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Avadhut Gita by Dattatreya fronted The Avadhut Gita, or Avadhuta Gita, may be called an ancient non-dual text. Several errors in Hari Prasad Shastri's English translation (1st edition, 1934) have been corrected here; some words and phrases are updated; and a few notes have been added. The source of the introduction is Hari Prasad Shastri's preface. Various titbits from the ancient text's seven chapters are given. The rest of the text may be found in Avadhut Gita translations. - T. Kinnes


The word Avadhuta refers to a mystic who has done away with worldly concerns and standard social etiquette, at least in his or her heart. Such personalities are considered to be free to 'roam the earth like a child'. An avadhuta does not identify with their body or mind. Such a person is said to be pure consciousness in human form. Avadhuts play a significant role in many Yoga, Vedanta and Bhakti traditions.

Some are born free, and may appear in any class of society. Others wear next to nothing, and meditate a lot. And then there are others who may not be recognised for what they are, as they do not show off. They may live like ordinary people.

The Avadhut(a) Gita is a mystical text which tells how the avadhut(a) is.

Dattatreya, the Author

It has been mentioned that Dattatreya was the teacher of the sage Patanjali. Be that as it may: The main work attributed to Dattatreya is the Avhadhuta Upanishad. It describes the wherabouts of a free (liberated) soul, one who is much uninterested in the dogmas of others, or habits, rituals, and surface morality too at times.

According to Dattatreya, the free man need not have any particular appearance, lifestyle, religion or social role. He (or she) may walk about naked or be dressed up as a prince. He may appear pious or blasphemous, ascetic or hedonistic. The important thing is that. Also, a liberated soul will not wilfully harm or destroy others, it is pointed out, even if there occasionally are good sides to breaking rigid taboos before they do us harm.

Dattatreya is often pictured naked, sitting in embrace with a lovely female, eating hog's flesh, drinking wine . . . He is further described as Madman and Child and so on.

The Avadhut Gita

The Avadhut Gita is . . . meant for the use of those advanced students of Indian metaphysics who have learned self-control to an applicable extent . . . [Mod.]

It is a well known classic in its way.

The lower form of prayer consists of singing hymns and repeating mantrams [words or sounds] in which the ultimate Reality, the secondless, all-transcending Brahman [God] is conceived in terms of duality.

A mantra(m) is a Vedic formula, the repetition of which, according to approved rules, induces spiritual consciousness, and also psychic powers.

Added: It is perhaps poetically declared in the Manu Samhita "An offering, consisting of muttered prayers, is ten times more efficacious than a sacrifice performed according to the rules (of the Veda); a (prayer) which is inaudible (to others) surpasses it a hundred times, and the mental (recitation of sacred texts) a thousand times." [Chap 2, v 85]. Add a pinch of salt, allowing leeway too. Depending on the required skills and the conditions, effects may vary.]

'Brahman' comes from the root 'brih', expand - also called Sat, Chit and Ananda, i.e., (Absolute) Existence, Intelligence and Bliss (joy).)

The higher form of prayer consists of feelingly singing of Brahman in terms of non-duality, [for example,]" I am Brahman," and [it may] bring before us the great vision of Truth [it is held] . . .

The Avadhut Gita contains this knowledge . . . The word Avadhut means a high renunciate, a Mahatma ['great soul', perfected in some way or ways], one who has found unity with God . . .

Who was this Mahatma Dattatreya . . .? To some Yogis and devotees he is an immortal, and they still see him . . .

He was a historical person . . . From the fact that most of his devotees live in the Bombay presidency we can infer that he lived in Western India . . .

There is a mention of the Avadhut in the Eleventh Book of the Shrimad Bhagavata [which is attributed to Vyasa, written in a highly poetic style . . . The following is an extract from this book:

His many gurus

"Salutations to you, Sage, Kindly tell us what guru has given you the great knowledge which has made you perfect in wisdom, full of peace, and devoted to the good of all living beings."

The Avadhut anwered:

"One's own Self is one's chief Guru. By knowledge of Self [in] communion one gets the great bliss."

The Avadhut did not learn from one particular source, but from many teachers, or gurus. He then mentioned twenty-four of them, including Water, the earth, the wind, space, the moon, the sun, the sea, and the arrow-maker.

  1. From water he learned purity and the taste of tastelessness. "As water is sweet and pure, so is Atman [the divine Self]. Man should manifest sweetness and purity in his conduct. I have therefore taken water as one of my Gurus," he said.
  2. "Patience, forgiveness, supporting others without expectation of gratitude I have learned from my Guru, the earth."
  3. "The wind blows everywhere, over the flower-beds, deserts, marshes, palaces and prisons, without being attached to any of them, without preference or dislike. So, I, an Avadhut, go everywhere, scattering my blessings of peace, without being attached to anyone. My Guru, the wind, has taught me this lesson."
  4. "In the all-pervading space there exist clouds, stars, planets, dust-storms, and so on, but it is not touched by any of them. So is Atman, which, pervading all bodies of men and animals, of saints, sages, kings, madmen, sinners, and paupers, is untainted by any of them. So do I feel, having learned this lesson from space, my Guru."
  5. "As the moon is perfect, in spite of its waning and waxing, which do not exist in it, so is Atman ever perfect, in spite of its seeming imperfections. This is what the moon, my Guru, has taught me."
  6. "As the sun through its rays absorbs water from the earth, only to give it back in a cool and pure form, so ought a Mahatma to take the things of the world, not for his own sake, but in order to give them back in a richer and better form. This is what my Guru, the sun, has taught me."
  7. "Though thousands of rivers empty themselves into the sea, yet it remains within its limits; so remains undisturbed the mind of the knower of God, though objects of all kinds pour themselves into it. Thus, the sea, my Guru, has instructed me."
  8. "From the arrow-maker I have learned the value of concentration. In a certain town there lived an arrow-maker, who devoted his full attention to his occupation. Once he was beating the point of an arrow, when the king and his procession went by the street. He was so attentive to his work that he knew nothing of the king's passing, and when they asked him how he liked the music of the procession he said, 'What procession? When did it pass?' So ought we to concentrate on the Truth that no external object or event should disturb us."

The teachings of Rishi Dattatreya are similar to those of Vasishtha . . . There are still many paramahansas . . . and yogis who follow the path of spiritual solitude . . .


Chapter 1

3.   I alone am, ever free from all taint. The world exists like a mirage within me. To whom shall I bow?

Reader, do you exist?

5.   This is . . . intuitional. I am the Atman.

10. . . . More subtle than space itself am I.

11.   Know the Self . . . ever shining.

13.   You, Atman, were never born, nor did you ever die. . . .

16.   You are the great all-transcending Reality.

18.   Know Atman to be above duality and be happy.

20.   Atman . . . the eternal Truth . . . yourself.

21.   Reality underlying [forms] is eternal.

23.   Concentration is not possible on perishable objects [or] on Atman. [For:] "Is" and "is not" do not apply to Atman.

30.   Atman . . . supreme Reality am I.

34.   Some there are that prize non-dualism, others hold to dualism. They know not the Truth, which is above both.

35.   How can the supreme Reality be described . . . beyond voice and mind?

37.   Where the one Brahman alone is, how can it be said "this is Maya [by which the phenomenal world has been brought into existence]?

50.   The true Self reigns supreme.

54.   My friend, many words are not needed. The world [hardly] comprehends reason. Truth: "You are Truth, you are as space."

58.   The Avadhut walks naked, knowing . . Brahman.

59.   Where there is no "Third" or "Fourth *, where all is known as Atman, . . . how can there be bondage?

* In addition to waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep, Hindu darshans (philosophies) reckon with "the fourth" (state), also called Turiya. And . . . go beyond words and common experience. - T. K.


Chapter 2

The Avadhut said:

1.   The fallen [have something] good in them. They all teach something. Learn from them.

2.   Your Guru . . . Take the Truth he teaches. A boat, painted and adorned, will carry you across the river; so also will one that is plain and simple.

6.   The modifications of the inner organ (antahkarana) have no part in me. Like bubbles rising and falling in a river, thoughts and volitions rise and disappear in the inner organ.

9.   Brahman being above duality, cannot be compared with any object.

12.   Atman, beyond perception, . . . realized step by step.

14.   There is one antidote to highly dangerous passions, and that is to return to the state of Atman.

25.   The wise discover that Atman is not seen by shaving the head. Nor is it seen through postures.

28.   There is neither unity nor duality in Atman.


Chapter 3

2.   How shall I bow down to my own Self
In my own Self and by my Self?

4.   The Absolute cannot
Be described in terms of conditions;
How can I speak of myself?

6.   My Atman;
It comes not, and It goes not;
Without a beginning and without an end;
Neither higher nor lower is It;
That Truth am I.

11.   Atman is space-like I AM-realization giving immortality
[Space-like immortality-giving knowledge am I].

12.   It is Truth transcendental.
Nothing exists but Atman.
That space-like immortality-giving
Knowledge am I.

17.   The saying of the Shruti "not this, not this"
Does not apply to Atman.
How can it be said "When all is subtracted
Atman alone remains"?
It is symbolical but not a symbol;
Yet even this cannot be said of Atman.
Space-like, the water of immortality am I.

18.   Deceit, hypocrisy, and untruth
Have no place in me.


Chapter 4

2.   In the One there is neither union nor separation.

5.   Neither sin nor virtue ever existed in me.
No instructions and no rituals are there for me.
By nature I am Nirvanic [HPS: Nirvana].

8. I am free even from the taint of Nirvana. I cannot speak of the "Third" or the "Fourth".

18.   I have told the disciple the essence of Truth Know that by nature I am freedom absolute.

Ahh! 21 Renounce, renounce the world, and also renounce renunciation, and even give up the absence of renunciation. By nature all-pervasive as space, knowledge absolute are you.


Chapter 5

1.   The syllable OM is Brahman, space-like and free from duality.

2.   You are that Atman - the Shruti says, "Tat Twam Asi [you are That]."

So! 5.   To know that there is neither higher nor lower in Atman is Samadhi*; to know that Atman is ever free from time and space is Samadhi.

*This is an existential definition from an experience.


Chapter 6

1.   The whole universe is [also] a projection of the mind. When the mind is stilled, bliss absolute [can well up; can be] revealed.

3.   The Self is free from day and night and [outer] space [somehow].

5.   Atman is absolute bliss.

8.   Space, time, water, fire, earth, constituting the world, are a mere mirage. One, ever blissful exists - neither cloud nor water in It.

13.   Atman . . . how can the buddhi*, which operates only in duality, and which is perishable, discern It?

Buddhi: The higher mind which includes the discriminative faculty and intuitive reason. It may also mean intellect.

15.   Conceptions of manhood nor womanhood cannot exist in eternity.

17.   It alone exists and is eternity.

21.   The body and whole universe are imagined in Atman.

23.   The Avadhut who has realized this mystery of all mysteries, moves about radiating bliss and higher knowledge.

25, 26.   The Avadhut, free - it can only be said about him that he is purity absolute, and far above the clouds of maya and ignorance.

29.   Free, he moves calm and unhurried through the world. His normal state is bliss.

30.   Atman is hard to describe and hard to obtain.

So! 31.   The natural state of Self-realization renders all else insignificant.

34.   What do the pundits know of the Avadhut? Even the Vedas cannot speak of him perfectly.


Chapter 7

5.   Efficient in his undertakings, full of compassion is the sadhu*; he gives pity to [many, not] all, has enmity towards no one.

*Sadhu: a Hindu wandering holy man; a holy man who lives away from people and society; an ascetic holy man.

6.   The Avadhut, an ocean of Truth, is ever engaged in the work of mercy.

7-12.   Know the meaning of the word AVADHUT by the four letters which form it, A, V, Dh, T.

15.   There are three kinds of wine, but also is a fourth, the wine of sex.

16.   When the mind is uncontrolled, then the body, which is the object of affection to the ignorant, also suffers, and when the mind is controlled, then the body also remains in good estate.

17.   Engage your minds in [great and] spiritual wisdom, protect your minds. (Abr.)

18.   This is the song of the great Dattatreya Avadhut. Those who read it and hear it with respectful attention [all of it, and perhaps in Sanskrit], they are not reborn here on earth [but a better place, I hope.].

"Blessed am I; in freedom am I.
I am the infinite in my soul;
I can find no beginning, no end.
All is my Self . . "

So! Note to: "I can find ... no end": Anyway, the song ends here.

Avadhut Gita, Avadhuta Gita of Dattatreya, Literature  

You may wonder what value all the words about the Undescribable has. They may put us un the track and point in a certain direction (see Transcendental Meditation) and show the ways to higher human levels than ritual, ceremonial and intellectual ones. They may tell: "Get to good meditation, looming higher than study."


Abhayananda, Swami tr. Dattatreya's Song of the Avadhut. Olympia, WA: Atma Books, 2000. ⍽▢⍽ There is a Sanskrit transliteration facing an English translation of the verses, every other page. It runs well.

Ashokananda, Swami, tr. Avadhuta Gita of Dattatreya. 3rd ed. Mylapore: Ramakrishna Math, 1978. ⍽▢⍽ The book comes with Sanskrit text, English transliteration and an English translation of the verses. Very helpful.

Mal, Kannoo. The Avadhuta Gita. Triplicane, Madras: S. R. Murthy and Co, 1920. ⍽▢⍽ A translation of the verses. A good book.

Shastri, Hari Prasad. Avadhuta Gita. 3rd ed. London: Shanti Sadan, 1968 (1934). ⍽▢⍽ A clear, accurate English translation. It may be ordered from the publisher, ◦Shanti Sadan.

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