Lord Shree Dattatreya said
I have taken shelter of twenty-four gurus, who are the following: the earth, air, sky, water, fire, moon, sun, pigeon and python; the sea, moth, honeybee, elephant and honey thief; the deer, the fish, the dancing girl Pingala, the kurari bird and the child; the young girl, arrow maker, serpent, spider and wasp… Srimad Bhagavatam: Canto 11: Chapter 7: Slokas 33~35
1. Prithvi (Earth)
One should acquire the virtues of endurance and tolerance of duality from the earth. The Earth teaches course of Dharma, art of Tolerance, art of Performing Duty.
2. Vaayu (Air)
One should be detached like the wind. The Wind being pure and odourless in its characteristics, move freely among all objects and yet remain unaffected. Calm and ever flowing without any fear.
3. Aakash (Sky)
Just like the sky one should be single and steady. Like sky, the Soul is omnipresent, all-pervading, and infinite in nature.
4. Jall (Water)
Just like water one should behave with affection towards all. Never be partial to anyone. The sage is like water because he is free from all impurities, gentle in nature and while speaking he creates a beautiful vibration like the flowing of water.
5. Agni (Fire)
Like the fire one should behave with equality towards all. The sage’s glory is like the fire, is made brighter by austerities, his knowledge and tapas; having no vessel other than his stomach.
6. Chandar (Moon)
There are in all sixteen phases of the moon including the subtle phase of the new moon and the fifteen of the fortnight. Though there is waxing and waning of the moon, it remains unaffected by them. Sage should not be affected by the continual change of body from birth to death including diseases and old age.
7. Surya (Sun)
The sun stores water taking the future into account and benevolently showers it on the earth at the appropriate moment. Similarly the sage can accept material things with his senses, but at the appropriate time he should give these things back, as an act from sense of duty. Without getting attached to material sense objects.
8. Kabootar (Pigeon)
Like pigeon story warns against developing obsessive love or attachments in the transient material world. The sage would refrain from attachment after attaining the human body, which is the open door to Mukti (Moksha, Liberation), a door to God-Realization.
9. Ajgar (Python)
Ajgar eats whatever comes in its way and satisfy, whether it is sufficient or not, bitter or sweet etc. A sage always goes for search of wisdom and refrains from running after unwanted pleasures.
10. Samudra (Ocean)
One should not let anyone perceive one’s virtues just as the sea keeps its length, breadth, depth and the treasures in its bed hidden from everyone. However one should always utilise them favourably, for the sake of others. The life of sage remains balanced; the joys of life do not excite him, nor do sorrows depress him. The wise sage never transgresses the highest standards of morality.
11. Patanga (Moth)
Similarly a foolish man is enticed by the illusory pleasures of the visual senses and thus gets caught in the ceaseless cycles of birth and death. Man must try to control the sense of sight (and all other senses) and to try to avoid being greedy.
12. Madhu Mskhee (Honey Collector)
Just as the one who collects the honey acquires it effortlessly so also a male seeker should partake of food cooked in the home of a householder instead of spending time in making a fire, collecting utensils, firewood, etc. Thus learning that accumulation of wealth leads to sudden death like the honey bee, one should stop amassing wealth.
13. Haathi (Elephant)
Men allured by adulterous women are destroyed in the same way as elephants overcome with lust die fighting amongst themselves.
14. Mdhumakkhee (Bumble Bee)
Just as the bumble-bee savours the fragrance of several sunflowers instead of one so also seekers desirous of Liberation should realise that every science will not be easy to grasp and hence should try to understand their implied meaning.
15. Hiran (Musk Deer)
The deer is very fond of music and is very much attracted by it. The deer is trapped by hunter through its love for music. Hunter employs music to lure the deer before hunting it. A renounced person should never become attracted by mundane sounds like sensuous music, specially the sweet singing and dancing of girl.
16. Machli (Fish)
When a fish-hook fastened with bait is thrown into the water, the fish lured by the bait swallows the hook and gets caught. Thus it loses its life. So one should never lose sight of his True Self.
17. Pingala (A Dancing Girl)
One night despite a long wait not a single client approached her. As she restlessly waited pacing up and down, hoping for a client she was finally bored and suddenly developed detachment. The abandonment of expectation from people, leads to contentment and infinite joy.
18. Pakshee (Lapwing)
Seeing the lapwing fly with a fish in its beak hundreds of crows and eagles began chasing it, pecking at it and tried to snatch the fish, thus harassing it. This flock began following it wherever it went. In this world there is peace only if sense objects are rejected, otherwise it leads to great distress.
19. Balak (Child)
Live like being child at heart, innocent, care free and full of Supreme Joy.
20. Churiyaan (Bangles)
When two bangles strike each other a jingling sound is generated. The more the bangles the greater is the sound. Similarly when two persons live together it leads to conversation and when many persons live together there is strife. In both circumstances there is no peace of mind. Hence those doing meditation, yoga, etc. should search for an isolated place and live there in seclusion.
21. Shilpkar (Artisan)
One day an artisan was chiselling the blade of an arrow with great concentration. A king’s procession to the accompaniment of music passed by that way. A man arriving later approached the artisan and enquired, “Have you seen the king’s procession passing by this way, just now?” The artisan replied, “I was so engrossesd in my work that I was not aware of anything”. Just like this artisan a seeker desirous of Liberation (mumukshu) should meditate surrendering all his sense organs to The Lord.
22. Saanp (Snake)
The snake lives alone and avoids the company of other creatures. In order to seek Self-Realization, one should abide in the cave of his own heart.
The snake leaves of its old skin after sometime, and gets the newer one; that make resemblance with phenomenon of death. A true sage never frightened by the death, knowing sooner or later he will get a new life based on his karmic actions.
23. Makadi (Spider)
The spider spins a web secreting a fluid from its belly and plays in it day and night. When it feels like it, it swallows the entire web and becomes free again. Lord Supreme creates material universe from His Maya, preserves it and after a while draws it back into the Self. The Supreme Self has no desires and is beyond the reach of cause and effect.
24. Bhringee Keet (Caterpillar, Wasp)
The wasp catches hold of a worm (caterpillar), put it in its hive (nest), gives it a sting and goes on buzzing about it. The caterpillar is so frightened by this whole ongoing process of buzzing. As a man thinks, so he becomes. Even at the time of death, whatever one’s mind focused on, one attains the same living species form in his next life.
Thus one must try to give up all attachment to the body and attain Moksha or liberation.
Shree Dattatreya explains what he has learned from his own body as a Guru
My Body teaches me Gyaan (knowledge) and Vairaagya (detachment). Birth and death are along with it. It means that if we hold on to this body then we have to bear sorrows. Although it helps to think about Tattwa (elements) still I never consider it mine.
1. Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 11, Chapter 7 Shri Krishna instruction Uddhava
(Slokas from 27.. onwards).