How Dattatreya made Parasurama his disciple

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Great Masters / Storytelling


Dattatreya is considered one of the most enigmatic and capable yogi ever. Parashuram was a very intense, but emotionally wayward being. Sadhguru tells the story of how Parashuram became Dattatrey's disciple. Sadhguru also tells about the 3 types of Yogis.


Duration: 11 min


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5 min read

How Dattatreya made Parasurama his disciple

The following is an unedited transcript of Sadhguru's video. For better readability, breaks and highlights have been added by the editors.

In certain schools of yoga, they classify yogis into three categories. These are referred to as mandha, madhyama, and utama.

Mandha means he has tasted what it means to be conscious. He has tasted the source of creation, he has known the oneness, but not able to keep it throughout the day. He needs to remind himself. When he reminds himself, when he is aware, he is there. When he is not aware, he loses that whole experience. Nobody can be effort-fully conscious for twenty four hours. If you are making an effort to be conscious, if you can manage it for a few seconds or minutes, it’s a big thing. Otherwise, it will go all over the place. So, the first stage of a yogi is called mandha.

The second stage of the yogi is called madhyama, that means medium. He is constantly in perception, but the inner dimension and what’s beyond is in perception, but what is here he cannot manage. Being in India, definitely you have heard of various yogis who are worshipped, but they were absolutely incapable of anything in their life. Many of them at a certain phases of their life, they even had to be reminded to eat and go to the toilet – even that had to be taken care of. They became like helpless infants, but they were in a fantastic state within themselves. But however fantastic it is, you cannot remain in that state because being disconnected with the physical world, you cannot remain in the physical body. If you have to maintain your physical body, you must have some competence with the physical world. Otherwise, you cannot manage it.

The third state of a yogi is constantly in perception of the ultimate, at the same time, he is perfectly in tune with the outside. To an extent, you do not know whether he is really a yogi or not.

Dattatreya, you heard of Dattatreya? Dattatreya? Okay. That’s some good news. Because, Matsyendranath and Dattatreya have been held as the greatest yogis in the tradition. Among a galaxy of realized beings, these two have been held as the greatest amongst them.

Matsyendranath – because of the way he existed, people considered him as the re-incarnation of Shiva. With Dattatreya, people around him said he is the re-incarnation of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma at once. This is people’s way of expressing it. When they saw something about that person, though he is in the human form, nothing human at all – this doesn’t mean he is inhuman, he is definitely not human. So, when they saw such qualities, they could only compare him to Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma, like this. They said he is the re-incarnation of all the three. So, sometimes you will see Dattatreya’s images with three heads because he is the re-incarnation of all the three.

Dattatreya lived a very enigmatic life. Even today, the clan, which grew out of him, they follow certain things, a powerful clan. You might have definitely you have heard of Kanphats – these are the worshipers of Dattatreya. Even today, they walk around with black dogs. Dattatreya always had black dogs around him, spotlessly black. I will not go into this dog business. There is a whole lot of things about it. He used dog in a certain way. You know, if you have a dog at home, he is little more perceptive than you. Yes or no? In smell, in hearing, in vision – he seems to be little better than you. So, Dattatreya took the dog to a different level and he chose those dogs which were completely jet black. Even today, the Kanphats have these dogs with them. They won’t let their dogs walk, they will carry them on their shoulders and walk – big dogs, because it was Dattatreya’s pet. So, they treat him very special. After two hundred generations still, what he set up still runs. Still it’s one of the largest clans of spiritual seekers.

When Parasurama, the axe hacker – anything that he saw, he hacked up with his axe including his mother – a man of very volatile emotions. In many ways, without participating in it, Parasurama decided the fate of Kurukshetra war. He fixed Karna in the very beginning. He had enormous capabilities, but his emotional volatility did not allow him to perceive the divine every moment of his life, off and on, off and on – bad weather most of the time. So, he went to many, many gurus or teachers. When he found they did not have what he is looking for, he hacked them. Yes.

And then, he came towards Dattatreya. People told him “Dattatreya is your answer.” He came, still with his axe. When he was coming towards Dattatreya’s place, many other spiritual seekers had gathered. They looked into his ashram and were running away. This is not a spiritual place. When Parasurama walked in to Dattatreya’s abode, he looked, here was a man, who was sitting with a pot, a jug of wine on one lap and a young woman on his other lap – he just looked. Dattatreya looked drunk. Parasurama looked at him, put his axe down for the last time and prostrated himself. Everybody else left. The moment he prostrated, the jug of wine and the woman disappeared and Dattatreya was just sitting there with his dog at his feet. Parasurama found his salvation to Dattatreya.

This is a demo for Parasurama, because he is a man of immense capabilities, but this capability is finding expression in anger – finding expression in a state of emotional volatility that it always finds negative expression, tremendous power finding negative expression. So, Dattatreya employed a certain ploy and when Parasurama could see beyond the wine and the woman and his drunkenness, and still know that Dattatreya was constantly in touch with the divine – that moment became his opening. If he was that perceptive right through his life a lot of people would have been spared the axe.

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