• Dattatreya
  • The Meaning
  • The Teacher


I am Datta. I am the sole phenomenon that pervades millions and millions of universes. Directions are my dress. I am ‘Digambara’.

The Meaning

Only by strict observance of spiritual discipline, you can know My corporeal cosmic form encompassing all forms of deities and all forces as My integral parts, only by strict observance of spiritual discipline.

The Teacher

Even if you are following your own righteous path, if you remember My name, I will protect you like the eyelid the eye.

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Dattatreya: Symbols and Figurative Form

“I am Datta. I am the sole phenomenon that pervades millions of universes.”
- Srīpāda

Book: Sri Dattatreya Overview Dattatreya section Back: The Avatars Continue: Spiritual Practices and The Mantrams
The essential principle relating to the state of Dattatreya is pure consciousness expressed through equated qualities.

Lord Dattatreya is beyond the Trinity but can also express through the Trinity. As pure consciousness he can be like the Divine Mother and as pure existence he can be the God Absolute. He is potent with all possibilities. That is how he is conceived by the seers of ancient times, as “all in one and one in all”.

The state of equilibrium relating to the three qualities is geometrically described as the equilateral triangle. The triple qualities fabricate the seven planes of the creation, which are explained as the ten seeds.

The decad is the ancient most symbol of Dattatreya in its numerical and geometrical form. Its pure geometrical form is the triangle within a circle with a centre; its figurative and poetic and more elaborate form is what is given as the man with three heads, six hands, accompanied by a cow and four dogs. He holds six different weapons in six different hands.

The Equilateral Triangle within a Circle and a Central Point

Triangle, circle, central point

Dattatreya forms the path of yoga for the benefit of the beings. Since ancient most times he is evoked by the seers through this symbol.

The Holy Decad

The Holy Decad

The three extreme points of the decad represent the three qualities of the soul, the Trinity, the three Logos. The seven points in between represent the seven planes of existence and all that which is represented by seven. The central point is surrounded by 6 points, which explains the individual soul with six centres of working. The central point represents the individual soul and the ten points together form the Universal Soul.

Between the individual soul and the Universal Soul there is the triplicity and the planes of existence. It is also a more detailed symbol of the Cosmic Person. The Cosmic Person is said to have come down in ten steps and presides over creation.

The Figurative Form


Figuratively Dattatreya is depicted as having three heads. This is to indicate that he is the deity in whom the Trinity is synthesised and that he presides over all the three qualities of the soul. The figurative aspect of Dattatreya was poetically conceived by the seers.

The Dogs

The Dogs

In his figurative symbol, Srī Guru Datta is accompanied by 4 dogs. These four represent the four Vedas, the four Yugas, and the four states of the Word. They also refer to the four states of Existence.

The dog is one of the sublime symbols of the Veda. The dog represents the faculty to listen, to listen far, and to listen to the subtle. The dogs have a better ability to listen than the humans.

The Vedic symbolism relating to the dog relates to the Dog Star. The Vedic seers conceived the energy of love and compassion, which are received into our system as coming from Sirius.

The replica of the Sirius System on this planet is the Hierarchy with its ashrams in the Himalayas and in the Blue Mountains. The head of the Hierarchy, Lord Maitreya, is believed to be in tune with the Lord of the Sarameya (Sirius System), whose Lord is Dattatreya.

The Cow

The Cow

Dattatreya is said to be accompanied by a healthy white cow. The cow is under the protection of Srī Guru Datta. In the Vedic symbolism, the cow stands for the creation and also for our planet Earth.

The planet and the creation offer innumerable wealth, pleasure experiences, happiness, joyfulness, and bliss. They are willing to be milked, to nourish the beings in all planes of existence. The drinking of cow milk is symbolic of such nourishment, growth and contentment in the physical, vital, mental, buddhic, and blissful planes.

The cow, the woman, the planet, the solar system, and the cosmic system are all different states of the same cow principle. With the right approach and right attitude towards them, man gains the splendour of life. With the wrong approach, man is bound to fall and suffer.

The ancient Indian scriptures proclaim that no one who intends to live in peace can afford to hurt a cow, a woman, and the planet (of course he is incapable of hurting the solar system and the cosmic system). If one worships, protects and nourishes these three, then they get favourably inclined towards the one. Their favourable inclination gives the inexplicable joy and the pleasure of being. It is for this reason Dattatreya is depicted as protecting the cow. The cow is the giver of all fulfilment, joy, happiness, and experience, and it follows Dattatreya.

The Six Hands

Srī Guru Datta is depicted with three heads and six hands. In one hand he holds a conch, in the other he holds the celestial wheel, in the third hand a mace, in the fourth hand a trident, in the fifth hand a water carrier, and in the sixth hand a begging bowl.

The Conch

1. The conch indicates the principle of expansion and contraction presided over by Jupiter and Saturn. Every expansion requires consolidation and vice-versa. On the path to Truth there is the expansion of consciousness, which needs to be consolidated at each step.

The Wheel

2. The wheel stands for time and time is presided over by the true teacher. He initiates the disciple into the knowledge relating to time, so that the disciple can skilfully adapt to the favourable and unfavourable periods of life, without getting disturbed, in terms of vibrations by the pleasant and unpleasant events. Since the Teacher, Srī Guru Datta is “the One beyond the three qualities”, time co-operates with him and helps him to help the seekers of Truth.

The Mace

3. The mace is symbolic of the instrument that subjugates pride. Self-pride needs to be sacrificed on the altar of service to the fellow beings and Srī Guru Datta appropriately uses the mace to put down the pride of those who follow the Path of Truth. The mace also symbolises the inverted position of the cerebro-spinal system, which is the abode of consciousness. If the mace is held upright, it resembles the light of the head, followed by the column of light of the spine. Srī Guru Datta, humbles the truth-seekers and enables reversing many inversions which the truth-seekers suffer from.

The Trident

4. The trident held by Srī Guru Datta is symbolic of the triple energy held in an etheric form within the brahmadanda, the centre of the vertebral column. The triple energies are referred to as ida, pingala, and sushumna. They are the left, the right and the central energy currents. The left current causes the materialisation, the right current causes spiritualization and the central current causes the balance between the two, enabling the existence of the being in a particular plane of existence.

The Water Carrier

5. The water carrier of Srī Guru Datta is in essence the life carrier. The teacher should bestow life and longevity to the student oriented to him, so that the student would fulfil himself through yoga during that incarnation. It is for this reason a true teacher is a true healer and is even life giver. Until the student gains mastery, he helps the student with health and longevity. The teacher bestows three essential benedictions on the student. In fact he wills them. One is longevity, another is health and the third benediction is the path to Truth leading to mastery.

The Begging Bowl 6. The begging bowl: Srī Guru Datta carries a begging bowl, but he is not a beggar. To protect the beings, he begs them to donate their limitations, their impurities, their evil motives, and their substandard behaviours. It is for this reason he extends the hand with the begging bowl towards everyone that orients to him. He would like his followers to freely donate all that which is the cause of disease so that the donor would regain the ease.

Continue: Spiritual Practices and The Mantrams


  • K. Parvathi Kumar: Sri Dattatreya / notes from seminars. The World Teacher Trust - Dhanishta, Visakhapatnam, India (www.worldteachertrust.org)