In the Srimad Bhagavada Purana, Lord Krishna narrates about the meeting between King Yadu and young Dattatreya, an avadhuta. King Yadu asks about the Guru who has helped Dattatreya achieve Brahman realization at such a young age.
Dattatreya answers ‘My dear King, with my intelligence I have taken shelter of many spiritual masters. Having gained transcendental understanding from them, I now wander about the earth in a liberated condition. I have twenty four gurus and the first one is earth.
Mother earth is my first guru. She taught me to hold those who trample me, scratch me, and hurt me lovingly in my heart, just as she does. She taught me to give them my best, remembering that their acts are normal and natural from their standpoint.
Here is three other interpretation of the same idea by different seers.
- A sober person, even when harassed by other living beings, should understand that his aggressors are acting helplessly under the control of God, and thus he should never be distracted from progress on his own path. This rule I have learned from the earth.
- All creatures, in accordance with their previous store of karma (action) assume different physical forms and live on earth. People plough, dig and tread the earth. They light fires on it. Still, the earth does not swerve from its course even by a hair’s breadth. On the other hand, it feeds and houses all creatures. Seeing this, I learned that the wise one should never swerve from his vow of patience, love and righteousness under any circumstances and one should dedicate his life for the welfare of living beings. The earth is my first guru.
- From the earth, Dattatreya learned the qualities of forgiveness, unselfishness and the strength to bear burdens. Very often progress on the spiritual path is hampered because a sadhak is tied to the past. A trauma at some time in life decides one's response to similar situations all through one's lifetime. Nothing is seen with freshness and innocence. Everything is seen through the eyes of fear and suspicion because of past conditioning. This quality is not just projected onto the outside but also onto oneself. Inadequacy, lack of confidence, poor self-esteem, are in reality lack of faith or trust in ourselves. They are a measure of one's own self-rejection.