The term ‘Datta’ means the one who has been given in gift. Now, we need to understand what ‘Atri’ truly means. Atri is the name of the great Sage to whom Shri Dattreya gave himself in gift. But that is the commonly understood and plain meaning of the term. Shri Martand Manik Prabhu Maharaj takes us further and deeper in understanding the philosophical meaning of the term Atri. He says the term Atri refers to the one who perceives or experiences the three stages of consciousness, viz. Jagruti (the state of wakening), Swapna (the state of dreaming) and Sushupti (the pure and dreamless state of sleep). It also refers to the constant and unchanging element in the three states of our existence, viz. Sthoola (physical), Sookshma (ethereal) and Kaaran (supra-ethereal). He says we, as the perceivers and subjects of the THREE states of consciousness and existence are Atri and the Supreme Godhead or Parabrahman is Datta, whom we have received in gift as a reward for our deep sense of devotion and love. He is the real inner power within us and the un-changing perceiver of the different stages of existence and consciousness.
To put it in a nutshell, Dattatreya is the eternal Atman or Parabrahma who is the true nature and essence of our being and remains unchanged and undiluted in all the states of our existence and consciousness. Shri Sadguru Manik Prabhu Maharaj is most respectfully regarded as an incarnation of Bhagwan Shri Dattatreya. He represents all those lofty principles and ideals for which the Dattatreya Parampara (school of thought) stands for. He is an Avadhoot, ever anchored in Spirit, but always overflowing with compassion for all the beings and the entire creation. Shri Prabhu’s life truly symbolizes absolute detachment, outright renunciation of worldly ties, non-dual approach towards the ultimate reality, supreme dispassion and absolute non-attachment to actions. But, at the same time he is a Raja Yogi appearing to be fully immersed in the pleasures and enjoyments of life. Just as a lotus blossoms in a muddy lake, keeping itself entirely untouched and uncontaminated by the mud, so does a Yogi like Shri Prabhu participates in the worldly activates without in any way being affected by it.