Avadhuta Gita is a text of Advaita Vedanta. It goes into no philosophical argument to prove the oneness of Reality, but is content to make the most startling statements, leaving the seeker of truth to imbibe them and be lifted from illusion.
The Avadhuta Gita is a text of Vedanta representing extreme Advaita or Nondualism. It is ascribed to Dattatreya (Datta, son of Atri), who is looked upon as an Incarnation of God. Unfortunately, we possess no historical data concerning when or where he was born, how long he lived. Or how he arrived at the knowledge disclosed in the text. Some of the Puranas mention him, and of these, the Markandeya contains the longest reference; but even this is legendary and by no means very informative.
The account in the Markandeya Purana suggests the following facts of Dattatreyas's life: He was born of highly spiritual parents, Atri and Anasuya; very early in life he became renowned as a great warrior, and soon, renouncing the world and devoting himself to the practice of yoga, he attained to the highest state of liberation, thus becoming an avadhuta.
Avadhuta means a liberated soul, one who has "passed away from" or "shaken off" all worldly attachments and cares and has attained a spiritual state equivalent to the existence of God. Though avadhuta naturally implies renunciation, it includes an additional and yet higher state which is neither attachment nor detachment but beyond both. An avadhuta feels no need of observing any rules, either secular or religious. He seeks nothing, avoids nothing. He has neither knowledge nor ignorance. Having realized that he is the infinite Self, he lives in that vivid realization. To the Hindu mind, Dattatreya is a symbol of this realization. Whoever the unknown composer of the Avadhuta Gita many have been, he must himself have been a man of the highest spiritual perception.
The Avadhuta Gita is a small book of only eight chapters and is written in spirited Sanskrit verse, which breathes the atmosphere of the highest experience of Brahman. It goes into no philosophical argument to prove the oneness of reality, but is content to make the most startling statements, leaving the seeker of truth to imbibe them and be lifted from illusion into the blazing light of Knowledge (jnana).
Advaita Vedantins have prized this Gita highly. Swami Vivekananda, one of the greatest Advaitins of all time, often quoted from it. He once said, "Men like the one who wrote this Song keep religion alive. They have actually realized; they care for nothing, feel nothing done to the body, care not for heat, cold, danger, or anything. They sit still, enjoying the bliss of Atman, and though red-hot coals burn the body, they feel them note."
The present English translation was first published in part in 1946 in The Voice of India, a magazine of the Vedanta Society of Northern California. The learned translator, Swami Ashokananda, a senior monk of the Ramakrishna Order, served as editor of Prabuddha Bharata from 1926 to 1931 and was in charge of the Vedanta Society of Northern California from 1932 until his passing away in December of 1969.
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