Sri Dattatreya (Sanskrit: दत्तात्रेय, Dattātreya)

Sri Dattatreya or Datta is the true form of the "Divine Trinity" - Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva.

Sri Dattatreya came as the Supreme Philosopher (Avadhoota) so that the true meaning and purpose of Sacrifice (Tyaaga) may be revealed to mankind. Atri, means "No Three" the one who is beyond the experience of the three "Tapatrayas" (God Given, Nature given, Man made troubles) is "Atri" and Anasuya represents freedom from jealousy.When penance and non-jealous nature unite in a single person, the highest truth emerges as Lord Dattatreya. As ultimate self-sacrifice, the Supreme God gave Himself as Datta to Atri and Anasuya.

He is beyond the influence of the three gunas and is considered as "Parabrahman". For the welfare of the universe, the trinity of gods incarnated as "Dattatreya" for the protection of the rightteous, establishing Sanatana Dharma and destruction of the evil.

Dattatreya the eternal teacher (Adi Guru) is the Manifestation of Triple Principle of Sat (Existence), Chit (Knowledge) and Ananda (Bliss).

Iconography

Dattatreya is beyond the infulence of the three gunas, ans is to be considered as "Parabrahman". Dattatreya is usually depicted with three heads,
symbolising Brahma (Tejas), Vishnu (Ojas) ,and Shiva (Tapas);
past, present and future; creation, preservation and destruction;
and the three states of consciousness: waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep.

He is portrayed with his shakti beneath the 'wish tree' (Holy Audambar tree) (Sanskrit: Kalpavriksha)

with the 'wish Cow' (Sanskrit: Kamadhenu) which is always with Him, represents the Mother Earth and Dharma. She is the wish-fulfilling cow 'Kamadhenu.

Around him are four Dogs symbolise the four Vedas.

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.

Dattatreya

The Trident indicates that He has transcended the three gunas, which constitute the illusory world Sattva-illumination, Rajas-activity and Tamas-inertia.

The Kamandala indicates Spiritual Knowledge.

The Conch represents the eternal sound ‘AUM’ – which is the manifestation of the Spirit.

The rhythm of Dhamuru wakes up spiritually sleeping souls from ignorance to the wakeful state of truth.

The Japa-mala - rosary, He wears reminds us that our primary duty is chanting the sacred name of the Lord.

The 'Bhasma' ashes indicated His 'Vairaagya' dispassion as well as His purity. Ashes indicate the evanescent nature of all created nature of all created objects and the ultimate state of all matter.

He always carries a Begging Bowl so as to teach us the lesson that we will have to share our wealth and food with others.

Twenty four Teachers

Shri Dattatreya had twenty four teachers from nature.

They are 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.

Avataras

Dattatreya is supposed to have taken 16 avatars.

As a Yoga-Avatar, Lord Dattatreya teaches us to perform all our duties skillfully and diligently.Yoga does not require outside aids, nor does it demand great physical effort.All we have to do is change our outlook and transform our attitude to life.This "change" consist of giving up the idea or feeling of "doership", "enjoyership" and the resultant anxiety (and attachment ) for the fruits of our actions. By performing all our duties with this changed outlook, our mind will be freed from agitation and attain the restful state called "equanimity", or the state where there is no "mind".

This is the state of Bliss that every soul ultimately aspires to.

This is the state of Dattatreya - the ultimate Gift of God.