Sage Atri on his return to the hermitage saw his wife Anusuya fondling three babies. Anusuya said "These children are the gift of God to us who have been childless so far". Sage Atri was overjoyed and named them Datta, which means 'given'. At this the three Gods reverted to their real forms and disclosed the truth. They extolled the power of chastity and purity of Anusuya which vanquished the combined and colossal powers of all three of them. Sage Atri and Anusuya prayed that they should remain as their sons. They consented and the three Gods merged into one body. This is how Shri Dattatreya incarnated and is known as Gurudeva Datta – the Guru of all Gurus.
Splendorous form of Datta Guru:
Shri Dattatreya or Datta Guru, an incarnation who came to light the lamp of wisdom among the people. Shri Dattatreya is a splendorous form. His face radiates all wisdom and draws us away from the lures of the world. Though He is the Supreme Lord of this universe, yet He is a total and supreme recluse. Though He moves from place to place, His favorite abode is the Holy Audambar tree (A type of fig type, Ficus glomerate). He has matted hair on His head. His body is ever smeared with holy ashes and He wears tiger-skin for His garment. A cow and four dogs are always with Him as His constant companions. He is an 'Avadhoot', ever anchored in Spirit, but always overflowing with compassion for all the beings and the entire creation. He is the embodiment of total Godhead. All the aspects of Godhead are fully manifest in Him. His faces and form are ever radiant with peace and divine charm.
The Cow, which is always with Him, represents the Mother Earth and Dharma. She is the wish fulfilling cow 'Kamadhenu'.
The four dogs symbolise the four Vedas – the external repositories of Spiritual Wisdom.
The trident indicates that He has transcended the three gunas, which constitute the illusory world: Sattva-illumination, Rajas-activity and Tamas-inertia.
The 'Sudharshana chakra' , disc indicates that He is beyond the cycles of time i.e. the past, present and future and His holding of 'chakra' means He is the controller of time.
The conch represents the eternal sound 'AUM' – which is the manifestation of the Spirit. It is also the life principle in us and the cosmos.
The 'bhasma' ashes indicated His 'Vairaagya' dispassion as well as His purity. Ashes indicate the evanescent nature of all created nature of all created objects and the ultimate state of all matter.
He always carries a begging bowl so as to teach us the lesson that we will have to share our wealth and food with others.
The japa-mala, rosary He wears reminds us that our primary duty is chanting the sacred name of the Lord and meditating on the feet of the Lord, and our redemption depends on this discipline alone.
Shri Dattatreya, in order to bless His devotees and the righteous ones, wanders about in the guise of a random guest at the lunch hour. That's why it is said that a random guest has to be treated as the very embodiment of Lord Dattaterya.
God's creation was His Guru:
He had twenty four Gurus.
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…. The earth, air/breeze, sky, fire, the sun, pigeon, python, sea, moth, elephant, ant, fish, Pingala the courtesan, arrow-maker, infant/playful boy, the moon, honeybee, deer, bird of prey, maiden, serpent, spider, caterpillar and water are my twenty four preceptors.
Guru Dattatreya gave Ashtanga Yoga (eight fold path of Yoga) to the world thousands of years ago. Patanjali codified this knowledge in sootra forms. It comprises:
1. Yama – non-killing, truthfulness, non-stealing, continence, and non-receiving of any gifts. Moral discipline
2. Niyama – cleanliness, contentment, austerity, study and self-surrender to God. Moral discipline
Yama and Niyama are moral training and form the basis of Yoga. As these two become established, the Yogi will begin to realize the fruits of his practice.
3. Asana – posture
4. Pranayama – 'Prana' is the life-force, 'yama' is control. 'Pranayama' consists of breath control exercises.
5. Pratyahara – withdrawal of senses from sense objects
6. Dharana – concentration.
7. Dhyana – meditation
8. Samadhi – the transcendental or super conscious state of being one with God:
Principle tenets of the Dattatreya tradition
The principle tenets of the Dattatreya tradition are:
Everyone should know oneself first and should know one's own reality, which is but God.
One should realize the relationship between God, man and creation – the underlying kinship, unity and oneness of these three entities. Brahman is the immanent and all pervading reality in all matter – it is the origin, the support and sustenance of all.
To obtain this vision and discern this truth, one should conquer one's ego through Yoga and renunciation.
Guru's grace is indispensable. One has to surrender oneself totally and unreservedly at the feet of the Guru. His grace awakens 'Jnana' (illumination) by which we can recognize the Reality of Brahman, which is the real self of all. Apart from this the disciples should:
Have purity of thought, word and deed.
Do 'Nama smaran' – remembrance of the Lord's name and meditation on it.
Have compassion and love for all beings.
Render selfless services at the feet of the Guru and surrender completely and unconditionally.
Incarnations of Shri Dattatreya:
While Shri Dattatreya was the primal manifestation in "Datta Sampradaya" and Guru tradition, His incarnations are:
1. Sripaad Vallabha
2. Shri Nrisimha Saraswati
3. Swami Samarth of Akkalkot
4. Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi.
Dattatreya Gayatri: 'Om Dattatreyaya Vidmahe / Atri putraya dhimahi / tann Datta prachodayat.'
May we Know Lord Dattatreya
May we meditate upon Datta, the son of sage Atri
May that Datta inspire us.