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Dattatreya Tattva


Sri Mahatripurasundari Chandramoulishwarebhyo namaH

Sri Dattatreya is described as the son of Atri and Anasuya in the Puranas. We generally read Purnas superficially without understanding the inner essence of the stories told therein. The primary purpose of the Puranas is to teach the essence of Vedanta to those who cannot perceive the lofty truth directly. If, in this light the Puranas are studied, the stories told therein take a whole new dimension.

Atri means – a+tri – one without the three i.e. AdhyAtmikAdi tApatrayarahitattvena atrishabdavAchyo jIvanmukto kashchinmaharShiH – Atri refers to a liberated one who is free from the Tapatrayas. The fact that he is free from Tapatrayas is also indicative of his being free from the covers of the three Gunas (Satva, Rajas and Tamas). It is also indicative of the Bhedana of the three Granthis – Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra – indicating the ascension of Kundalini. Thus, Atri represents a great Sadhaka who is beyond the three attributes. His wife Anasuya represents freedom from jealousy and which is the state of mind of the Sadhaka – here called Atri. Now, when can one be totally devoid of asUyA? Only when the realization that the Self is the only existent truth - dawns on the Sadhaka. When there is none but the Self, where is the second entity one can be jealous of? Thus, the state of anasUya actually indicates the Jivatman who is free from Maya.

The above truth has been expressed as yet another Puranic story. The trinity seeks Bhiksha from Anasuya in NirvAna and she turns them into babies and feeds them in Nirvana. Without understanding the Tattva behind this incident, if some preach nudity as a requirement for Dattatreya Upasana, it is not quite surprising!

The varAha purANa says:

kAmakrodhastathA lobho mado mohashcha pa~nchamaH |
mAtsaryaM ShaShThamityAhuH paishunyaM saptamam tathA |
asUyA tvaShTamI j~neyA ityetA aShTamAtaraH ||

AsUyA or jealousy represents the cumulative effect of the first seven on a human being. Freedom from asUyA thus means total freedom from the kAma, krodha etc. The birth of Datta consciousness is possible only in such an Upasaka who has gained anasUyatva. When a Sadhaka weds the mental state called anasUyA, Tamas and Rajas are pre-dominated by Sattva which in turn leads the Sadhaka to the Nirvana Shakti called Datta.

There are other incidents described in the Puranas regarding Dattatreya Avatara. The Parabrahman appeared as yogirAja in front of Atri Maharshi who was performing penance on RkSha Parvata on kArtika shuddha pourNami. He again appeared to Sri Atri on kArtika bahuLa pADyami as Atrivarada. Pleased with the penance of the sage, he granted (datta) himself to Atri and came to me known as Dattatreya. It was at this stage that the trinity tested anasuya. From Suta Samhita, one can know that Datta Avatara first occurred in Krta Yuga – vaishAkha bahuLa dashami - Thursday – Revati Nakshatra mIna lagna. The incident of Sri Dattatreya discoursing to Prahlada further proves this fact.

Thus, considering the present cycle of creation, the great manifestation of the Supreme as Dattatreya happened in swAyambhuva manvantara. We have completed swAyambhuva, swArochiSha, uttama, tAmasa, raivata and chAkShusha manvantaras and the current manvantara is Vaivasvata. Every Manvatara approximately maps to about 3086 crore years. Thus, from the beginning of the latest cycle of creation, we have now seen 3086 X 6 = 18516 crore years.

Scientists claim the present age of our Solar system to be 500 crore years, of earth – about 450 crore years and of life on earth – about 200 crore years. This estimate exactly matches with the beginning of Shweta Varaha Kalpa described in our Puranas. Also, the previous Naimittika Pralaya (destruction of the three worlds) happened at the end of chAkShuSha manvantara according to the Puranas. In that Manvantara, every trace of human life was wiped out. The current manvantara – Vaivaswata, is running from 125 crore years now. This discussion was to point to the fact that the Adi Avatara of Sri Dattareya has existed from time immemorial. Thus Chakradhara, in his work sUtravichAram, describes Sri Dattatreya as ChaturyugAvatAra.

Sri Dattatreya is also the guru to the entire universe – Vishwa Guru. He taught:

- Srividya to Parashurama

- Dattavidya to Brahma

- AdhyAtma Vidya to Prahlada

- Yoga Vidya to Vasishta and

- Atma Vidya to Kartaviryarjuna.

He also incarnated as Sri Sripada Vallabha and Sri Nrsimha Saraswati in the age of Kali to uphold Dharma.

The gross form of Dattatreya itself is a mirror to Datta Tattva. The trinity represent his three faces, his body is pure chit, the six branches of knowledge are his six hands, the four dogs are the four Vedas, the cow is Dharma, universal peace is the Oudumbara tree and the great incarnation of Brahman, complete with sixteen kalAs, which is a personification of the knowledge of the Self – is the unfathomable Murti of Sri Dattatreya.

However, this form of Dattatreya commonly worshipped is one of his later incarnations. shAnDilyopaniShat describes Datta as having two hands – chaturbAhumudArA~Ngam. The idol of Sri Dattatreya worshipped by Sri Vasudevananda Saraswati (Tembe Maharaj) had two hands showing Vara and Abhaya Mudras, seated on siddhasana and having a single face. The same form is described in Advaita Datta mAlA mantra (varAbhayakaraM devaM sacchidAnandavigraham) and in the Dhyana Shloka of Dattatreya Vajra Kavacham of Rudrayamala Tantra (vAmahastena varadaM dakShiNenAbhayapradam). Nepal, which is reputed to be birth-place of Sri Dattatreya, has an ancient Dattatreya temple on anasUyA parvata, which houses a similar idol of Dattatreya. This idol is worshipped as Adi Dattatreya Murti.

Sri Dattareya is an ocean of compassion. By merely remembering his name, one earns his grace. Hence he is called smartrgAmI – one who immediately appears to the devotee who remembers the Lord. A sage called dalAdana once wanted to test the truth in this statement and remembered Dattatreya. The Lord immedieately reached dalAdana and said:

mama prakrtirId^iShI, smartrgAmI na sandeho swisaptabhuvaneShwaham|
abhakyA vA subhaktyA vA yaH smarenmAmananyadhIH |
tadAnImahamAgamya dadAmi tadabhIpsitam ||

– "It is my very nature to reach that person who remembers me, instantly. Whether with devotion or not, if a man remembers me sincerely, I will instantly reach him and grant his desires". This is Dattareya's sacred promise to us, his children.

Also, the other unique quality of Sri Dattareya is that he is – bhaktakIrtivivardhanaH – he is more interested in showcasing the glory of his devotee than of his own. This is yet another example of his immeasurable grace towards his devotees.

According to scriptures:

1. Sri Dattatreya sleeps in Mahura (200 Kms from Nagpur in Maharashtra)

2. Resides on Sahyadri Hills

3. Takes bath in Ganges in Varanasi

4. Performs Achamana in Kurukshetra

5. Applies Bhasma in Dhoot Papeshwar (in Maharashtra)

6. Performs Sandhya in Karnataka

7. Performs mAdhyAhnika in gANigapur

8. Bhiksha in Kolhapur

9. Wears Tilaka in Pandarapur

10. Eats the Bhiksha in Panchaleshwar (near Pune)

11. Drinks water from river Tungabhadra

12. Rests in Girnar

13. Listens to sacred chants and praises in Badari Kshetra and

14. Performs Sayam Sandhya on the West Coast.

These fourteen places are Datta Kshetras. These are the Kshetras where one can easily feel the presence of Sri Dattatreya and earn his grace by meditating on him. These are also best suited for Dattatreya Mantra Purashcharana.

Sri Dattatreya is beyond the four Ashramas – and forever resides in turIyAtItAshrama. Those in this Ashrama are forever immersed in the Self, free from the three attributes and non-different from Sri Dattatreya. This is what is called avadhUtAshrama. We recognize Sri Dattatreya as the first and the foremost of the Avadhutas. One can learn the lakShaNas of an Avadhuta from Avadhuta Gita which flows from Sri Dattatreya himself.

The word avadhUta has four letters.

A- represents freedom from the bondage of desire, purity in all three dimensions (past, present and future) and unlimited bliss.

va – stands for the one who resides in the present, without any botheration about the future and past (i.e. vAsanA rAhityam – freedom from karma vAsanA).

dhU – stands for complete mastery over the body and the mind and freedom from all malas (kArmika, mAyika etc).

ta – stands for constant contemplation on Atma tattva, and total freedom from Tamas and Ahamkara.

An Ashrama which is characterized by these characteristics is the fifth Ashrama called Avadhutashrama. An Avadhuta is beyond all norms and regulations. One should earnestly read and contemplate on Avadhuta Gita and Jivanmukti Gita to understand and achieve the state of Avadhuta.

Nowadays, Dattatreya is generally associated with Vama/Kaulachara. Let us examine his own words:

Uttamo brahmasadbhAvo dhyanabhavastu madhyamaH |
Stutirjapo.adhamo bhAvo bahiH pUjAdhamAdhamaH ||

This verse occurs in both Dattatreya Samhita and Mahanirvana Tantra. Is not this the same as what is expressed in Samayachara Tantras like Suka Samhita? One who identifies the real Self as the same Brahman who pervades the creation and experiences the Truth is said to be a Jnani and his very existence is the best worship of the Supreme. For those incapable of this, practices like dhyana, upAsana etc. are taught to progressively move towards Brahma Sadbhava. So, if one told you that all Dattatreya taught people was to indulge in literal Panchamakaras and freedom from all Shastric injunctions, understand that the person knows nothing about Sri Dattareya or Avadhutashrama. Dattatreya's teaching of swecchA is for an Avadhuta and not for the rest. For the rest, he has taught Bhakti, Vairagya and finally Jnana through his sixteen incarnations. It is thus incorrect to assume that Sri Dattatreya taught senseless Indriya Bhoga and Swecchachara to all. That applies to only those who are in the Turiyatitashrama where nothing matters.

Sri Tembe Maharaj descries the sixteen sacred Avataras of Lord Dattatreya. By remembering these Avataras with devotion, one is immediately relieved from sins and misery.

1. Yogiraja – Appeared on Kartika Shuddha Pournami as the manifestation of the combined power of all divinities.

2. Atrivarada - Kartika Bahula Padyami – this incarnation indicates Sri Dattatreya as the essence of all Mantras.

3. Datta Prabhu – Kartika Bahula Dwitiya – Granted himself to sage Atri.

4. Kalagnishamana- Margashirsha Shuddha Chaturdashi – Took birth as Atri's son.

5. Yogijanavallabha – Margashirsha Pournami – indicates the compassion of the Lord towards his devotees.

6. Lila Vishwambhara – Paushya Pournami – appeared as a child to protect his devotees.

7. Siddharaja – Magha Pournami – Resurrected the system of Yoga as a preparatory step for Jnana.

8. Jnanasagara – Phalguna Shuddha Dashami – indicated the necessity of Jnana for liberation.

9. VishwambharAvadhUta – Chaitra Pournami – Established Bhakti Yoga.

10. MayayuktAvadhUta – Jyeshtha Shuddha Trayodashi – Grants worldly desires of his devotees.

11. MayamuktAvadhUta – Vaishakha Shuddha Chaturdashi – Destroys kAma in his devotees.

12. Adi Guru – AshAdha Pournami – Grants Brahma Jnana to Uttamadhikaris.

13. Sri Shivarupa – Shravana Pournami – Grants Sayujya to Madhyamadhikaris.

14. Sri Devadeva – Bhadrapada Shuddha Chaturdashi – grants Atmapada to his devotees.

15. Sri Digambara – Ashwayuja Pournami – to establish Vairagya.

16. Sri Krishna Shyama Kamalanayana – Kartika Shuddha Dwadashi – complete with sixteen kalAs, is the complete manifestation of the Lord.

Though we celebrate Datta Jayanti only once a year, a sincere Upasaka should worship Dattatreya on the above-said sixteen auspicious Tithis to achieve Siddhi of Sri Dattatreya Anushtup Mahamantra.

I had the privilege of getting an invaluable tip from a Datta Yogi in Andhra Desha who said, "If one recites the great Dattatreya Mantra, having duly received it from Sadguru, sixteen thousand times on each of these sixteen Tithis, he will surely see Dattatreya".

The Datta Anushtup Mantra itself is a concise summary of the essence of these sixteen Avataras and holds the key to the secret of Dattatreya Tattva. Uttamadhikaris should learn the significance of the Mantra and its Dharana in the sixteen Chakras in the body to achieve oneness with Vishwa Guru. This mantra is the most ancient and the king among the other 32 mantras of Sri Dattatreya. The Uttaranga mantras for Anushtup are Madhumati Mahavidya and Sri Datta Sahasrakshari.

dattaM vande digambaram