By Eric Elbers, Canada
The story of the MyDattatreya website
KEEPING GOOD COMPANY
It is often said that travellers on the spiritual path should keep good company. Being an avid reader and living in a household where the members generally have other than spiritual interests, I found reading about the life and teachings of spiritual masters an inspiring and enriching experience. Paramahamsa Yogananda, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Anandamayi Ma, Amritananda Mayi Ma, and many other elevated human beings became my daily company, my teachers and my spiritual nourishment.
Therefore, it was only a matter of time until I would learn about Shirdi Sai Baba, his life story as penned down in the Sai Sat Charitra, and next, the amazing story of Sathya Sai Baba. When reading about these masters, they would, as it were, come alive for me and indeed did become my daily companions. It was also a time when I was in transition from a spiritual path that had centered on the Sound Current and the Radha Soami teachings to more broad-based Hinduism. I felt attracted to Amritananda Mayi Ma and her teachings on compassion. I recognized that my reading, to a large extent, was an intellectual occupation, and I felt drawn to more heart-based spirituality shown by the amazing ‘hugging saint.’
Then, in 2017, in an honorary magazine issue dedicated to Sathya Sai Baba, I read an article by Mohanji, in which he told his life story and his relationship with Sathya Sai Baba, who had been a turning point in his life. I felt immediately attracted to Mohanji and saw an opportunity to help an up-and-coming spiritual master in his mission. With time, a master attracts a core group of devotees around him who help and support him. A master who has been teaching for decades may have thousands of devotees and a hierarchical structure in the organization, but a master who is beginning his mission may still be approachable and welcome devotees to help him in his work. Such a Master was Mohanji. I emailed Mohanji and requested permission to start a meditation group based on his guided meditations. Very shortly, I received a reply that Mohanji had already become aware of my request even before it had reached him and had given his blessings.
In the summer of 2018, Mohanji came to Canada to dedicate an ashram in Ontario with a prana pratishta ceremony to inaugurate and empower the Ganesha, Dattatreya and Shirdi Sai Baba idols. That became an opportunity to meet face-to-face with Mohanji, who was very kind and enquired about my spiritual journey and how I had learned about him. I told Mohanji that it was my desire to serve him in his mission and become an ’outstanding’ disciple to him. This wish was fulfilled the following year when I was invited to participate in the Acharya training at the Canadian ashram, led by Mohanji himself. Mohanji told us that the correct way to measure living masters is not how many devotees they attract, but how many new masters they develop. The Acharya program was designed to develop such ‘budding’ masters. What a blessing to have been invited to participate!
During the Acharya training program in the summer of 2019, which lasted four days, I heard Mohanji many times refer to ‘the Tradition.’ I had no clue what tradition he was talking about, but it sounded intriguing to me, and soon thereafter, I learned about the Dattatreya tradition. That’s when I realized my love for Dattatreya. Even though I had grown up in a devoted Christian family [the Dutch Reformed Church], my intense reading had groomed me to recognize the immense stature and power of the Dattatreya tradition—the tradition of Avadhutas and liberation. To me, Dattatreya was not just another spiritual master, deity, or a great story, but I recognized him as the original, divine, spiritual teacher [Adi Guru] taking on many embodiments. This teacher is Divine Consciousness Itself, Supreme Reality, taking many incarnations to engage with souls to guide them back home. All the Masters I had read about were part of Dattatreya, the Supreme Teacher. This Teacher is Supreme Consciousness Itself, loving his emanations, Souls, and guiding them to Himself.
I felt I needed to give expression to my love for Dattatreya and wrote to Mohanji that I wished to work on a website dedicated to Dattatreya, documenting the great masters of the Dattatreya tradition to let people know about their lives and sublime teachings. Mohanji replied back “Yes, this needs to be done.” Encouraged, in November of 2019, I started a Facebook Group dedicated to the ‘Peerless Masters of the Dattatreya Tradition.’ Since its start in November 2019, this group has grown to more than 2250 followers, sharing news and stories about the Dattatreya Masters.
In the spring of 2020, during a Zoom Call with Mohanji Acharyas, Mohanji suddenly asked, “Is Eric there?” When I responded, he asked me to start working on the website for the Dattatreya tradition. Then, with the help of the Acharya Board, an international group of nine Acharyas was formed, and we started working on the documentation of the life and teaching of the Dattatreya Avatars and Masters. Thus, the MyDattatreya website was born. Seeing the success of the ‘Friends of Dattatreya’ Facebook Group, a Facebook Page about the Dattatreya Masters, named ‘MyDattatreya’ followed in the summer of 2020. This Page has now attracted 1348 followers.
Due to the Covid pandemic from 2020 to 2022, travelling was restricted, and very few events were organized. So, as soon as it was announced that a Mohanji-led trip to Shirdi, India, would be held in December 2022, I decided to attend. It had been a long-standing wish of mine to visit the home of Dattatreya Avatar Shirdi Sai Baba. This was the chance. I also had desired to meet with Devi Amma, a living Saint in Bangalore, and spiritual daughter of Sage Agastya and Mother Lopamudra, and seek her blessings. Fortunately, I was able to combine both visits and was graciously welcomed by Devi Amma during a 30-minute private visit.
When we were speaking about Lord Dattatreya and the Masters of the tradition, Devi Amma shared a very interesting insight. She said that the incarnation of Dattatreya, as the embodied trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, had occurred due to the Divine Mother, the Shakti energy, requesting Supreme Consciousness, Shiva, to take birth as the trinity, so devotees could directly connect with the trinity of creation, sustenance and dissolution. Shiva agreed, and the well-known birth story of Dattatreya enacts this. It illustrates that it was the trinity which visited Anasuya, the pious wife of Sage Atri, during lunchtime while her husband was absent and tested her piety. And it was at Anasuya’s request [symbolizing Shakti] that the three gods agreed to be born to her as the trinity; hence, the child was named Dattatreya [Given Trinity].
Baba made me do an involuntary parikrama (circumambulation) when visiting Baba’s Samadhi Mandir for the first time in Shirdi. I entered the temple around 4:30 pm and, as is the custom, took off my shoes at the entrance I had arrived at (there are five gates) and placed them in a nearby rack. It was extremely busy in the temple with long lineups, and it took about one hour to complete paying my honours to Baba. By the time I got out, it had become dark, and moreover, I exited at a different location which I did not recognize.
I had never been to Baba’s temple. This is a large place with buildings and crowds everywhere. It was very, very busy, but I had no choice but to start walking around the temple in my socks, looking for the rack with my shoes. Many different entrances, crowds everywhere, but no shoes I recognized. So, I made another round, and then another, and then another. No easy walking on socks on the very uneven, pebbly pavement. Clumsy and uncomfortable. After about an hour, I became more and more confused and shared my plight with a guard. Actually, three guards [trinity?] and it was the third guard who took pity on me and took me around the temple (again), visiting all places with shoe racks. And there are many!
Finally, I was ready to give up the search and buy flip-flops for the rest of the trip, assuming my shoes had found a new owner. However, after another half hour of walking around the temple, right at the very end of the search, I spotted my shoes near Gate 3, where they of course had been from the very beginning. I was elated and relieved but also exhausted from circumambulating Baba’s Samadhi Mandir on socks for 90 minutes. Only Baba knows why he wanted me to do a 90-minute parikrama around his temple on socks, but in the end, he had mercy upon me.
Another interesting and very heart-touching experience happened on the final morning in Shirdi, on the day of my departure back home to Canada. During the previous evening, I had met a group of Mohanji devotees from the Philippines, and we had discussed returning early in the morning to visit Dwarkamai, the place where Baba had sat next to his Dhuni [sacred fire] and receive visitors. I had not been able to find the place yet, but it could be challenging to schedule a visit because to be there at a quiet time, one has to start very early in the morning. And it was going to be a long day of travelling.
But, surprisingly, I found myself awake and quite alert at 2:00 am, so I decided to make my way to the Temple. I was very happy to see my Philippine friends again; the temple grounds were still very quiet, and we had a wonderful time walking the grounds and spending time sitting and meditating in the Dwarkamai.
Two notable surprises occurred on that last morning in Shirdi. The first one happened while we were circumambulating the beautiful and graceful Neem tree, still alive, under which Baba had chosen to sit during his first visit after arriving in Shirdi as a young lad well over one hundred and fifty years ago. He sat there in meditation, rain or shine, and appeared to Shirdi inhabitants as an introvert yogi, having arrived mysteriously from an unknown source. While we circled the tree, suddenly, a few Neem leaves gently whirled down and landed at our feet. Excited and deeply grateful, we collected and shared these few precious leaves from the otherwise bare pavement since they are such a rare and prized possession for Baba devotees!
Next came a really big surprise. While ready to leave the grounds after having spent time meditating in the Dwarkamai, a Temple Guard suddenly appeared from nowhere and handed me a large gift bag wrapped in orange cloth. “Here, this is for you,” he said and walked away. I was stunned and surprised. My friends excitedly said, Oh, look, you have received a gift from Baba! What a blessing!” When I opened the bag, I found it was filled with diverse prasad: flowers, coconuts, fruits, sweets, gift cloth, etc. Indeed, a sweet blessing and departing gift from Baba.
NADA, THE SOUND CURRENT
We all have different constitutions, unique talents and weaknesses, and unique histories. On top of that, we travel different trajectories towards our shared destination, a complete merger with Supreme Consciousness, also called The Divine or God. Some of us are quick-witted and quick learners; others are sensitive with a great capacity for feeling and compassion. Some of us are visual, some auditory, some intellectual and some intuitive. For me, the journey has never been accompanied by great visual experiences or cinemascopic adventures, although at times I wished it would be like that. Instead, the Divine has come as a cat on quiet feet. He has come as a whisper, an insight, a calm knowingness. While others report remarkable meetings with a diversity of Masters, to me, the Divine Presence, the Master, and Mohanji in particular, came as a quiet companion, a deep feeling in the heart, a nudge, a wink. Rumi called this Presence ‘The Friend.’ I call it my Companion. It is Consciousness Itself, also represented by Dattatreya.
There is no way we can separate ourselves from Consciousness, nor can Consciousness separate Itself from us, since Consciousness is what we are. We ARE THAT, Consciousness Itself. We are living, breathing and moving consciousness. All talk about Self-Realization is about removing the veil of illusion that we are something else. There is no need to grow into anything, to change anything, or to become something, because we are THAT already. We are Dattatreya.
In essence, we are victims of identity theft, the mind having stolen our true identity. Therefore, it can be said that we are victims of misidentification. We identify ourselves with an illusory personality produced by the mind. The master helps to lift this veil of illusion when our legs are strong and stable enough to carry the weight of our true nature.
My spiritual journey started nearly fifty years ago by connecting with the Audible Life Stream, also known as the Sound Current, Nada or Shabda, the Voice of God resonating through the universes. This sound of creative energy is always with us. It sings through creation in a divine play of creation, sustenance and dissolution. It starts as the primordial sound of AUM and branches into the Music of the Spheres, God’s Voice resounding in His Creation.
Over time the Sound Current has become my constant companion, a high-pitched eeee, at a slightly different pitch in each ear, merging in the centre of the head. It is the flow of the creative energy, the kundalini through the nadis.
During Dattatreya mantra chanting on Zoom, each Thursday morning at 7:00 am [PT]], at some point, the Sound Current ‘descends’ and becomes a presence that takes over. Hands and feet start tingling with the live energy flowing through the body system. It is like being plugged into a high-voltage electric wire. That is the Sound Current, the presence of Dattatreya.
These chanting sessions are open to all, and participants have reported also experiencing this high energy. By connecting to the chanter and the chanter connecting to the Sound Current, together we are wired to this Divine energy that flows through the universe as the creative, sustaining and dissolving force. The force of the Trinity. The Energy and Presence of Dattatreya.
Om Dram Sri Gurudeva Datta
Humbly submitted at the feet of my Master Mohanji and my Lord Dattatreya.
|| JAI BRAHMARISHI MOHANJI ||
Edited & Published by – Testimonials Team, 4th May 2023
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