The 24 Gurus of Dattatreya

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.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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]

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16 thoughts on “The 24 Gurus of Dattatreya”

  1. That was a lovely tribute to the Gurus of our life. How true that we have something to learn from everything around us if only we wanted to! But in our super-egotistical state, we think we are all enlightened and proceed to teach others. Thank for this post on Guru Purnima, Manju 🙂

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    1. How true, we all think we are enlightened! And there is nothing we like so much as to advise otheres. 😀

      Many of us like to say that we are ‘self-made’. That perhaps may be true of a very few. But I think most of us have had someone to guide us at various times.

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  2. well I am not much of a beleiver but the word GURU I do beleive in because I am what I am today because of all the GURU’s who have taught me things.

    IT was good to read the article I did not know who wrote mahabhartha.. now i know Thanks

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  3. In every stage of my life I had someone to pull me out, guide me. I wouldn’t have been who I am without them.

    The story of 24 gurus is interesting. We learn from everything. Thanks for the story, Manju.

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    1. I read that even those who behave badly towards us teach us how not to behave! 🙂

      Sandhya, I too, have been fortunate to have someone to guide me so many times in my life.

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  4. its so enlightening ..yes if one wants one can learn from everything and everyone..and self made is an expression I think mainly for financial position, for other attributes, none can say it:)

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  5. Our country is one with such a rich culture, heritage and strong family values. And you wonder where we went wrong. All the chaos,unrest that we find these days.

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    1. Yes, we do have a rich culture and heritage. I love these stories from our past. Such profound wisdom expressed in a very simple manner.

      Looking forward to a new post on your blog, Radha. It’s been a while since you published a post….

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  6. I accidentally came to know your name in a comment box and just the curiocity as you bear the same surname as me brought me here. And I got to read agian about Dattatreya’s Gurus. As he is our Poorwaj (Joglekars are Atri’s descendants, it gave me immense happiness. Thanks.

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