I first heard the story of Dattatreya’s twenty-four Gurus many years ago. It is an interesting story and goes something like this-

A great king was travelling through a forest along with his large retinue. He came across the young Dattatreya, an Avadhuta. The king saw that Dattatreya was radiant with an inner joy, and realized that this was no ordinary ascetic.

The king began to converse with Dattatreya, and asked him who his Guru was. Dattatreya told the king that he had twenty-four Gurus, and proceeded to explain.

My first Guru is Mother Earth,” said Dattatreya.

“People plough, dig, light fires on the Earth as they please. On the other hand, the Earth feeds and sustains all creatures, however they treat her.”

“The Earth taught me never to stray from the path of patience and love.”

Dattatreya then explained that fire, water and the wind were also his Gurus.

” Fire taught me to accept any offering and to turn it into a flame which will bring light into my life and into that of others too.”

“Water is ever-moving and purifies all it touches. It taught me never to be stagnant.”

“The wind touches everything, but does not attach itself to anything. It taught me not to discriminate, and to remain unaffected by worldly things.”

Dattatreya told the King that the Sun, the Moon, a pigeon, a python, the sea, a moth, and a honeybee were his Gurus too.

In all, Dattatreya enumerated twenty-four things, from which he had gained knowledge. Those were all his Gurus.

Finally the King realized that Dattatreya looked upon everything in this world as his Guru, and obtained wisdom from everything- however small or seemingly insignificant.

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Today is Guru Purnima [Aashadh purnima].

It is also known as Vyasa Purnima in honour of Veda Vyasa who is considered Aadya (the 1st) Guru. He is the author of the great epic “Mahabharat”. It is said that there is no human emotion that Maharshi Vyasa has not depicted in the Mahabharat.

I think today would be an apt day to remember with gratitude those from whom we have obtained knowledge- our Gurus.

The importance of our Guru is wonderfully expressed in this verse by Sant Kabir-

Guru Govind Dono Khade

 Kaake Lagoon Paaye

 Balihari Guru Aapne

 Govind Diyo Bataaye.

[Sant Kabir chose to bow to his Guru before he bowed to God, because without his Guru, he would not have known what God was]