Story-day is for cultural exploration, puraanas and parables and finding out about leading lights in spiritual philosophy.
Last week this manifestation of divinity was mentioned. Jayanti means birthday, but there is a level flexibility in this according to Sanskrit calendar. This year, it is celebrated on December 5th, so this post is a little early. However, there are also the 'jayanti' of Bhagavad Gita and Sri Swami Tapovan-ji which are to be covered. So here is something of the 'vagrant guru saint' for you.
Lord Dattatreya was born to a sage named Atri. It is said that the Almighty was so pleased with Atri that he told him that HE himself will be born in his house. This is exactly how Lord Dattatreya was born.
The popular belief is that Lord Dattatreya was a combination of Lord Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu. The trimurti. He was the supreme power himself. From an early age, Lord Dattatreya would wander in the woods naked. He wanted to search for the absolute.
Scriptures say that Lord Dattatreya was a very powerful saint and he was a talented yogi. He travelled all across India performing miracles. Many temples have been constructed all over the country to worship Lord Dattatreya. Most of the idols that you see today of Lord Dattatreya have three heads and three pairs of hands. Well these are latest additions that were made in the last thousand years. The Lord Dattatreya was born like any normal man with one head and two arms.
The later manifestations are to signify that Lord Dattatreya was the combination of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. His hands hold shankha and chakra which denotes Lord Vishnu. One pair of his hand holds damru and trishool that denotes Lord Shiva. The last pair of his hands holds mala and kamandalu to shows Lord Brahma.
Lord Dattatreya could take any form and he could be present anywhere. There are many legends throughout the ages about the appearance of this Lord in the form of a lowly being, perhaps a drunkard or a cowman or street-sweeper. Then someone will come along and bump into him and be taught some lesson or other about their ego.
Lord Dattatreya is one of the most ancient saints as he is mentioned in Upanishads, Atharva Veda, in Ramayana and even in Mahabharata. This shows how integral he was to the Indian culture and traditions. Lord Dattatreya is often showm being followed by four dogs. These four dogs represent the four Vedas. In ancient India dogs were believed to be very sacred. They are animals that can be wild as well as domesticated at the same time. This is exactly why the dogs were considered as the symbol of faithfulness and devotion. Lord Dattatreya would always be surrounded by these dogs. The Lord Dattatreya also has a cow standing behind him. This cow is called the Kamdhenu. This was a mystical cow that could fulfil any wish.
Teachings of Lord Dattatreya
Lord Dattatreya taught that all religions were the same and they led to the same goal. He said that Truth was biggest religion of all.
Lord Dattatreya said the mother or Shakti who created the universe must be always worshiped. He basically taught his followers to worship women and respect them. Giving up the “I” factor is the supreme sacrifice. Lord Dattatreya also taught that the biggest gift is to give of yourself. He taught everyone to be self-less. Only when you can give up yourself (i.e. ego) can you attain moksha. All that one has to do is concentrate more within than what is going on outside.
It is said that Lord Dattatreya still exists on earth. He can take any form so we cannot recognise him but he is very much present. In knowing this, the lesson is to be cheerful and kind to all whom we meet.
दत्त/datta (giver) त्रेय/treya (sage).