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The Dattatreya Tradition is rooted in the principle of nature, being natural, and freedom from all bindings. Since the birth of Dattatreya [Datta – He Who Has Given Himself, Atreya – referring to Rishi Atri, His Father] in ages past, His incarnations have stood out as spiritual lights in a world of darkness. When the world was about to enter the Kali Yuga, Lord Krishna, concerned that his teachings and the purpose of his incarnation would get lost in the coming dark age, consulted with Dattatreya, the spiritual teacher of the ending Dwapara Yuga, and asked him to preserve His teachings. Dattatreya then called on the nine Nath yogis to establish a spiritual framework and code for the coming age, and the Tradition of the Nath Yogiswas established. 

Right from the start, the teachings of Dattatreya have emphasised being natural, being unencumbered by ritual, tradition, and denomination, loving nature, and leading a life of ahimsa (non-violence) towards all creatures. The ultimate goal of the Dattatreya Tradition is the dissolution of the small self, the ego-self, and the absorption into the Divine essence of Reality Itself. Avatars and Amshas,  incarnations of Dattatreya, have incarnated regularly during the Kali Yuga to bring the universal teaching of unity, love, and spiritual awareness into a world struggling with the dark influences gripping humanity.

Life History

Great Masters are always with us. At one time, there lived two great Masters as husband and wife, Atri and Anasuya. Atri was the saint, and Anasuya, his wife. In the Indian tradition, very powerful women attained their power by just serving the husbands, and Anasuya was one of them. She reached her spiritual power by serving her husband while he concentrated on his austerities

The following mythological story speaks about the spiritual power of Anasuya. Once Narada Rishi took a small ball of iron—the size of a gram-grain—to Sarasvati and said to her, ‘O Sarasvati Devi! Please fry this iron ball. I will eat this iron-ball-gram during my travels’. Sarasvati laughed and said, ‘O Rishi Narada! How can this iron ball be fried? How can this be eaten?’ Narada afterward went to Mahalakshmi and Parvati and requested them to fry the iron ball. They also laughed at Narada Rishi. Then Narada said, ‘O Devis! See, I will get it fried by Anasuya, wife of Atri Maharishi, a great Pativrata who lives in the earth-plane’.

Then Narada came to Anasuya and requested her to fry the iron-ball-gram. Anasuya put the iron ball in the frying pan, meditated on the form of her husband, and put a few drops of water, which had been used in washing the feet of her husband on the iron ball. The iron ball was at once fried. Narada went to Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Parvati, ate before them the fried iron-ball-gram, and gave them also a little of it. He greatly praised the glory of Anasuya and her chastity.

Her power and purity were such that the three goddesses became jealous of Anasuya’s great strength and wanted to test her. So they approached the trinity, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, and asked them to come to Earth and test this lady.

They came as three wandering monks. In the Hindu tradition, if anybody comes to your house a guest or visitor, they must be given food. It is not a good idea to serve them with nothing. While Atri had gone to the river to have a bath, Anasuya was at home alone. The three Gods thus arrived at the house as wandering monks asking for food. They asked her, ‘We are hungry. Can you serve us some food?’ She had not prepared any food in the house at that time, so she said, ‘Please wait; let me make something and give you.’ They answered, ‘Yes, but we have one condition: you should serve us the food naked without any clothes.

In the Hindu tradition, if a saint asks for something, it is not acceptable to deny it. It is inauspicious to say ‘no.’ So Anasuya was in a dilemma, how would she do this? Firstly, she has to give them food, and secondly, she has to obey their condition and serve it naked, which was, of course, unacceptable for her. So she said, ‘Please wait.’ She went inside, took some water in her hand and brought it to sprinkle on them. In that moment, the three saints turned into small babies, and Anasuya then produced some breast milk and fed them. As all the conditions were fulfilled, they were delighted and said, ‘We would like to bless you. Ask for a boon, and we will give it to you.’ She answered, ‘I would like you to come as my son.‘ Then they blessed her and entered her womb, together as one entity. When Atri came back, he understood all that happened and was very happy. This is how Dattatreya was born. Atri prophesied that this son would lead the world one day.

Each yuga or era has an Avatar, like Shri Krishna in Dvapara Yuga. Dattatreya was the Yuga Acharya or the Supreme Master of the era preceding the Dvapara Yuga, known as the Treta Yuga. When Dattatreya was born, he had three heads, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. His mother said, in this way, it will be difficult for you to survive in society. People will easily see you and recognise you. So, they condensed into one head. Dattatreya temples today either worship him as Maha Vishnu or as Shiva, differently in various temples. This is because, ultimately, he represents everything – he represents the Supreme Consciousness. 

While Dattatreya’s historical origins are unclear and trace to inconsistent mythologies, His life stories are more consistent. He is described in the Mahabharata as an exceptional Rishi (sage) with extraordinary insights and knowledge, adored and raised to be a Guru and an Avatar of Vishnu status in the Puranas. These texts describe him as having renounced the world and left his home early to lead a nomad, ascetic life. After leaving home, Dattatreya wandered naked in search of the Absolute. He seems to have spent most of his life roaming the area between North Mysore, Maharashtra, and Gujarat as far as the Narmada River. He attained complete realisation at a place not far from the town now known as Ganagapur near the peak at Mount Girnar. The original footprints of Datta are believed to be located at the top of this mountain.


Lord Dattatreya is the Supreme Consciousness. There is nothing that exists outside of the Supreme Consciousness of Reality Itself. Depending on our level of spiritual perception and comprehension, Dattatreya appears to us in the way that is most suitable for us. 

Lord Dattatreya represents the Supreme Guru Principle – the Guru Tattva. This is the way in which Reality, even though It already exists as everything, enjoys the process of waking Itself up within the dream of Its own creation. Reality shapes Itself into the forms of both ignorance and wisdom, of both Guru and disciple. Lord Datta directly represents the awakening, teaching and realising power of Reality as It is. 

Lord Dattatreya in his original incarnation, as the first Avadhuta who instructed Parashurama and King Yadu – in this form he displayed his prowess as Supreme Guru by manifesting himself as being completely inseparable from the teaching. In the Dattatreya Tradition, the teacher himself is the teaching; the teacher exists as portal that expresses the path and the tradition in their totality. This is because the Guru has dissolved himself completely into Reality. Lord Datta paved the way for such Gurus, for Datta Gurus who teach and transform effortlessly through everything that they do and do not do. 

Thus, it is very difficult to speak about what Lord Datta’s teachings specifically. His teachings are whatever is required to align apparently ignorant and suffering beings with their Source, with Reality Itself. Lord Datta is seen as the Lord of Dharma because he is the very source of Dharma, he is the Reality that plays the game of apparently becoming unaware of Its own nature, only to wake up to that nature through the appearance of a spiritual path. 

The teachings of Lord Datta are not set in stone, they are not like fixed petrified relics. Lord Datta’s teachings are simply those that help us re-align ourselves with the essence of our existence. Thus, the most fundamental teaching of Datta is non-violence. Why? Because violence is the thing that most goes against is the true of unity, that Reality is a singular indivisible whole. The further teachings of Datta, such as selfless service and feeding, also operate upon the same principle – they are simply actions that obviously affirm the truth of our unity within one sole sphere of Supreme Consciousness. 

Lord Dattatreya’s teachings are constantly revivified and reaffirmed in each generation through the activity of Datta Avatars and Amshas – those Beings who reach the same stature as the original Lord of Avadhutas by dissolving themselves totally into Reality. Such great Beings, like Narasimha Saraswati and Sai Baba of Shirdi, each offer teachings, and perform lilas, that are designed to meet the minds of the people of the time. Despite their gigantic spiritual stature, many such Datta Masters go unrecognised in this time due to the overall density and low operating frequency of the collective consciousness. 

The highest non-dual teachings of the Datta Tradition are offered in the Avadhuta Gita – the Song of the Free Soul, by Lord Dattatreya. These teachings are those that sum up the final view of the Datta Path – the unitive vision that is established when all obscuring habits of perception, thinking and experience, when all desire and fear is dissolved in the natural, bright awareness-space of Reality Itself. All of the other various teachings that fall within the sphere of the Datta Tradition can be linked back to this text, and the Absolute Truth that it pronounces, like rivers being linked to the great ocean.