• 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: The Parents

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

Book: Sri Dattatreya Overview Dattatreya section Back: The Meaning | Continue: The Teacher


In the Indian mythology, Atri and Anasuya are said to be the parents of Dattatreya. That which is beyond the three is called Atri, the pure consciousness.

The pure consciousness details into the three aspects of consciousness as Will, Knowledge, and Activity. The three qualities relating to them are dynamism, poise and inertia, or rajas, satwa, and tamas. The pure consciousness pervades all the planes of existence worked out by the triple quality, just like the cotton exists in the coloured threads of cloth.

When the three qualities are equally poised and oriented, they consequently form into an equilateral triangle, and that state is called the state of no-malice. Malice in Sanskrit is called Asuya. Anasuya means“not Asuya”, non-malice.

Dattatreya is said to be born to Anasuya, the mother and Atri, the father. Atri, the father, is said to be the pure consciousness and Anasuya, the mother, is said to be the state of no malice (i.e. no jealousy). The state of Anasuya is depicted as an equilateral triangle and the state of Atri is depicted as a centre within the circumference.

There is a story in the Puranas about the birth of Dattatreya: The three Logos, whom we call Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma, had a meeting once. They said: “We form the triangle for the creation, and if any among us is in problem, the other two can set it right. But if two of us get into a problem, what would happen? One cannot set right the work of the other two. So we should think of an alternate triangle.“ This is what is called the Law of Substitution, so that in case of a crisis, there is the continuity of activity. This is the thought which resulted in the advent of Dattatreya. Thus, Dattatreya is said to be an efficient, effective, competent replacement to the Trinity. This is how a plan was conceived in the initial stages of the formation of this solar system. Why would these Logos get into crisis? It was found to be possible because in the initial stages of the creation the impediments coming from the darkness were very high and very powerful. For these stories, you have to get into Shiva Purana and Linga Purana.

Atri, the foremost seer among the Seven Seers, entered into a penance for innumerable number of years not to benefit himself but to benefit the humanity. His lady Anasuya was unmalicious, pure energy in embodiment, whose purity was of envy even to those in the celestial circles.

Atri was in deep contemplation upon the Absolute. Then the Trinity appeared to him. Atri was surprised and grateful. He asked them: “What is it that you expect from me?” They said “We would like to be born together as your child”.

Anasuya Then the three Logos went to Anasuya and wanted to test her because to take birth they needed a very pure energy. They came to her in the form of three saints, while her husband was still away in contemplation. She offered food to them. They did not eat but said, “We have made a vow that the one who serves us has to be naked.” By the power of her unmaliced nature, she transformed the three Logos into three small babies and fed them. When her husband came back, he understood the situation, and she released the three Logos again. As promised to Atri, the three Logos joined into one and became one due to the association of the energy of the unmaliced mother, Anasuya. That is how the form of Dattatreya has come to be.

The Puranas say that the advent of Dattatreya was during the full moon hours of Sagittarius. Therefore, by tradition the Sagittarius full moon is dedicated for practices and prayers of Lord Dattatreya. The practices include an orientation to the Lord, right from the first degree of Sagittarius culminating into the sixteenth degree representing the sixteen days. A sixteen day practice is suggested to worship him. And in the year also, the students who follow the path of Dattatreya, regularly study the material relating to the advent and the works of Dattatreya in a period of sixteen days. The original book relating to him was also conceived in sixteen chapters. During these days, food is offered to sixteen persons as a matter of offering to the Lord. That is how the full moon of Sagittarius is related to Dattatreya.

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