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Nature as Guru

Updated: Feb 19, 2023

I. Introduction Dattatreya, Hatha Yoga & Nature as Guru

Our health is intimately related to our inherent connection to nature. Drawing on the traditions of hatha yoga, in particular the teachings of Dattetreya, I make the comparison with current research around our body, health and symbiotic relationship with nature. The research essay explores the teachings of Sri Dattetreya, including the historical connection between one of the original yogis and learning from nature as our guru. I touch on modern understandings of ecology and review the research supporting the connection between nature and our physical, mental and spiritual health. More specifically, the objectives of my research include: (1) To explore the historical connection of hatha yoga and nature with reference to the teachings of Sri Dattetreya, including the 24 +1 gurus; and (2) To compare with the current research around physical, spiritual and mental health and our inter- relatedness, unity and oneness with the natural world.

The teachings of Sri Dattetreya form the roots of yoga – he was one of the first to codify it as “hatha yoga”. In the 13th century, Dattatreya, the three headed Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, was quoted by Lord Krishna in the Uddhava Gita, which is second only to the Bhagavad Gita. Sri Dattetreya taught about nature being one's guru. The truth of Atman was found through learning from oneself, nature, and the 24 gurus, which included the elements, such as fire, water, the ocean, the earth, sun, and moon. For example, the ocean is lucid and has great depth. It may be choppy on the surface, but below it remains calm and undisturbed by the river of the inputs of the senses. The wind teaches us non- attachment. The teachings of the lord of Yoga form the basis for a deeper understanding of hatha yoga, and, with regard to ecology, our inter-connectedness to nature. Dattatreya also emphasized asceticism and simple living. No belongings meant no attachments.


II. Lord Dattatreya

Sri Dattatreya was born from his parents Atri and Anasuya (Rigopoulos, 1998). He appears in the Mahabharata as a powerful rsi or sage. In the Puranas he is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and his teachings on yoga and tantra teach the student to seek deeper truths. He teaches about the nature of yoga, the different stages of and results of yoga, and as well as details about the practice, including chanting om (Rigopoulos, 1998). In the Markandeya Purana, Dattatreya frees himself from all attachments. Sri Dattatreya is also portrayed as a yoga teacher and ascetic in the Upanishads (Rigopoulos, 1998). The connection between Dattatreya and Vaidika/Tantrika is established in the Upanishads (Rigopoulos, 1998). In Maharashtra, Dattatreya worship is a major Hindu sect with millions of devotees (Haigh, 2007). Fuerstein classifies the type of yoga Dattatreya teaches as a kind of kriya yoga (2011). However, Rigopoulos categorizes it as a sort of jnana yoga. This is due to the appearance of Dattatreya in other jnana traditions, including nondual Saktism of Tripua-rahasya in south India (Rigopoulos, 1998). According to Rigopulos, Dattatreya appears “as the type of Yogin who is in the world and yet outside of it, and who, though not mad, acts as if he were intoxicated or a lunatic (unmatta), dissimulating his true nature” (1998, p. 35).

Later, in the 13th century, the deity was present in the literature of the Yogic Mahanubhava sect (Rigopoulos, 1998). In particular, the non-dual nature of Dattatreya's yoga is rooted in the Vedanta school of pure non-dualism. The ultimate goal of yoga according to Dattatreya is oneness with Brahman. In Vaisnavism, Lord Vishnu often incarnated as Krishna or Rama, is recognized as Supreme (Haigh, 2007). The teachings warrant deep respect and attention in Hinduism (Haigh, 2007). This is because Dattatreya's story and core teachings were given by Sri Krishna in the Uddhava Gita. Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, quotes Dattatreya, which means that Dattatreya's teachings are very important and highly regarded.

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In modern iconography, Lord Dattatreya is often portrayed with three heads and six hands. His icons combine the three great Gods of Hinduism—Brahma, Vishnu, and

Shiva—as a single “triune” form (Gopinatha,1997). Each pair of the hands

contains two symbols of each of the deities. The four hunting dogs are

embodiments of the four Vedas which are said to be the guardians of the

absolute Truth and the cow behind Sri Dattatreya represents Mother Earth

(Haigh, 2007). According to Haigh, Sri Dattatreya can be evoked as a guru for environmental education (2007). Dwivedi and Tiwari evoke the resurrection of Dattatreya as the patron saint of the environment in helping us develop an ethic relevant to present needs, especially in the face of climate change (1987). In addition, religion and spirituality can provide extra impetus for protecting the environment.

In ancient Hindu texts, there are many references to respecting nature. The Vedas profess messages of environmental protection. Nature is seen as a manifestation of Divinity, including all plants and animals. According to Tanwar, the term pollution did not exist in the Vedas, rather they called it poisoning the environment (2016). The Rig Veda states, “thousands and hundreds of years if you want to enjoy the fruits and happiness of life then take up systematic planting of trees” (Tanwar, 2016, p. 1). Conservation was not only a common theme in the Vedas, but also Upanishads and the Puranas. In Hinduism, the elements make up the foundation of life and humans are part of nature not separate from it. The human body is even made up of the five elements that constitute nature, including space, air, fire, water and earth, all of which are include in Dattatreya's 24+1 gurus.

IV. The 24 + 1 Gurus of Dattatreya

Sri Dattatreya teaches that though the physical world appears as fragmented, there exists an underlying Unity or Universal Consciousness known as Brahman, characterized as satchinanda or truth, consciousness and bliss (Haigh, 2007, p. 130). In the Avadhuta Gita (The Song of The Ever Free),

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Dattatreya states “Know that I am completely absorbed in Brahman. Know that I am free from aim and aimlessness. How can I speak of union or separation? I am by nature blissful and free” (Swami Chetananda, 2005, p. 85). In Chapter 8 of the Avadhuta Gita, Dattetreya describes a sage, including:

“He whose intellect is not agitated by desires and whose sense organs are controlled: he

who is gentle, pure, without possessions; not covetous, not greedy for food, serene and

steadfast; he who has taken refuge in the Self – he alone is a sage. The sage is vigilant,

profound, steady and has conquered the mind and the senses. He is humble and gives

honour to all. He is well mannered, friendly, compassionate and far sighted. The sage is

gracious, nonviolent and forbearing to all. He is established in truth, impartial, and

bene ficent to all. He is a blameless soul (Swami Chetananda, 2005, p. 125)”

Dattatreya describes a sage as being pure softhearted, sweet and gentle by nature. A sage should meditate on the One Soul and the different embodiments, both moving and nonmoving living beings

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person should not be affected by his physical body consisting of fire, water and earth and moved by the modes of nature (Sri Bhgvatam, 2018).

As stated by Dattatreya, the mind is steadied through detachment and a regular yoga practice in which one unites with the breath in seated meditation and focuses on one point, the true self (Sri

contamination. Thus the mode of goodness (or sattva) increases in strength. Passion and ignorance, the

.

A guru is a teacher or guide who helps us along this yogic path of moksha or liberation. Traditionally, gurus are humans, but we can also be our own guru. To Dattetreya's, gurus included the

elements of nature, animals, a child and even a reformed prostitute. According to Dattatreya, the sun, the fire, the brahmins, the cows, the Vais n avas, the sky, the wind, the water, the earth, the soul and all

. This acknowledges that the Divine is in all, and that we can gain insights and inspiration from our natural surroundings and in our

Sri Bhgavatam, 2018)

. A sage should consider himself a pure spirit equal to the ether that expands

everywhere (

Sri Bhgavatam, 2018)

. Ether is not touched by the winds that blows the clouds, so a

Bhgavatam, 2018)

. One fixes one's attention on the heart and one's inner nature, worshiping the Divine

with a steady mind (

Sri Bhgavatam, 2018)

. When this occurs, one is gradually freed from karmic

fuel for negative karma, recede. One then attains beatitude or nirvana (

Sri Bhgavatam, 2018)

living beings all constitute a medium for worship (

Sri Bhgavatam, 2018)

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daily lives. Dattatreya describes the 24 gurus or spiritual masters in the Uddhava Gita. These include

the earth, the air, the sky, water, fire, the moon, the sun, the pigeon, the python, the sea, a moth, a honeybee, an elephant, the honey thief, a deer, fish, the prostitute [Pingala ], the osprey, a child, a girl, an arrow maker, a serpent, a spider and a wasp. Each of the gurus gave both positive and negative

lessons. The descriptions below are based on the original teachings in the Uddhava G t (Sri Bhgavatam, 2018). The Uddhava Gita occurs in the Eleventh skandha of the Srimad Bhagavatam from verse 19 to 34 of chapter 29, and includes a total of 1030 verses (Puri, 2008). In it, Krishna tells the story of the Avadhoota Brahmin, a naked Brahmin believed to be Lord Dattatreya (Puri, 2008). He was always happy and expressed inner joy due to following the teachings of his gurus.

(1) Earth Guru - The Earth Guru teaches us to practice patience and endurance. The “trees and mountains are modifications of the Earth and exist for serving others, including giving fruit, shelter and shade” (Puri, Puri, 2008, p. 7). Like a tree that withstands the battering of the winds but remains rooted, the Earth teaches us to be steadfast, even in the face of insult and injury. The Earth is polluted, pillaged and destroyed, but Mother Earth always provides for us. We sit in the shade of the tree and eat her fruit. She grows our food, medicine and shelter. Similarly, one should learn to live a life devoid of selfishness and promote the welfare of others (Puri, 2008, p. 8).

Dattatreya observed that the Earth is productive, does her dharma, heals and nourishes. In the

Earth one finds the Divine and with sacred mantras from the heart one should give an offering of food

grains (Sri Bhgavatam, 2018). From Earth, Dattetraya learned about doing good for others. One should be steady like the Earth and old growth trees, despite others who may try to distract them.

(2) Mountain Guru - Dattatreya learned from the Mountain to always be there for others and not to deviate from one's path but to rather keep steady, even in the face of harassment by fellow

beings. All of one's actions should be dedicated to the other, the sole reason for this existence (Sri Bhgavatam, 2018).

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(3) Ocean Guru - Like the calm waters of the ocean, a sage is pleasing, grave, unfathomable, unlimited, unsurpassable (in his knowing), and never disturbed (Sri Bhgavatam, 2018). Whether one flourishes or is penniless, it is not important as long as one accepts the One Supreme. Thus one should not exult in prosperity nor wallow in poverty, for as long as one accepts the One Supreme, one is like the ocean with its rivers that do not dry up or swell (Sri Bhgavatam, 2018).

(4) Air Guru - From air he learned about freedom and non-attachment. The air permeates everything – it is light, free and without attachments. Just as the air wanders all over the atmosphere without imbibing the qualities of the objects it is around, one should move around the world in the same way with different types of people but remain untainted by their actions or the atmosphere (Puri, 2008). One should not absorb others weaknesses or get attached to them nor treat them with revulsion (Puri, 2008). Just as the air carries the smell of things but remains pure, one should carry the body, including disease, while remaining detached from the physical body and “seeing one's pure Atman” (Puri, 2008, p. 8). Prana is the life force of all things. One finds the Divine in the air, the life giving principle.The air contains oxygen which we need for life. Air supports, nourishes and cleanses our bodies. A sage should be happy with the movement as his vital air and not seek sense-grati fication – this will keep his mind and speech from being distracted and promote spiritual knowing (Sri

.

(5) Fire Guru - From fire, Dattatreya learned about tapas, self-knowledge and austerity. The Almighty one is likened to the flames – they cannot be seen apart, like the fire of individual souls that cannot be seen separately from the bodies that die and are constantly born again (Bhgavatam, 2018). The Almighty One assumes the identity of each, entering the different types of bodies of higher and lower life forms created by His potency (Sri Bhgavatam, 2018). The Self or Atman has no form but

Bhgavatam, 2018)

. He should also eat only enough to satisfy one's need and not go after things of the

senses

(Sri Bhgavatam, 2018)

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“projects itself in the forms of the various objects of the world and pervades the entire world created by it in the form of cause and effect” (Puri, 2008, p. 11). Fire is also full of light and cannot be suppressed by others (Puri, 2008). It “absorbs all objects into its stomach and reduces them to ashes” (Puri, 2008, p. 10). One should emulate fire and remain pure in one's austerities, keeping the mind and senses under control (Puri, 2008).

(6) Water Guru - Water is pure and cleanses. From the guru of water we learn about purifying ourselves and releasing negative emotions and mindsets, such as anger, greed, and selfishness. We release our sense of separateness and ego. The water rushes over us and cleanses our body, mind and soul. The sage sancti fies like water, the souls or friends by being seen, touch and honored by them (Sri

a spiritual path should be “capable of communicating their vibrations of sanctity and purity towards all they come into contact with” (Puri, 2008, p. 10).

(7) Wind Guru - The self-realized soul takes on different bodies with different qualities, like the wind not connecting with the different odors that it spreads, he does not connect himself with these qualities. A yogi free from selfhood should, just like the wind, never get entangled in relating to the

.

the Supreme God and Spirit are like the sky, transcendental to material nature and the incarnation of the

ether pervades everywhere both inside and outside all objects yet it “remains as one integral space, undivided or not cut by the objects and unpolluted” (Puri, 2008, p. 9). The Supreme Being also pervades all beings (Puri, 2008).

(9) Moon Guru - The moon appears to change but in reality is changeless and perfect, like Atman. Dattatreya also learned impermanence and change from the moon. The physical body changes,

Bhgavatam, 2018)

. Like water, one should remain pure, sweet and friendly to all (Puri, 2008). Those on

objects of the senses and all their different favorable and unfavorable qualities

(Sri Bhgavatam, 2018)

(8) Sky Guru -

From sky he learned about gaining clarity and purity. According to Dattatreya,

Lord, who resides in the spiritual sky beyond material manifestation

(Sri Bhgavatam, 2018)

. Space or

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like the phases of the moon, but the soul, like the moon itself, remains unchanged (Sri Bhgavatam, 2018). Only our physical forms go through birth, life and death, the the Self or Atman remains unchanged (Puri, 2008).

(10) Sun Guru - From the sun Dattatreya learned about Atman and oneness. We are all part of Brahman. As the sun is reflected in various pots of water, we appear separate, but in reality we are one. Even though the suns reflections are multiple, we recognize the oneness of its original form. Similarly, the soul despite having entered in reflections (of different selves), is not seen as different. Though it appears in different bodies, there is only one Self (Puri, 2008). From the sun, the yogi also accepts and forsakes sense objects and does not attach to them, as the suns rays are engaged in evaporating and returning bodies of water, but is not ruled by them. One can find the Divine in the sun and thus one should offer worship and obeisances like Surya namskar (Sri Bhgavatam, 2018).

(11) Osprey (Hawk) Guru - Dattatreya learned from the hawk or osprey to be detached from the material. Striving towards all things held dear to men, such as a wife, house and goods, will be the source of one's unhappiness. While those who know this and is of detachment, achieves unlimited happiness. Just like the hawk or osprey who had prey and was thus attacked by others who were strong and without meat. However, once he gave up his desire for prey, he achieved happiness (Sri Bhgavatam, 2018).

(12) Pigeon Guru - From pigeons, Dattatreya also learned about the dangers of attachment and desire. One should not become overly attached or love anyone excessively. He warns against losing oneself in too much affection or close association with others. He tells the story of the pigeons who built a next in a tree where they lived a householders life, their hearts full of love for each other and their children. The male pigeon did whatever he could to please the female pigeon, catering to her every desire. She eventually laid eggs from which little baby birds were born and the pigeon couple

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happily nurtured them. To see the baby birds happy, filled the pigeons with joy. When the parents left one day to find food for the baby birds, a hunter saw the nest and captured their children. The mother was bound to them, loving them selflessly. She approached them to try to save them but also got trapped in the net. The male pigeon was utterly distraught and downtrodden having lost his wife and children. He ended up mindlessly getting trapped in the net as well.The ruthless hunter took them all home to meet their fate. According to Dattatreya, a family man who so easily takes pleasure in the opposites of the soul, including being overly attached to his wife and family, will ultimately face misery (Sri Bhgavatam, 2018).

(13) Elephant Guru - From a male elephant, Dattatreya learned about the dangers of lust and attachment to passion. A mendicant shouldn't touch a female or they will be captured by physical contact like a male elephant in the grip of a female elephant. A man should never try to get a woman because he may be killed by a rival, like how an elephant is destroyed by other elephants of superior strength (Sri Bhgavatam, 2018).

(13) Deer Guru - An ascetic or yogi should not get distracted by dancing and musical entertainment. According to Dattatreya, a deer was fooled and captured by the hunter's call. Thus one should be careful not to be subdued by the opposite sex for sensual gratification (Sri Bhgavatam, 2018).

(14) Fish Guru - The fish warns us not to go after desires, as the fish dies after it is tempted by the fisherman's bait. Desire can lead to disaster. One should not be fooled by what the tongue dictates, against his better judgement wasting his life, like the way a fish tastes and then is hooked, without following its intelligence, it meets its death (Sri Bhgavatam, 2018). A tongue is the last sense for a Sage to master. A Sage with self-restraint quickly conquers the senses, except for the tongue, which increases with fasting (Sri Bhgavatam, 2018). Like a fish, a Sage who has no control over one's speech has no self-control yet (Sri Bhgavatam, 2018).

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(15) Spider Guru - From spiders, we learn about the importance of hard work and steadfastness. They work tirelessly to weave an intricately woven spider web. According to Dattatreya, the one Self, the one Lord, is a Foundation and Reservoir of All. He created the universe by his potency at the beginning of time and at the end withdraws his creation within Himself at the end of the kalpa (Sri Bhgavatam, 2018). According to Dattatreya, the universe is strung and bound by the thread, and similar to the spider the way it expands the thread from itself and with that thread by its mouth enjoys its meal and then swallows the thread again, the Supreme Lord also operates this way (Sri Bhgavatam, 2018). The potency of the Soul or the Lord is evident with the material powers of sattva are balanced – the True Self is worshiped by all souls and exists in bliss (Sri Bhgavatam, 2018).

(16) Honeybee Guru - Like a honeybee obtaining nectar from various flowers, large and small, a well versed man extracts the essence of Vedic teachings from the smallest and biggest scriptures (Sri Bhgavatam, 2018). From the honey bee, Dattatreya learned about going door to door and collecting bits of food, enough to stay alive, without hoarding. Dattatreya learned from the honeybee that hoarding causes misery. One should only full his belly from his hand or plate and not accept food for charity or keep it for that night or the next day (Sri Bhgavatam, 2018).

(17) The Honey Thief Guru - Dattatreya warns agains accumulating riches like a greedy person who neither enjoys nor shares them with others. Rather they are enjoyed by someone who steals them, like the honey collector does with honey. The honey collector is the first to enjoy honey that was painstakingly collected, similar to an ascetic enjoying the blessings of wealth that were acquired by a householder (Sri Bhgavatam, 2018).

(18) Serpent Guru - Building a home for a temporary self is a vain and troublesome endeavor, according to Dattatreya. One should rather be like a serpent who happily prospers having entered a

.

home built by others

(Sri Bhgavatam, 2018)

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(19) Python Guru - According to Dattatreya, one should only eat what is acquired accidentally, similar to the python, eating as much or as little as is encountered, whether it is tasteless or delicious. When no food is available, the python lies down and fasts for many days. He is both physically and mentally strong. Even though the python is endowed with many senses, it stays free from desire (Sri Bhgavatam, 2018). The might python rests with a clear mind and carries the body without engaging in much physical action (Sri Bhgavatam, 2018).

(20) Wasp Guru - According to Dattatreya, a wasp meditates on a fully grown wasp that has put him in the hive and reaches the same state of being when fully grown without leaving his previous body through transformation. A conditioned soul fixes his mind on certain states and does not go

.

(21) Prostitute [Pingala] Guru - Pingala wood stand in the doorway night after night, spoiling

one night her illusion and foolishness for lust. She was chasing useless pleasures from lovers and attached to money. She recognized her ignorance leading to grief, misery, distrust and fear, forgetting the love of the Eternal One and uselessly subjecting herself to torture as a prostitute at the behest of

transitory nature of her attachments. She relinquished her bondage and found true peace in the Lord

help. She learned many lessons from her time as a concubine – that she is strong and can handle whatever comes her way. She finally realized that she will succeed in life by enjoying the Lord, the big S Self of love and happiness. When one falls into the depths of despair, taken by sense-grati fication of the material world and robbed of one's greater insights, one is trapped in the grip of the snake of Time

2018). Ending the desperation caused by the desire for lovers, Pingala finally finds inner peace. 11

beyond that point – of love, hate or fear

(Sri Bhgavatam, 2018)

her sleep in the hopes that a man would come and give her money

(Sri Bhgavatam, 2018)

. She realized

greedy, lusty womanizers

(Sri Bhgavatam, 2018)

. She finally achieved happiness, realizing the true

(Sri Bhgavatam, 2018)

. She approached the Supreme One for shelter and accepted devotedly his great

and only the Original Lord can deliver one's soul

(Sri Bhgavatam, 2018)

. Then, attentive of the

Universe sized by the snake of Time, sober, one detaches from everything material

(Sri Bhgavatam,

According to Dattatreya the greatest unhappiness results from material desires and the greatest happiness results from the absence of them. Realizing this and putting an end to her hope for a lover,

.

and keep our attention focused on the Divine. The arrow maker is so absorbed in his arrow making that he doesn't know what is outside or inside, as one should be fixed in the soul. The arrow maker didn't even notice the king standing at his side (Sri Bhgavatam, 2018).

anxiety, the one ignorant like a child overwhelmed by great happiness and the one who has reached the Absolute, beyond the natural modes. From a child, Dattatreya learned about being carefree, creative, and enjoying life. Like a child, he should not judge and rise above what is right or wrong. The detached soul or sannyāssī should play like a child and even feign incompetence (Sri Bhgavatam, 2018). Despite being quite intelligent, he should appear absent-minded to avoid unwanted attention, which would be an obstacle. One should fix one's knowledge and wisdom on seeing the Divine pervading the universe. He should act peacefully towards all living beings. As a well-wisher, he will never again fall into misfortune (Sri Bhgavatam, 2018). Like a child, one should wonder the world enjoying only the soul.

(24) The Girl Guru - Dattatreya tells the story of the girl guru who was at a house alone when some men arrived and wanted to marry her. She showed them hospitality and went to beat some rice to feed to them. However, while beating the rice her conch shell bracelets made a lot of noise, which she was ashamed by. So she broke each one off one by one until there was just one on each arm. However, they still made noise while husking the rice, so she broke one until only one remained and no noise was longer made. The lesson to learn from this story is that when there are many people in one place than

live alone, like the lone bracelet of the girl.

Pingala finally slept happily

(Sri Bhgavatam, 2018)

(22) Arrow Maker Guru - The archer or arrow maker teaches us to keep our thoughts on target

(23) Child Guru - According to Dattatreya, there are two types of people that are free from

quarrels are bound to occur, even when there's just two people. After taking instruction from these 24 gurus, Dattatreya goes onto share his knowledge about what he acquired by learning from his own body. One inevitably suffers because the body is bound to future decay. Dattatreya was a teacher of renunciation and detachment, for just as a tree drops the seed that was produced and then dies, at the time of death, a body gives up all that it

etc., but not being satis fied, the Lord created the human life form that was fit for envisioning the

dif ficult to attain and isn't eternal but has great value as one endeavors for the ultimate liberation (Sri Bhgavatam, 2018).

According to Dattatreya, the knowledge acquired from a single teacher cannot be very solid or

Dattatreya obtained enlightenment through observing these 24 (+1) gurus. He wandered the world free from attachment and false ego.

III. Nature & Physical, Spiritual and Mental Health

The link between the environment and our physical, emotional, social and spiritual health is very strong and widely documented. Studies have shown that maintaining our connection to nature is essential for positive health outcomes (Wolf and Flora, 2010; Cox et al., 2017; Olafsdottir et al, 2020; Frumkin et al., 2017). During a time when we are increasingly disconnected from nature, the health benefits of green spaces and natural settings, such as forests, oceans and mountains, include physical, mental and social health. Direct experience with nature improves our psychological and mental health, reducing stress levels, depression and anxiety (Davis, 2004; Greenleaf et al., 2014). Walking in nature improves one's mood more than physical exercise alone (Olafsdottir et al, 2020). Even among urban dwellers, the importance of nature for physical, psychological and social well-being is well documented (Shanahan, et al. 2015; Kabish et al., 2017).

struggled to accumulate

(Sri Bhgavatam, 2018)

. God created various insects, mammals, birds, snakes,

Absolute Truth, and we were born human after many births

(Sri Bhgavatam, 2018)

. Being human is

complete, as The Absolute Truth is sung by the sages in many ways

(Sri Bhgavatam, 2018)

. Thus

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In Europe, the health benefits of young children learning in forests have also been thoroughly researched (Davis, Rea and Waite, 2006). Contact with nature helps children to develop cognitive and emotional connections to their natural environments while promoting imagination, creativity, social relationships and improving intellectual functioning (Davis, Rea and Waite, 2006; Heerwagen and Orians, 2002; Kahn and Kellert, 2002). Ample research supports the beneficial impacts of experiencing nature visually and also through the other senses, such as sound, smell, taste and touch. This is rooted in our evolutionary psychology (Franco, Shanahan, and Fuller, 2017).

There is also emerging evidence of the health benefits of growing and consuming natural organic foods, including inhaling phytoncides in the act of gardening (Franco, Shanahan, and Fuller, 2017). The intricate connection between our microbiome and the soil's microbiome is just beginning to be understood. The human intestinal microbiome and the soil/root microbiome are super-organisms that, when in close contact, replenish, nourish and heal each other in the form of inoculants, genes and growth sustaining molecules (Blum et al., 2019).

Haigh writes about deep ecology as the awareness and understanding of ourselves as part of the whole of nature, a sort of ecological self-realization (2005). According to Margulis, deep ecology is an intuitive understanding of a symbiotic wholeness with nature and Mother Earth or Gaia (1998). All life is equally respected and protected. This echoes the Rights of Nature Movement, that nature exists in its own right. The environment isn't for humans to exploit but rather to be recognized as Divine – part of God or Brahman's creation.

Kumarappa describes an Economy of Service modeled after the selfless relationship between parents and children, where non-violent actions are taken without expectation of reward and with future generations in mind (1945). This idea is similar to Indigenous cultures that think about the impact of their actions on future generations, passing down wisdom related to their connection to the

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environment and ecological knowledge. Similarly, in ancient Hindu texts, including the Vedas, spiritual leaders have warned against environmental transgressions and offered worldviews that are more in harmony with nature and that promote equilibrium and living with minimal impact.

VI. Conclusion

foundational teachings of hatha yoga are a means to awaken our perception of nature and elevate our

They offer insightful guidance with regard to sustainability and spiritual ecology. Values promoted by Sri Dattatreya and the gurus, such as asceticism, simple living, aparigraha (non-attachment), and ahimsa (non-violence), are necessary for lowering our impact on the earth. Through asceticism we learn to Live with less – through living simply, we can live a richer and fuller life. Through the gurus we can enhance our understanding of our inter-connectedness and interdependence with the surrounding ecosystem, leading to better health and well-being. The wisdom of Dattatreya and his gurus can be used as a tool to deepen our relationship with nature on the path of yoga.

Dattetreya and the 24 (+1) gurus can deepen our connection with ecology and nature. These

ecological consciousness.

Harmony and reverence for nature are built into his foundational teachings.

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Blum, W., Zechmeister-Boltenstern, S. and Keiblinger, K. (2019). Does Soil Contribute to the Human

Gut Microbiome? Microorganisms 7(9).

Boleyn, T. and Morteza, H. (2005). Health ecology: health, culture and human-environment

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