As I discuss in this question, by far the most popular school of Hindu philosophy is the Vedanta school, which bases its tenets on the doctrines laid out in the Brahma Sutras, a work by the sage Vyasa that summarizes and systematizes the philosophical teachings of the Upanishads. You can read the Brahma Sutras here. In any case, in Adhyaya 3 Pada 4 of the Brahma Sutras, Vyasa says this:

Topic-13: Meditations Connected with Rites

  1. The teacher Atreya thinks that the agentship for meditation belongs to the master of the sacrifice, since the Upanishads mention their results.

  2. The (teacher) Audulomi says that it is the duty of the priest (to undertake such meditations), for he is retained for that.

  3. And from Vedic texts also (this stands confirmed).

Now most commentators interpret these Sutras as referring to the Chandogya Upanishad, which prescribes meditation upon certain elements of a Yagna as a means of attaining Brahman, and the question is who should do the meditation. A philosopher named Atreya, which means "descendant of Atri", thought that the Yajamana or the person organizing the Yagna should do the meditations, but Vyasa sides with the philosopher Audolomi, who thought that the Ritvik or priest officiating at the Yagna should be the one who meditates.

But Baladeva Vidyabhushana, the Gaudiya Vaishnava commentator on the Brahma Sutras, interprets things very differently. In this excerpt from his commentary, Baladeva Vidyabhushana argues that Vyasa is agreeing with both Atreya and Audolomi, but that they are speaking about a completely different subject: Atreya is saying that Vishnu takes care of all the needs of his Nirapeksha devotee, and Audolomi is saying that in doing so Vishnu is acting similar to a Ritvik or priest who takes care of the needs of his Yajamana or person organizing the Yagna.

But my question is about what Baladeva Vidyabhushana says about this Atreya figure in his commentary on Sutra 44:

Sutra 3.4.44 ... From the Lord come results, for that is heard in the Shruti-Shastra. That is Dattatreya's opinion.

The bodily needs of the devotee are supplied by the Supreme Personality of Godhead [svaminah]. Why is that? The sutra explains, phala-shruteh. "For that is heard in Shruti-shastra." ... This is also the opinion of Dattatreya Muni.

So my question is, is it true that the Atreya figure quoted in the Brahma Sutras is the same as Vishnu's incarnation Dattatreya?

For those who don't know, Dattatreya was an ancient incarnation of Vishnu who was born to Brahma's son Atri along with Brahma's incarnation Chandra the moon god and Shiva's incarnation Durvasa the famously angry sage. I discuss the story of Dattatreya in my answers here and here. In any case, the only work of Dattatreya that I know of is the Tripura Rahasya, a purported dialogue between Dattatreya and Parashurama. But is this quote from the Brahma Sutras found in the Tripura Rahasya or any other work of Dattatreya?

Also, do any scriptures or any other commentaries on the Brahma Sutras address the identity of this Atreya figure? I'm not talking about generic discussions of the figures quoted in the Brahma Sutras, I'm looking for specific discussions of Atreya.

  • Well the most famous Atreya is Lord Datta so it is possible.
    – Surya
    Apr 9, 2016 at 15:53
  • its on oversimplification to say dattatreya is a vishnu incarnation: sunypress.edu/p-2736-dattatreya-the-immortal-guru-yo.aspx "Dattatreya's Brahmanical portrayal, as well as his even more archaic characterization as a Tantric antinomian figure, combines both Vaisnava Saiva motifs. Over the course of time, Dattatreya has come to embody the roles of the immortal guru, yogin and avatara in a paradigmatic manner. From the sixteenth century Dattatreya's glorious characterization emerged as the incarnation of the trimurti of Brahma, Visnu, and Siva"
    – S K
    Feb 28, 2018 at 21:29
  • 2
    @SK As that link says only from the 16th century onwards did Dattatreya start being considered an incarnation of the Trimurthi. But Hindu scripture is unambiguously clear that he's an incarnation of Vishnu. Feb 28, 2018 at 21:31
  • lets even assume thats true. are people believing a falsehood from the 16th century? you can't get out of this with "kalpa bheda"
    – S K
    Feb 28, 2018 at 21:43
  • 1
    "lots of people have false beliefs" - thats for sure.
    – S K
    Feb 28, 2018 at 21:47


You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .