Definition - What does Dattatreya mean?

Shri Dattatreya, or Datta for short, is one of the oldest Hindu deities. He is considered an incarnation of the Hindu gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. He descended to Earth to save mankind by establishing satya (universal Truth), rta (natural or cosmic order) and dharma (the principles of righteousness).

The name, sometimes spelled Dattathreya, comes from the Sanskrit datta, meaning "gift" or "giver," athr meaning "great," and eya, meaning "a collection of." Atreya is an honorific used by the descendants of the sage, Atri. Dattatreya, as the son of Atri, is the most direct descendant of the sage. His legacy includes Ashtanga yoga.

Yogapedia explains Dattatreya

Various Hindu sects worship Dattatreya differently, although he is considered a form of the three deities known as Trimurti – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Devotees believe that Dattatreya is not a deceased sage from ancient times, but is physically alive even today.

Considered a guru of all creation and environmental education, Dattatreya said he had 24 teachers that came from nature including the sky, the sea, fire and the honeybee.

Dattatreya gave the world what is now known as Ashtanga yoga: the eight-fold path of yoga that was codified by the sage, Patanjali:

  1. Yama: Integrity, ethics
  2. Niyama: Self-discipline and spiritual observance
  3. Asana: Posture or pose
  4. Pranayama: Breath control exercises
  5. Pratyahara: Withdrawal from the external world, detached from senses
  6. Dharana: Concentration
  7. Dhyana: Meditation, contemplation
  8. Samadhi: The state of being one with the Divine, ecstasy

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