by Eric Elbers
I started following Mohanji in 2017, met him in person at the Prana Pratishta [Consecration] of the Mohanji Datta Tapovan in Canada in 2018, and the next year at the Acharya Training held there. During the training Mohanji frequently referred to ‘the Tradition,’ Its role in the world, and his role in the tradition as a servant, without a personal agenda. Not having grown up in a Hindu family, initially ‘the Tradition’ that Mohanji referred to was a bit of a mystery, but after I became interested and started looking into it, I quickly became intrigued and asked Mohanji for permission to document the Masters of the Dattatreya Tradition in a website and place Mohanji’s mission within Its context. With Mohanji’s blessings, a nine-person team of Acharya’s was formed that enthusiastically started preparing biographies for the website. This led to website that has grown into a large repository of information about the life and teachings of Avatars and Spiritual Masters of very high stature.
Dattatreya himself, as Mohanji explains, is not a person or personification; It is Divine Consciousness Itself permeating all creation as creator, sustainer, and destroyer/renewer, in the Hindu Trinity known as Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, the latter in the form of Rudra. It is this Trinity that is represented by the three-faced Dattatreya idol. In reality, Dattatreya is Parabrahma Itself existing beyond the Trinity; however, it is not a disinterested presence of Supreme Consciousness but an active engagement as a Teacher, Guide, and Guru. In that role, Parabrahma is lovingly referred to as Gurudeva Datta. The principles of creation, sustenance and destruction/renewal are plainly visible in nature; hence, Mohanji teaches that Dattatreya IS nature, and nature represents Dattatreya. When Dattatreya assumed Its first incarnation thousands of years ago in the Dwapara Yuga as the son of Atri and Anasuya, He became a recluse and wanderer who accepted Nature as his Guru in the form of 24 principles and teachings found in nature.
That first incarnation became the starting point of the Dattatreya Tradition which has always given a special place and significance to nature. In more recent times, the first incarnation of Dattatreya in the Kali Yuga was Sripada SriVallabha [1320-1350] with the same consciousness returning as Narasimha Saraswati [1378-1459 ], Manik Prabhu [1817-1865], Swami Samartha of Akkalkot [? – 1878] and Shirdi Sai Baba [~1838 – 1918], with many other Dattatreya manifestations playing side roles. It is this illustrious sequence of Masters, this blessed lineage of supremely advanced souls that make up the Tradition to which Mohanji belongs: the Dattatreya Tradition, which he simply refers to as ‘The Tradition.’
The Divine Teacher, Gurudeva Datta, assumes many roles in many forms and can be difficult to recognize for contemporaries. But a few characteristics stand out: the Teacher is always without self-interest and works tirelessly towards the upliftment of other souls. Yet, He is never without opposition, which can be nasty and disruptive. Even though Supreme Consciousness dwells in a human vessel it is not beyond Maya, the play of duality. Another characteristic is that the Teacher always answers the attacks with love, and never retributes. If there is one weakness the Teacher has, it is His vulnerability to the sincere, humble love of the devotee. This love melts the Teacher’s heart, always.
Mohanji is showing us what ‘serving the ‘Tradition’ is like. There is no personal agenda here; instead, He shows us that the Teacher Consciousness is One, and part of a long lineage of divine origin; we are Its humble servants. Another characteristic of Mohanji is that he does not mind breaking molds and shaking up set expectations of the mind. This sometimes contributes to the difficulty of following a Living Teacher. Yet, it is the Living Teacher who provides the opportunity to souls who are ready to connect with an Incarnation of Supreme Consciousness. This connection, hard-fought over many incarnations, provides the opportunity for the seeker to achieve liberation, the end of the cycle of reincarnation.
In the Dattatreya Tradition, it is Dattatreya, Supreme Consciousness Itself, in the form of the Sat Guru, who leads His devotees to liberation. All that is required of the devotee is to recognize the Teacher and hang on in the face of all tests and difficulties. There is no failure for those with conviction, consistency, and commitment. Failure only occurs when we fail to recognize the teacher who Lord Dattatreya has placed on our path.