Are you are a practitioner of Yoga ? Then today could be an interesting and inspiring day for you. Today is the birthday of Guru Dattatreya, the deity of Yogis, primarily Hatha Yogis.
Please do not get me wrong when I say “Hatha” yoga, for it is not about the “style” of Yoga that I speak of but the nature of spiritual orientation that one uses to evolve towards the fullness of the Soul. Dattatreya is beyond any style or any confusion that may be an aspect of today’s yoga world.
An important note to understand here is that Dattatreya is the deity in the sense that He is not the “ever controlling anthropomorphic God” but an inspiration that a Yogi tries to work towards. Such an inspiration generates Bhakti (devotion) in hearts of the Yogis and eases the trials and tribulations that come along with the spiritual sadhana. His life and his teaching, is and has been an integral part of Yogis in India. Before any endeavor Dattatreya is invoked through mantra chanting and his qualities and teachings are given a thought throughout the sadhana.
Let’s get to know Guru Dattatreya
Shri Dattatreya is a Universal Guru, an incarnation of Love and Freedom who came to light the lamp of wisdom among the people. Datta’s presence is not limited to any one country or sphere, as He is the Guru of all Gurus, the all-seeing, all-powerful, ever-present link between God and Man. His teachings are of significance especially in today’s day and age when humanity has gone far from its pristine state. In ancient time and even now his Being and his teachings are here to establish ‘Satya‘ (the Universal Truth), ‘Rta‘ (the Cosmic Balance), Dharma (the perennial principles).
Shri Dattatreya is a Being in a splendorous form.
His face radiates wisdom, draws us away from the temptationsof the world and generates peace within us at a glance. He is the Supreme Lord of this universe, signifying Freedom. 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 Love and compassion for all the beings and the entire creation. 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’. This signifies the value of our Earth and how we can fulfill our wishes by using her for her resources with humility and respect, something we humans have forgotten.
• The four dogs symbolize the four Vedas – the external repositories of Spiritual Wisdom. The dogs at his feet signify His mastery over knowledge by becoming the wisdom Himself. The symbolic nature of this should inspire us to avoid getting lost in the arguments or scholarship of the scriptures but to live them.
• The trident indicates that He has transcended the three gunas, which constitute the illusory world:
Sattva-illumination, Rajas-activity and Tamas-inertia. Let’s not get confused by the relativity of things but try and see the common ground behind it all.
• 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. Reminds us to be ever aware that everything changes and that detachment is the key to growth.
• The conch represents the eternal sound ‘AUM’ – It is the life principle in us and also the representation of our Soul potential. He blows the conch shell symbolizing the Fullness of Life principle and potential.
• The ‘bhasma‘ ashes, indicated His ‘Vairaagya’ dispassion as well as His purity. Ashes indicate the evanescent nature of all created objects.
• He always carries a begging bowl so as to teach us the lesson of Humility and that we have to share our prosperity and food with others.
• The japa-mala, rosary He wears reminds us that our primary duty is to remember again and again the Total Freedom and Love that we are and to meditate in order to come closer and closer to become the untainted consciousness itself.
He himself regards God’s creation and life itself as His Guru. He had twenty four Gurus from nature. They inspired him in many ways and He very whole heartedly expresses His gratitude to them because of whom “He freely wanders in the World”.
His teachers were 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.
It is a widely known fact that it was Guru Dattatreya who gave the teachings of Ashtanga Yoga to Patanjali who later codified and organized them.Even today many Masters exist who embody the spirit and teachings of the ever shinning Avadhoota.
The following are some of Guru Dattatreya’s teachings that can be remembered and practiced by us Yogis and Yoginis in our day to day life.
1) I neither revile nor praise people who are of diverse nature. I pray for their welfare and bless them with their union.
2) I am beyond mind. In Reality, mind has no independent existence.
3) You are the essence of knowledge, eternal, ever free from modifications. Do not suffer from the bondage of desires.
4) “I eat,” “I give,” “I act”, such statements do not apply to The True Self, which is pure, beyond birth and imperishable.
5) He who has conquered the feelings of pleasure, wrath, avarice, attachment, vanity and aversion, this one is peace itself, and free from all pride.
6) Efficient in his undertakings, full of compassion is the Sadhu, he is compassionate to many and has enmity towards no one.
7) My mind, my friend, many words are not needed, the world hardly comprehends reason. In a word, I have told you the essence of truth: “you are Truth, you are as Freedom.”
8) Do not hold the immature, the foolish, the slow, the layman to have nothing good in them. They all teach something. Learn from them.
9) Ever practicing Yoga, not depending on any object, the Yogi merges his consciousness in eternal consciousness, and becomes Eternally Free.
10) Last but not the least, “Blessed am I, in freedom am I. I am the infinite in my soul, I can find no beginning, no end. All is Self . .