Dattatreya is considered by Hindus to be god who is an incarnation of the Divine Trinity - Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The word "Datta" means "To Give", Datta is called so because the divine trinity have "Given" themselves in the form of a son to the sage couple Atri and Anusooya. He is the son of Atri, so the name "Atreya", Hence the name "Dattatreya".Dattatreya was born on Wednesday, the fourteenth day of the full moon in the month of 'Mrigashira'. Symbolically Lord Dattatreya is depicted with three heads, six hands, four dogs, standing in front of a cow and tree. In his hands He holds a drum (Damaru), Chakra, Conch(Shankh), Rosary(Japa mala), Water Vessel(Kamandala) and a Trident (Thrishula).The Lord's three heads represent Brahma Tatwa, Vishnu Tatwa and Shiva Tatwa. All powerful creative cause is Brahma, sustaining energy is Vishnu and and annihilating energy is Shiva. (Srishti, Sthithi and Laya energies) are the three heads. Lord Dattatreya is also holding a rotating discus -chakra. It is a round circle with no beginning and no end. Like the universe, it too is constantly moving, always in a flux. He uses this Chakra to destroy all kinds of karmic bonds of His devotees. His right hand holds a Rosary-Japa Mala. With this the Lord counts His devotees, liberating them by merely thinking of their name. In another hand the Lord is carrying the Water Pot-Kamandala. This holds the nectar of pure wisdom. With this He revives the souls thirsty for knowledge, liberating them from the endless cycle of life and death.
The four dogs of Dattatreya are the embodiments of the four Vedas. They follow the Lord as "hounds of heaven, watchdogs of the ultimate Truth" They help the Lord in "hunting" and finding pure souls, wherever they may be born. Behind the Lord Dattatreya is the cow named Kamadhenu. This divine cow grants the wishes and desires of all those who seek the Lord. She grants all material and spiritual wishes of the Lord's devotees.
The Lord stands in front of the Audumbara tree. This is the celestial wish -yielding tree. It fulfills the wishes of those who prostrate before it. Audumbara is the bearer of nectar, and wherever it is found, Lord Dattatreya is always found in it's shade.

Lord Dattatreya's Birth
Sage Narada praised Anusooya's "Pativratyam" (Devotion to her husband) a lot before the wives of Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva making them jealous of her. They requested their husbands to reduce her Pativratyam. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva went to Anusooya as guests when Atri was not there at home and asked her to serve them food (lunch). When she agreed to do so, they said that they will accept her alms on the condition that she serves them in NIRVANA state. Anusooya falls into a dilemma. If she comes in NIRVANA state in front of other men her pativratyam will be reduced. If she refuses then that is dishonor to the guests and they can take away all the power of Atri. Anusooya felt that the three guests who asked such a strange favour are not normal people since they are trying to place her in a tricky situation. Since the guests asked for alms saying "Bhavati Bhikshan Dehi" (Oh Mother! Give us some food). Anusooya told them that she would serve if they come as small children. Because of her greatness and her presence of mind, when she came to serve food the three gods became small children. She feeds them and put them to sleep in a cradle. Atri came back afterwards and hearing the story from Anusooya, praised the three gods sleeping in the cradle. They woke up in their original form and praised Anusooya's pativratyam and gave her a boon. Anusooya requested that these three should be born as her children--the incarnation of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.

Datta's Travels
Lord Datta spent most of his life wandering in the area around North Karnataka through Maharashtra and into Gujarat as far as the Narmada river. Datta attained realization at a place called Ganagapur in North Karnataka. The original footprints of Lord Datta are believed to be located on the lonely peak at Mount Girnar. The path of Dattatreya embraces all spiritual paths and is the source of all other traditions. He who treads the path of Truth, regardless of what religion he belongs to, is treading the path of Dattatreya. As an incarnation of God, Datta came down to spread the universality of true religion. Anyone can be his follower, regardless of cast, creed or status. No matter what sect or religion the true seeker follows, eventually he comes under the guidance of Lord Dattatreya, the Eternal Spiritual Guide of all mankind.

Datta's presence is not limited to any one country or sphere, as He is the Guru of all Gurus, the all-seeing, all-powerful, ever-present link between God and Man. However, special places of worship (Datta Peethas) have grown up around sacred areas, where His presence is most strongly felt by the sincere seeker of Datta.
These places include Suchindram, Senthamangalam, Mount Girnar, Nagalapuram in Andhra, Prayag, Datta Guha in the Himalayas, Ganagapur, Narasimhavadi in Maharastra, Quthambara near Poona, Avadumbara, Somapuram, Chandradronagiri and Datta Peetha at Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Ashrama, Mysore.

The Shaandilya Upanishad declares very clearly that Lord Dattatreya is the Supreme Reality and is the cause of everything that is created. It states, "The Supreme Brahman performed penance which was of the nature of knowledge (jnyana), and desiring to become many, assumed the form of Dattatreya. From that form came out the three letters A U M; the three mystical names Bhuh, Bhuvah and Svah; the three-lined Gayatri; the three Vedas Rig, Yajur and Sama; the three Gods Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara; the three castes Brahmana, Kshatriya and Vysya; and the three fires Gaarhapatya, Ashavaneeya and Dakshina."

Lord Dattatreya came as the Supreme Philosopher (Avadhoota) so that the true meaning and purpose of Sacrifice (Tyaaga) may be revealed to mankind. Atri, His father, symbolizes penance (tapas) as described in the scriptures, and Anasooya represents freedom from jealousy. When penance and non-jealous nature unite in a single person, the highest truth emerges as Lord Dattatreya. So "Datta" means "Selfless giving" The whole life of Dattatreya shows us that this "giving" selflessly is the true renunciation/sacrifice. The significance of this sacrifice is stated in the Dattatreya Upanishad where the Lord says, "Not by action, not by progeny, nor even by self, but by renunciation (tyaaga) alone is immortality attained." Real renunciation is the giving up of "I" and mine, not the mere abandoning of duties. Living a selfless life require giving up one's ego. That is what Lord Dattatreya describes as true sacrifice.

As a Yoga-Avatar, Lord Dattatreya teaches us to perform all our duties skillfully and diligently. Yoga does not require outside aids, nor does it demand great physical effort. All we have to do is change our outlook and transform our attitude to life. This "change" consist of giving up the idea or feeling of "doership", "enjoyership" and the resultant anxiety (and attachment ) for the fruits of our actions. By performing all our duties with this changed outlook, our mind will be freed from agitation and attain the restful state called "equanimity", or the state where there is no "mind". This is the state of Bliss that every soul ultimately aspires to. This is the state of Datta - The Ultimate Gift of God.

Dattatreya Hare Krishna Unmatta Nanda Daayaka - Digambara Munebala Pishacha Gnana Saagara

Devotee's Experiences

Swami Sahaja Datta Pada, Mysore
"Swamiji, you give so many things to your devotees, how come you never give me anything?"
He looked at me and said in the most compassionate voice, "I don't give you anything, for I have kept you in my heart"

Swamy Vishnudatta Padarenu, Russia
Sri Swamiji addressed me by my name, Varada Raja, greeted me, allowed me to do Namaskaram, and then began speaking with me as though He had known me for several years....

Mysore Patrike Venkatramu
"I bless all those who come to me irrespective of their caste or religion. If a Christian comes to me I tell him to believe in Jesus and continue to have faith in his own religion. Likewise, if a Muslim comes to me I stress upon the importance of being a good Muslim and follow his own faith..."

S Dwarkanath, Mysore
"Your friend Satyanarayana has become a Swamiji, I went and paid my respects, you also go and do the same", I did not pay any attention to this talk so she hit me on the head....

C S Venkatesh, Bangalore
"Wherever you work, as a clerk or an engineer, be honest and sincere and pray to God and your Guru. You will come out good in life".....

Krishan Kumar, Mysore
Then He took me to His room and showed me a map of India, showing certain places saying that He wanted to go there. "Will you take me? Will you take me?"....

Sheetal Persad
"Don't worry; Sri Swamiji will take care." I realized at that moment that he was answering my thoughts. He knows everything for He is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. He is my master.....