outside word. He saw himself in the world and a world in himself.
Dattatreya encompasses Trimurthi, the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. ‘Datta’ is translated as ‘meaning given to’ and ‘Atreya’ refers to the sage Atri, the physical father. Atri was himself a legendary bard and scholar and one of the nine Prajapatis and a son of Brahma. Datta is called so because the divine trinity have "given" themselves in the form of a son to the sage couple Atri and Anasuya. He is the son of Atri, hence the name "Atreya." Dattatreya has large number of worshipers and each sect worship him differently. In the Shivite Nath tradition he is considered to be the incarnation of Shiva and as the First Teacher or Adi Guru. Among the Vaishnavite tradition he was adapted and assimilated into devotional bakthi despite his early standing as the Lord of Yoga and its distinct tantric traits.
TWENTY FOUR GURUS
The Srimad Bhagavatam outlines the story of Dattatreya and His twenty four gurus. One day King Yadu saw Lord Dattatreya in pleasant mood. The king saw him from inside and was impressed by his dignified bearing and supernatural brightness about his face. He saw Dattatreya as quite capable, energetic and wise. Dattatreya neither had kith and kin nor even a family. But he was so blissful and self-contented.Yadu was himself on a spiritual journey and enquired why the Avadhoot lived in the forest, free from all desires?
Much as he would have liked to please the king, he could not help revealing the truth that he had had more than one teacher, and that most of his teachers were not human beings. The Avadhoot replied, "My bliss and contentment are the fruits of self-realization. I have gained the necessary wisdom from the whole creation, through twenty-four Gurus. I shall elaborate the same for you". Shri Dattatreya had twenty-four teachers from nature "many are my preceptors," he told King Yadu, "selected by my keen sense, from whom acquiring wisdom freely, I wander in the world…."
On hearing that the boy had twenty-four teachers and that most of them were either animals or birds. the king thought that the boy was playing a joke upon him. Dattatreya assured the king that “he really meant what he said and came forth with the names of all his twenty-four teachers. The list he presented to the king was as follows : 1) Land 2) Water 3) Fire 4) Air 5) Sky 6) Moon 7) Sun 8 )Pigeon 9) Python 10) Sea 11) Fire-fly 12) Butter-fly 13) Bee 14) Elephant 15) Stag 16) Fish 17) Prostitute 18) Kuru bird 19) Child 20) Maiden 21) Snake 22) Artisan 23) Spider 24) Bhringi bird. Dattatreya
Dattatreya assured the king that “he really meant what he said and came forth with the names of all his twenty-four teachers and proceeded to explain to the king the peculiar circumstances under which each teacher had been chosen.
1.Be Tolerant-like the Land – Earth
All creatures, in accordance with their previous prabthakarma or fruits of action assume different their different physical forms. They live on earth and continue with their actions; they plough, dig and tread the earth. The break and burn trees and plants. They light fires on the earth. Despite all these actions by man, the earth does not swerve from its course even by a hair’s breadth. Mother earth does not get angry or excited. It still feeds and houses all creatures. It still continues to produce fruits, roots, water and diamonds. Mother Earth together with its mountains and rivers, taught him benevolence and fore bearing and that the wise one should never swerve from his vow of patience, love and righteousness under any circumstances and one should dedicate his life for the welfare of living beings. Thus Dattatreya made Mother Earth along with its mountains and rivers his first guru.
2. Water: Water is my twenty fourth Guru. It quenches the thirst of every creature, sustains innumerable trees and all creatures. While it thus serves all living beings, it is never proud of itself. On the other hand, it humbly seeks the lowliest of places. The sage too should likewise bestow health, peace and joy to every creature that resorts to him. Yet he should ever live as the humblest of God’s creation.With such humility and devotion, I looked upon the whole of God’s creation as my teacher, gathered up wisdom and, through patient effort I realized my goal of spiritual enlightenment.
3. Keep nothing for the Morrow-like the Fire
His fourth teacher is the element of fire. Fire burns everything, keeping nothing for the morrow. It is engaged in the present activity and was the least concerned about the future. Sometimes, it manifests itself as blazing flames; sometimes as smoldering embers, covered by ash and is always present in all objects as latent heat. Agni, The God of Fire accepts the offering of everyone, irrespective of his moral worth and burns down his sins; and it still remains the ever-pure divinity as the fire-god; he is untainted by the sins of such devotees.From this Dattatreya learnt how not to bother about the future. A sage of perfect realization should accept food of everyone, burn down his sins and bless the giver. Though fire has no specific form of its own, when it is associated with fuel that burns, it assumes such apparent forms. So too, the true Self, though formless in itself, appears in the forms of deities, human beings, animals and trees when it is associated with the respective physical structures.The origins and the end of all forms in the universe is a mystery. There is only an origin and an end during which there is an interim manifestation. This source and end is the true Self, which is eternal, unchanging, unmanifest and omnipresent. Similarly the nature of the element of fire is such. It transforms the various things it consumes into the same ash. So too, the wisdom of self-realization rejects the manifest forms and properties of things as illusion and realizes their one original essence as itself. Thus the element of fire was his fourth guru.
4. Be on the Move-Like the Air
He found that air never stayed in any one place, and it always kept moving. He observed that air is pure and odorless in itself. It does not discriminate between sweet and foul-smelling things. It does not prefer one for the other. Not having any such preference, it momentarily seems to take on the smell of its surroundings. This is a temporary phenomenon as moments later, it reveals its pristine quality. This had a teaching for spiritual aspirants in that they should live in the world, unaffected by the dualities of life like joy and sorrow and by the objects of the senses. One should keep his heart’s feeling and his speech unpolluted by vain objects. Similarly Dattatreya too always liked to be on the move, never slaying at any one place for a length of time, so that no bonds of attachment could be formed. Attachment resulted in a seeker dropping an anchor and ceasing to proceed further on the spiritual path. Thus it was a great obstacle to progress. These lessons came about by observing air and he made it his second guru.
5. Be detached-like the Sky
As Dattatreya moved from one place to another, he was still under the blue sky. There was a great lesson in this as the sky was with the earth, but at the same time it was never a part of the earth. He said the soul is also like the sky, which is omnipresent. He noticed that sometimes the sky or space gets thickly overcast, or filled with dust or smoke.
It apparently takes on different colors during the day and the night. But in its original color is a colorless self. Nothing touches or stains it. From this I learned that the Spirit was very necessary for the functioning of the Body-Mind complex. But the Spirit was all the while a little apart from the latter. Like the sky in relation to the earth, the Spirit was with the body, but never of the body. A true sage should remain ever pure like the sky or space, untouched or unaffected by anything in the phenomenal universe in time, including his own physical processes. His inner being is totally free from emotional reaction to things and events even like the space. This attitude-of being disinterested and not being involved with the immediate led the sky or space as his third guru.
6. Remain in one condition like the Moon:
The cool and composed nature of the moon did not escape the notice of Dattatreya.Of all things in nature, the moon is unique. It appears to wax and wane during the bright and dark fortnights. The moon was always in one condition; it never became big or small, though the shadow of the earth often showed it up in varying sizes. In fact, the lunar globe never remains the same.
Similarly, the events of life cast their own shadows, but the Spirit remained the same,-always full, always calm and unperturbed. In this, it is like the self of the man. While a man appears to pass through the stages of infancy, boyhood, youth, maturity and old age, his real self remains unchanged. All changes pertain only to body and not to the self. Again, the moon only reflects the light of the sun, but has no such of its own. So too, the soul or mind of man is only a reflection of the light of awareness of the real Self. Having learned this valuable lesson and truth, the moon became his sixteenth guru.
7. Give out to Others-like the Sun
From the seas the sun drew water and transformed it into clouds, which in due course poured as rain on the parched earth. Who could forget the life-giving light which came from the sun? Though the sun we see in our daily life is one, it appears as many when reflected by water in different vessels. The sun never keeps anything to oneself, and giving every- thing was the noble message of the sun.Similarly, the one real Self manifests itself as many selves of living creatures when reflected by their physical structures. As Sun illuminates the many forms in nature to our visions, the sage too illuminates the true nature of all things to his devotees. Dattatreya made it his life’s objective to spread all the knowledge he gathered and to keep no secrets for himself. His sole concern was that others should benefit from him. This was indeed a noble lesson from the Sun and Dattatreya considered it as his fifth guru.
8. Do not be Attached-like Pigeons
One day Dattatreya saw a baby pigeon caught in a net, which had been spread there by some hunter. The parents lived together on a tree. They bred their young and were bringing them up with deep affection and love. The ladybird, which returned from the forest with food for its young ones, saw their plight and, unable to leave them, she leapt in the snare to share their fate. Some birds on a bough nearby cried themselves hoarse, giving encouragement to their unfortunate relative to struggle hard and get free of the net. Shortly afterwards, the male pigeon turned up to see the horror. Being unable to bear the separation from its sweetheart, it too jumped in the snare and met its end.Those who had been encouraging, the first victim to try and get free of the net had themselves chosen to become prisoners and partners in distress. Reflecting on this, he asked himself why did the other birds follow the mother bird? Was it not attachment to a relative in distress which made the birds behave as they did he enquired. Dattatreya realized how, even after being born as an intelligent human being, man is caught in the coils of possessiveness and brings about his own spiritual destruction. The self, which is originally free, when associated with the body sense, gets identified with it, and thus gets caught in the endless cycle of birth, death and misery. Thus the pigeon was his sixth guru.
9. Do not be Bothered about Food-like the Python
One is often struck with terror at the sight of a python and would make for safety in no time. With Dattatreya, matters were different. He observed that the python is a sluggard, unwilling to move out briskly for its prey. In another words it never went in search of food but always lay in the same place. It lies in its lurch and devours whatever creature it comes within its coil. The catch would be sufficient to appease its hunger. Dattatreya found here a good lesson to be learnt. From that day he stopped bothering about food; he made it a habit to be satisfied with whatever food he got on any day. Helearnt that the man in search of wisdom should refrain from running after pleasures, and accept whatever he gets spontaneously with contentment. Like the python, one should shake off sleep and wakefulness and abide in a state of incessant meditation on the Self. Thus the python was his seventh teacher of wisdom.
10. Avoid changes-Like the Sea
Dattatreya stood one day on the seashore, viewing the blue spectacle spread before him.He contemplated the marvelous nature of the ocean and gained much wisdom. Did the sea ever change because so many rivers joined it? At a little distance from where he stood, a great river was flowing into the sea. Dattatreya asked himself. Any number of overflowing rivers may join it, yet the sea maintains its level. Nor does its level fall even by a hair’s breadth in summer, when all the rivers dry up. The answer was obvious. From the sea he wanted to imbibe the quality of keeping oneself in one condition, come what may. In a similar way, the joys of life do not elate the sage of wisdom. Sorrows do depress him. Just as the sea never crosses its threshold on the beach, the wise one never transgresses the highest standards of morality under the pull of passions. Like the sea, he is unconquerable and cannot be troubled by anything. Like the unfathomable ocean, his true nature and the depths of his wisdom cannot be easily comprehended by anyone. The ocean, which taught these was his eighth guru.
11.Do Not Be Enticed By Attraction of Beauty –
Moth or firefly
Dattatreya was one day while he was reading in the light of a lamp. Some fire-moths flew up to the flame and were burnt. Even after seeing this, more and more moths continued coming to the flame only to get burnt. He observed the temptation of the moth that destined their lives this way. Attraction for a thing of beauty caused changes and disturbances in the mind, even to the extent of malting it unaware of the consequences.So too, the unthinking man is enticed by the illusory pleasures of the senses and thus gets caught in the ceaseless cycles of birth and death. The wise one, on the other hand, when he catches even a glimpse of the fire of wisdom, leaves everything aside, leaps in it and burns down the illusion of being a limited self. Thus the moth was his ninth guru.
12.Gather a Little From Each Place-Like the Butterfly
The instance of fire-flies made Dattatreya aware of another variety of insects known for its movements among flowers-the butterfly. The butterfly always flits from flower to flower, never staying on any one flower for any length of time. It collects just a little honey from the flower-just as much as it can during its brief stay-and flits to another flower and so on.
The wandering seeker that he was, Dattatreya noted in this an important lesson. Like the butterfly he too wanted to collect a little food from a house-just what he needed to satisfy his hunger at one time- and not to remain in the same place for a second or a third meal. This way he became a burden to none, and besides he was able to preserve his sense of independence. He owed this lesson to the butterfly which he elevated to the rank of one of his teachers.
13. Do Not Hoard-Like Bees
Dattatreya observed the activities of bees and saw there was something valuable to learn from them. Honeybee wanders from flower to flower and, without hurting them in the least, draws honey. Dattatreya saw a man going up a tree and collecting from the top most branches a bee-hive well-stocked with honey. What the bees had been collecting for many days was lost in no time. The bees swarmed around the man but in the end they were losers. They had been laboring for a long time to collect honey and it was all gone in a second. What was the worth of any activity if it makes one miserable in the end? From this Dattatreya drew a lesson, that hoarding was the root cause of all misery. This applied to spiritual seekers. One remains peaceful so long as one has about enough for the time being. Once he begins to collect, he invites upon himself misery and sorrow. So too, a spiritual seeker should study all the Holy Scriptures but retain in his heart, only that which is essential for his spiritual practice. Such is the teaching I imbibed from his seventeenth guru, the honeybee.
14. Do Not Ignore the Pitfalls of Sex-Attraction- the Elephant
During his observation of bees, Dattatreya wondered of the queen-bee centred activities. She was the pivot for getting the males to work. The males in turn were attracted to her. He saw that the female species always attracted the male. This led to an enquiry on sexual attraction. At was during such times he saw some hunters digging a huge pit . They gave the pit a false covering and placed a stuffed cow elephant on top. While the hunters kept vigil from a distance, a male tusker approaches with fascination for the false female elephant. Within seconds it was in the pit and now the hunters were ready to take over. Its tusks would be removed soon by the hunters. Its blind rage and without a few seconds to spare on veracity of the female, it landed itself in trouble.
It always happens that even after a valuable lesson has been learnt from an incident, certain other details not necessarily relevant at the time also linger in the mind for some days. Human being are cunning but the unregenerate man is tempted by the opposite sex and gets bound by the fetters of infatuation. The seekers after liberation should learn to be free from lust. Pitfalls of sexual attraction are not to be ignored. The elephant was thus one of Dattatreya’s teachers.
****Footnote: to this particular teaching - Sex in its lower form causes a distraction but in its higher form in a committed relationship as a Sadhana it actually advances ones spirituality. I do not agree totally with this pitfall the above statement is only for a monk not for a person who is in the world and not of the world."
15. Do Not Be Swept off by Any Attraction like the Deer
Dattatreya observed that there were many attractions which paralyzed the senses momentarily, and pushed one down the slope. This knowledge came to Dattatreya through an incident in a thick forest. A musician was seen-so it seemed to Dattatreya at first-wasting his talent amidst the thick growth in the forest. There was no human in sight and it was obvious the musician was up to something. It is said that deers are very fond of music and that poachers employ it to lure them before hunting them. After a short while Dattatreya saw a deer emerge from out of the thick growth, and move straight to the source of the music, hypnotized as it was by the melody. The musician now ceased his performance and got hold of the stag and dragged it home. The lesson this incident conveyed was clear: Let no attraction have such hold on you as to make you lose your balance of mind. He learned that passions and sensual desires will soon bog down a spiritual aspirant who has a weakness for merely secular music, till he ultimately loses whatever spiritual progress he has achieved earlier. The deer that taught him this truth was his eighteenth guru.
16. Do Not Be tempted by Tasty Food- Like the Fish
Dattatreya observed that an attraction is a desire to satisfy the demand of a sense organ. He looked closely what attracts or creates a temptation and found that it boiled down to one thing – the sense organ is making a powerful demand for greater gratification. When a man yields to oneself misery and grief, one invites on oneself misery & grief, for the simple reason that Desire by its very nature can never be positive. In the present instance, Dattatreya saw some men on the river bank casting into the water bait for fish. Naturally the hooks had been concealed in tasty food-particles. The fish greedily swallows bait and is at once caught by the angle-hook. The attraction of the tasty food was irresistible to the fish and that precisely spelt their undoing. Instead of the fish feeding on the food particles, the man on the river bank were planning to feed on the fish. What lesson could be drawn from this incident? From this, he realized how man meets his destruction by his craving for delicious food.Dattatreya found in this an unforgettable lesson for day-to-day practice: Be satisfied with what you get for food, and never yield to the temptation of tasty food. When the palate is conquered, all else is conquered. So too, man should never loose sight of his true Self, but should ever have his being in it. Thus the fish became his twelfth guru.
17. Benefit from Dejection-Like the Prostitute (perhaps there is a better description this was written thousands of years previous)
Dattatreya considered dejection and attraction as two sides to a coin. In the present incident we find him exhorting us to profit from dejection. It was all about a prostitutecalled Pingala. She was standing at a door waiting for a lover who could be her client for the night. One day, she eagerly awaited a particular client in the hope that he would pay her amply. She waited and waited till late in the night. When he did not turn up, she was at last disillusioned. After some time she again came out to the door and waited there as before. Still nobody turned up and again she went inside the house. This was repeated throughout the night till day-break. Her night-long vigil had been in vain; despite her figure and her charms, no one had knocked at her door. At day-break a great feeling of dejection came over her. She was dejected with everything, she was dejected with herself. The whole night had slipped by, and she had been waiting and waiting. She did not know for whom she was waiting. She reflected how stupid she was in neglecting the divine spirit within. I foolishly awaited a debauchee who inspired lust and greed, she thought. Had she turned her mind towards God. What a world of difference would there have been ? Her eyes were opened now. Then and there she decided to change her ways and devote all her time to the worship of God. In due course she became a realized soul. Here was a prostitute who in fact profited from dejection. “Henceforth, I shall expend myself on the Self, unite with Him and win eternal joy” she decided. Through such repentance, she attained blessedness. Besides, reflecting on its obvious purport, he also realized that a spiritual aspirant should likewise reject the lure of lesser spiritual powers, which are mere by-products of sadhana (spiritual practice). Dattatreya learned that the temptation to secure things from other’s hands are the seeds of misery; that renunciation of these is the sole means of realizing infinite joy. Pingala the prostitute was the thirteenth guru.
18. Shun Wordly Goods-Like the Kuru Bird
Dattatreya questioned himself as what should be the attitude of a devoted soul to worldly possessions and how much worldly goods may he have. Here the Kuru bird, a bird of prey was his nineteenth guru. One day he saw a kuru bird carrying away a dead rat. Many other birds like crows and eagles attacked it, now kicking on its head and again pecking on its sides in their endeavor to knock off the prey. The other birds were fast closing in on the Kuru Bird and at one stage it appeared that the latter might be killed in the scramble for the piece of meat. The poor bird was thus very much pestered. At last, it wisely let its prey fall and all the other birds rushed after it. Immediately all the other birds left it alone and rushed to the place where the piece of meat had fallen. From this incident Dattatreya concluded that a seeker should never have any collection of worldly goods. Thus freeing itself from so much botheration, it sighed in relief. Dattatreya learned that a man who runs after worldly pleasures will soon come into clash with his fellow-beings who too run for the same, and has to face much strife and antagonism. If he learns to conquer his craving for worldly things, he can spare himself much unhappiness. I realized that this is the only way to the peace in the world. Even the most ordinary gifts of Nature like soothing sleep would be denied to an individual. In his case, life’s fitful fever would continue unabated, and the only rest such a person might have would be in the grave.
19. Be Satisfied with What You Get-Like the Child
Bodily needs are to be met by all, even by a seeker. Hunger is common to all; from a sinner to a saint all need food. The difference, however, is in the approach and attitude of the latter. To except whatever food he gets when he feels hungry is all that should concern a Seeker. He should not bother about food at other times. Dattatreya observed this in children. They are playful little boys and girls. Little boys and girls know neither honor nor dishonor. They do not nurse a grudge or a prejudice against anyone. They do not know what is their own, or what belongs to others. Their happiness springs from their own selves, their innate creativity and they do not need any external objects or conditions to be happy. Dattatreya saw the example of the child worth emulating. He realized that the sage of perfect enlightenment is also such. To reach God, it is said, one has to be child-like. One should start being child-like especially regarding food requirements. This was indeed a good lesson and Dattatreya made the child his fifteenth guru.
20. Alone- Like the Maiden’s Bangles
Dattatreya learned this lesson in a household scene. A Seeker should love to be alone most of the time: away from the crowd, away from the time. Away from the crowd, away from the din and bustle of life, unseen and alone in a quiet place. This is the proper setting for one who wishes to unravel the great truths of the universe. He made this observation during a family visits a maiden’s house, seeking her hand in marriage for their son. At that time, her mother was away from home. So it was left to the maiden herself to entertain the guests with refreshments. She went to the back room and started pounding food-grains with a pestle. Every time she pounded the paddy with the pole, the bangles in her hands caused a certain peculiar sound which naturally revealed to the guests the type of work she was engaged in. Her bangles were creating a problem for her. However gently she pound the paddy, the sound from the bangles was still there. She then had an idea. As a Hindu maiden, she is not expected to remove all the bangles on her hand at any time. So she kept two on each hand and removed all the rest. Even then, they were knocking against each other and were making noise. So she kept only one bangle on each hand this time and she could finish her task in quiet. Peacefully she continued her work. The conclusion from this was that one should be alone to acquire any peace and progress.
Reflecting on this, Dattatreya realized that when a number of spiritual seekers live together, a lot of unwanted gossip ensues and no spiritual practice can be pursued with a single-minded effort. There is less distraction and therefore concentration is better. When you are alone with the great Maker, real communion is possible between man and God.Only in solitude, a spiritual aspirant can carry his task. Knowing this truth, I henceforth resorted to solitude. Thus, a maiden happened to be his twentieth guru.
21.Own No House of Your Own- Like the Snake
Dattatreya thought of permanent abodes. Should he have a house of his own ? Or should he always be on the move ? He got this answer from a snake. He observed that a serpent never builds a dwelling for itself. It stays in any hole for a night, and the next day it moves to some other hole. When white ants have raised an anthill for themselves, the serpent eventually come to inhabit it. As is well-known, a serpent never prepares a hole for itself to live in. This is seen with worldly people who have to endure many hardships in raising houses for themselves, while a recluse monk does no such thing. Worldly men raise the monasteries and the monk lives in them; or, he leaves in old dilapidated temples, or underneath shady trees. The serpent molts, leaving off its old skin. An aspirant too, should follow the example of the snake regarding his stay. Never staying in one place for long, and not having a house of one’s own, is necessary to keep one above the perils of attachment to any one place. Without any possession, at the end of his life Yogi leaves his body deliberately and in full awareness of his own true self and is not frightened by the phenomenon of death. On the other hand, he casts off his old body as happily as he does his worn out clothes and dons new ones. Dattatreya made the serpent as one of his teachers for his lesson.
22. Cultivate the Power of Concentration- Like the Artisan
Dattatreya asked himself what precisely is meant by concentration of mind. Which leads one on to higher realms of spiritual experience ? How efficient and absorbed can a mind be which is not distracted? He observed an artisan making a bow and arrow. He was totally absorbed in molding a sharp arrow. He was so absorbed in his work that he forgot everything else. He grew so oblivious of all else that he did not even notice a royal pageant that passed by just a little earlier. After a little while one soldier came up to him and asked him whether an army had marched that way. The artisan raised his face, looked straight at the soldier for a few moments as if gathering himself up from his work, and at last replied: “I don’t know”. Soon he was back at work. It so happened that the army marched back again the same way in front of his place of work. This sight awakened Dattatreya to the truth that such single-minded, all-absorbing contemplation of the Self spontaneously eliminates all temptation for the trivial interests of the world. It is the sole secret of success in spiritual discipline. Dattatreya found in the artisan an exemplary instance of concentration of mind. To be so completely identified with one’s work as not to be aware of the marching of an army a few paces away-this is concentration at its best. This is the kind of concentration a Seeker should develop. With such concentration at his command, there is nothing which he cannot achieve, whether it is success in this world or salvation in the next. The artisan was included in the list of Dattatreya’s teachers because of his lesson. Thus the arrow-maker is his fourteenth guru.
23. Do Not Be Over-Ambitious- Like a Spider
Spider was his twenty second guru. Like all valuable possessions it invests one with a sense of power. But this power could be misled, and here precisely is the danger. One could become so ambitious and intoxicated with one’s own importance that one may overreach oneself, getting lost in one’s grandiose schemes and having no chance of either escape or redemption. It was while observing a spider that this truth was revealed to Dattatreya. The spider weaves its web from the thread in the form of a fluid. In time a large web was ready, and the spider was waiting in the centre for flies to be caught in the web. In the meantime, a hungry crow perched on a nearby bough and finding nothing else for its food, decided to make the spider its prey. When the crow swooped down the spider could not save itself, being too involved in the vast web. Thus the web which it had prepared for preying upon other insects or flies, itself became its death trap. Dattatreya saw in this a worthy lesson which should escape the notice of none. Let not a man’s ambitions be so far-fetched as to turn him into a prisoner in one’s own palace. The All-Pervading Supreme projects the whole creation out of itself. After sometime the Supreme withdraws it into itself at the time of dissolution. The human soul too, bears the senses and the mind within itself and, at its birth as a human being or any other living creature, it projects them out as the sense organs, organs of action and the whole body. In accordance with its latent tendencies, the creature thus born, gathers up all the means and objects needed for its living. At the end of its life’s duration, the soul again withdraws the senses, mind and acquired tendencies at the hour of death. The power of concentration should be used wisely in order to make one free of bondage: used carelessly it will make one a slave of one’s schemes, like the spider in the incident.
24.Share With Others- Like the Bhringi Bird
Dattatreya had gathered almost all the qualities needed for an aspirant on the Spiritual Path from his twenty three teachers. It appeared that to one practicing all the twenty-three virtues seen so far, success must come as though by right.
However Dattatreya was more than satisfied with what wisdom he had gathered as he was a born seeker and a great man indeed who had the humility to learn from such lowly creatures like insects, bees and birds. He travelled much, trudging the length and breadth of the land, seeing here, noting there and listening everywhere and all the while drawing lesson from situations he came across after carefully analyzing them.
This great man who lived to learn, found now something to benefit by from a bird called the Bhringi. What could the Bhringi bird teach his who already learnt so much ? This question naturally arise. Here precisely is the greatness of Dattatreya who never considered himself too great to learn. Like living, learning too should be a continuous process. If the Bhringi could be availed of for the purpose, he was ready to elevate it also to the status of his teacher. The Bhringi would catch a worm and carry it to its nest.
Then it would place the worm down in the nest and produce from its beak some musical sounds for the benefit of the former. The worm would feel very pleased by the musical sound made by the Bhringi. This would continue for a while and the worm would then crawl out of the nest, and the Bhringi would fly out in search of some other worm. The only concern of this bird was to provide the poor worms with some happiness through listening to its musical notes. Dattatreya saw here an example worthy of emulation.
Whatever wisdom one has gathered one should be freely shared with others, spreading in one’s own humble way a little cheer, and a little sunshine.
It becomes a teacher even to go out of his way and spread his message of harmony and happiness. The Bhringi was thus made a teacher in Dattatreya’s list which now had twenty-four of them in all.
When Dattatreya thus completed the explanation of his twenty four teachers, the King was naturally much impressed with this 12-year old boy who had gathered such great knowledge so early in his life. The King bowed at the feet of young Dattatreya and pleaded to be accepted as his disciple. Here was the first disciple of Dattatreya who had studied so much quite early in his life that he was naturally considered a worthy teacher of mankind-a born teacher, a beacon of light for the rest, groping in the darkness of their ignorance.
Dattatreya was great because he was humble enough to learn from everywhere and everything. Out of the twenty four gurus, only two were of human element. They too did not were not any spiritual standing but Datta picked them as examples of higher learning.
Considering the fact that he made his teaching so lucid and easy to understand, giving instances known to all, we are inclined to think that Dattatreya was indeed an incarnation, a God in human form, who lived only to make others live as life should be lived. Speaking of the Avadhoota Gita by Datta, Swami Vivekananda once said: “Men like the one who wrote this song keep religion alive. They have actually self-realised; they care for nothing, feel nothing to the body, care not for heat, cold, danger, or anything. They sit still enjoying the bliss of Brahman.”
Yogi Ananda Saraswathi Interpretation!