Is there any story about how Lord Dattatreya acquired the knowledge of Yoga?

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    Sri Dattatreya is described as the son of Atri and Anasuya. This site might be helpful slideshare.net/kamalsrathore/… Mar 17, 2015 at 11:25
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    THe Lord Dattatreya studied Nature, and from that He gained complete Realization. In reality He was already Realized. He was an avatar. It was God's message that one need not run after any Gurus or Sadhus to gain Brahma Jnana. The Guru is within. Nature is the best teacher and upon looking within we find that our Guru is there inside. All the best sir!! Great question and thank you
    – Sai
    Mar 17, 2015 at 21:59
  • @Sai Well, avatarams of Vishnu need not be completely realized at birth. Krishna certainly was, but Rama didn't know that he was an incarnation. (In fact the gods even swore an oath to Vishnu to keep it a secret from Rama, so that his victory against Ravana would be all the more impressive.) Mar 17, 2015 at 22:28
  • @Keshav - There is no question of realization or non-realization as far as Supreme Vishnu is concerned, because he is the Supreme. All avatarams of Lord are supra mundane unlike the decent of other gods.. Just because some humans out of ignorance don't realize his supremacy, it is their loss. Remember, the BG verse "Avajananti mam mudha manushim tanu masritam , Param bhavamajananti sarva bhuta maheswaram". Free tranlation : due to ignorance, humans think that i am(Krishna) just another human or jiva. But they dont know, that i am (Krishna) the sarva bhuta mahesvaram (Supreme Lord of all )
    – user808
    Mar 18, 2015 at 9:52
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    @KeshavSrinivasan It depends on one's personal beliefs and various philosophies. IMHO The Avatars are very much realized. They play the role of someone who 'does not know', just to inspire the seekers. This 'not knowing' of Rama of HIs own nature as Brahman (called by the name Vishnu according to you) is not really the same kind of 'not knowing' that we and other sadhakas have. As you rightly have said on another comment of mine, this 'not knowing' does not spring from avidya, but rather it is a role, a divine drama played to inspire the mundane. It is out of compassion. ThanksAll the best!!
    – Sai
    Mar 18, 2015 at 16:39

1 Answer 1


As I discuss in this answer, Dattatreya was the son of the sage Atri, one of the mind-born sons of Brahma, and his wife Anasuya, who had received a boon that Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva would be born as her sons. And sure enough, Brahma incarnated as her son Chandra the moon god, Vishnu incarnated as Datta AKA Dattatreya, and Shiva incarnated as the short-tempered sage Durvasa.

Now as to your question concerning how Dattatreya acquired his knowledge of Yoga, the ancient king Yadu, founder of the Yadava dynasty that Krishna was a member of, once asked Dattatreya that very question, as described in the Srimad Bhagavatam:

O brāhmaṇa, I see that you are not engaged in any practical religious activity, and yet you have acquired a most expert understanding of all things and all people within this world. Kindly tell me, sir, how did you acquire this extraordinary intelligence, and why are you traveling freely throughout the world behaving as if you were a child? Generally human beings work hard to cultivate religiosity, economic development, sense gratification and also knowledge of the soul, and their usual motive is to increase the duration of their lives, acquire fame and enjoy material opulence. You, however, although capable, learned, expert, handsome and most eloquent, are not engaged in doing anything, nor do you desire anything; rather, you appear stupefied and maddened as if you were a ghostly creature. Although all people within the material world are burning in the great forest fire of lust and greed, you remain free and are not burned by that fire. You are just like an elephant who takes shelter from a forest fire by standing within the water of the Ganges River. O brāhmaṇa, we see that you are devoid of any contact with material enjoyment and that you are traveling alone, without any companions or family members. Therefore, because we are sincerely inquiring from you, please tell us the cause of the great ecstasy that you are feeling within yourself.

Dattatreya responded that he did not acquire his knowledge from any actual Guru, but rather he achieved an enlightened state by observing various people, animals, and elements of nature, and taking their lessons to heart:

My dear King, with my intelligence I have taken shelter of many spiritual masters. Having gained transcendental understanding from them, I now wander about the earth in a liberated condition. Please listen as I describe them to you. O King, I have taken shelter of twenty-four gurus, who are the following: the earth, air, sky, water, fire, moon, sun, pigeon and python; the sea, moth, honeybee, elephant and honey thief; the deer, the fish, the prostitute Piṅgalā, the kurara bird and the child; and the young girl, arrow maker, serpent, spider and wasp. My dear King, by studying their activities I have learned the science of the self.

You can read the lessons he learned from each of his 24 "Gurus" in this chapter, this chapter, and this chapter of the Srimad Bhagavatam. It would make the answer too long to quote all 24 lessons, but for instance here is what he learned from the sky:

A thoughtful sage, even while living within a material body, should understand himself to be pure spirit soul. Similarly, one should see that the spirit soul enters within all forms of life, both moving and nonmoving, and that the individual souls are thus all-pervading. The sage should further observe that the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as the Supersoul, is simultaneously present within all things. Both the individual soul and the Supersoul can be understood by comparing them to the nature of the sky: although the sky extends everywhere and everything rests within the sky, the sky does not mix with anything, nor can it be divided by anything. Although the mighty wind blows clouds and storms across the sky, the sky is never implicated or affected by these activities. Similarly, the spirit soul is not actually changed or affected by contact with the material nature. Although the living entity enters within a body made of earth, water and fire, and although he is impelled by the three modes of nature created by eternal time, his eternal spiritual nature is never actually affected.

Note that the three chapters I linked to are part of the Uddhava Gita, a Bhagavad Gita-like religious discourse between Krishna and his relative Uddhava which I discuss here.

EDIT: Here's a picture summarizing the 24 lessons:

  • I become aware of Dattatreya few days ago. I am reading about him now to know more of him. I read in wiki here that he was incarnation of trimurti But you said he was incarnatin of Vishnu only. Can you clear a little please that he is incarnation of whom? I am just confused by reading different views.
    – Vishvam
    Sep 11, 2017 at 12:24
  • @Rishabh Yes, he's an incarnation of Vishnu. The notion that he's an incarnation of the Trimurthi has no basis in Hindu scripture as far as I know. Sep 11, 2017 at 17:29
  • What about Tripura Rahasya? I read here that Shiva taught it to Dattatreya, is that accurate? Aug 5, 2018 at 2:44

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