Shri Dattatreya is a historical figure about whom much could be written. For our purposes however, we will confine his depiction here to those features important to the International Nath Order. Within the INO, Shri Dattatreya is recognized as an Avatar or divine incarnation and Adiguru (first teacher) of the Adinath Sampradaya into which Shri Mahendranath was initiated. In this sense, Dattatreya is considered as a historical figure and teacher of the highest essence of Indian thought.
Many Indian traditions view Dattatreya as their Adiguru. This includes some Nath traditions still flourishing, while other Nath panths or sub-sects give this role to Shiva, the historical figure Adinath or Gorakhnath, etc.. The greater Nath stream has never been a monolithic order where each initiate referring to themselves as “Nath” has conformed to a unified creation myth. What is important to any Nath sect is the passage of wisdom from Guru to disciple in an unbroken line through the principles of initiation, instruction and practice.
The Avadhuta Gita (Song of the Avadhut) is attributed to Dattatreya and is a wonderful compilation of the highest order of thought. It is written from the earthly viewpoint of a human being who cast off the fetters. This text was purportedly given to and recorded by two of Dattatreya’s disciples, Swami and Kartika.
The Markandeya Purana reports that Dattatreya dove into a lake where he stayed beneath the waters for many years. By doing so, he hoped to evade an assembly of Munis who waited patiently on the banks of the lake for his return. One day, Datta emerged from the water naked and in the company of a beautiful woman. The text relates that they made love, drank liquor and enjoyed singing and music. In spite of this, the Munis did not abandon him and Dattatraya, accompanied by his shakti, continued to engage their practices while being served and meditated upon by those longing for moksha.
In the Bhagavata Purana, Dattatreya enumerates a list of his twenty-four gurus: earth, air, ether, water, fire, sun, moon, python, pigeons, sea, moth, bee, bull elephant, bear, deer, fish, osprey, a child, a maiden, a courtesan, a blacksmith, serpent, spider, and wasp. Scholars will find this list to vary from place to place. In any case, Dattatreya was informed by nature in all of its aspects and awakened to the Absolute in understanding the divine integration of all.
In The Pathless Path to Immortality, Shri Gurudev Mahendranath writes:
“Shri Dattatreya was a dropout of an earlier age, than the period when Veda and Tantra merged to become one simple cult. It was men like Dattatreya who helped to make this possible. Three of his close disciples were kings, one an Asura and the other two both belonging to the warrior caste. Dattatreya himself was regarded as an avatar of Maheshwara (Shiva) but later was claimed by Vaishnavites as the avatar of Vishnu. Not such a sectarian claim as it appears; Hindus regard Shiva and Vishnu as the same or as manifestations of the Absolute taking form.”
Dattatreya is usually depicted with three heads, symbolizing Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva; this signifys the three lords of Creation, Preservation and Destruction manifesting in a single human form.
Shri Matsyendranath is a historical figure said by some scholars to have lived about 1000 years ago. (c. 1000 C.E.) He is considered by many to be the founder of the broader Nath Order as a distinct sect. While the Naths had actually been known much earlier, he did initiate a revival by combining the three viewpoints of Siddha, Kaula (Tantrik) and Nath teachings. Shri Maytsyendranath developed a bit of a public relations problem during the Puranic period. There is where he was said to have lived in the “City of Women” and took their queen as his consort. While some believe an awakened adept would have known what he was doing, the story informs us that his chief disciple, Shri Gorakhnath was moved to action with the intent of saving his Gurudev from that fleshy involvement. Shri Gorakhnath went on to emphasize the yoga of meditation within a sannyasi order and is considered the Adiguru of the largest Nath Panth in India. Shri Matsyendranath is still revered in Nepal and many parts of Northern India. Of considerable interest to the modern INO, is the Kaula confluence between both Shri Matsyendranath and Shri Pagala Baba.
Mahendranath, Shri Gurudev. Ecstasy, Equipoise, and Eternity
Shri Sadguru Lokanath
Shri Sadguru Lokanath was a Nath guru and avadhut from the area of Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand, India. Shri Lokanath was the first Indian guru of Shri Mahendranath and initiated him into the Hindu sect of the Adinath Sampradaya as a sannyasin in 1953. Shri Lokanath taught disciples of his own choosing the science of the divine. He insisted his disciples live alone in lonely places without distractions until they reached the goal. He wrote no books or treatises, preferring to shun attention or publicity. There is no known photo of Shri Sadguru Lokanath.
Shri Pagala Baba
Shri Pagala Baba (born:1871, died: Oct. 1967) was a Bengali who had a small ashram on the outskirts of Ranchi, Jharkhand, India. Both his birth name and initiation name are unknown. He was referred to in that area as Panch Mistry, and later as Pagal Mistry because he refused to touch money. Finally, the name Pagal Baba took hold though he was addressed simply as Baba by those devoted to him. According to Shri Gurudev Mahendranath, Pagal Baba was recognized by all in the north of India as being the guru of the Uttara Kaula sect and holder of that ancient parampara.
Shri Gurudev Mahendranath received initiation into the Uttara Kaula from Shri Pagala Baba and parampara in 1967 upon the mahasamadhi (death) of Shri Pagala Baba.
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Shri Gurudev Mahendranath