Lecture by Swami Chidananda:

"Leaving no footprints behind"

(This article was prepared from notes taken by me during the lecture)

The scriptures say: "Desires are the source of unhappiness."

I am asked: "Swamiji, since our actions are aimed at reaching goals based on desires – spiritual or material - should we not act at all?" My answer to this is: All realized persons lead a vibrant, full life; yet they do not seek fulfillment of personal desires since they have no personal desires.

We have desires for very many things: -

for food, drinks, comfort, entertainment et al;
for possessions of various kinds: of wealth – money, assets, personal adornments;
for people – either for company or to work for us or to have control over.
for name: we want to be considered notable in any number of ways - including virtuous, charitable, honest, tyagi; somehow or other, we want recognition, acclaim.
to be somebody, to fit into some image that we think is great. 

Non-fulfillment of any desire consumes us. Strangely, fulfillment leads us on to the next item on the wish-list, ad infinitum  - a never-ending process.

Spirituality is transcending the ego and working without seeking; the motivation is universal love,  Viswa-Prema. Working for our-selves gives no lasting satisfaction, no real happiness. Working for spiritual goals through selfless work gives lasting joy. But beware; if the spiritual goals are for a better image of oneself, it becomes another activity to create a self-image.

Working in an ego-less state, the dualistic experience is burnt away every moment. It is like pure camphor burning and leaving no residue. It is as though the fire of knowledge continually burns in such a person and the dualistic experience gets burnt in the fire, leaving no ashes behind.

The realized person, even though leading what appears to be a transactional life like the rest of us, does not suffer from pride or regret and thus leaves no impressions of the transactions in his mind. The hold of memory of the transactions is broken by him. He is like a cracked pot that holds water only temporarily, but all of it leaks away in a short time, leaving the pot in its original state. Leaving no impressions of transactions behind in his mind, positive or negative, he remains serene and undisturbed to engage again in transactions necessitated only by universal love.

He is like a child, appearing to be affected momentarily, but truly unaffected -- neither anxiety about the future nor regret about the past. With no footprints leading back to the past and no personal future goals to travel to in imagination, he is serenely rooted in the present. Because of this steady state of mind, he is most effective in his transactions and most charismatic with those he comes in contact with. He becomes a great achiever, not for himself but for everyone.

There is peace, beauty when realized ones act or even when they remain action-less. As Swami Chinmayananda once observed, ‘Saints act but do not react.’ To do or not to do never poses a dilemma to them since their ego is not involved; they always act dispassionately and hence effectively. They do not have to worry about losing face, about becoming angry or bitter, or about being taken advantage of. Even when they commit mistakes, they accept and correct.

Gandhiji once took gold from his father’s home when he was a student and spent the proceeds in revelry with his friends. When he truly became a realized person later, he confessed to his father. When one is able to clear one’s inner mind of all thought-burdens, the inner knots are untied. One does not then fear even death.

Time is a relative entity. For example, when we are witnessing a play, we are aware of the present time even when in the play we accept the actor’s presence in a different time-period. Realized persons are similarly aware that only body and thoughts suffer changes in time; such limitations do not exist for them in their pure awareness. Ramana Maharishi, in his last days, replied to his devotees: "I am not going anywhere. I am here."

"I am" , without qualifications, is the constant assertion of the realized ones who are always in the present –– not living in time, but transcending time. Freedom from movement of thought into the past or future and an alertness in which the illusory coordinates of time are not given any place are the characteristics of the Saint.

Pure awareness has no past, no future; it just is, unqualified by anything. Birds do not leave any mark as they glide gracefully in the air; fishes do not leave a mark when they swim in the ocean. Neither haunted by the past nor taunted by the future, the Gnyanis live a blissful life, leaving no footprints behind. They seem to be walking along a path; but if you observe carefully there are no footprints. There is no path as well, for they have no goals.

Leaving no footprints in their mind as they act dynamically and selflessly, and living their lives without fear, free from pride and regret, empty, totally selfless and pure in oneself, with no desire, no grudge, at ease with themselves and with all of God’s creation, subject to no pulls or pushes, the saints are ever blissful and are always in the present. Is it any wonder that the most beautiful actions come out of such divine persons?

The Gita calls them sthita-pragnyas, rooted in the conscious Self.

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In this context, please also read the following quote   from  J. Krishnamurti:
about the past not taking root in the soil of the mind.

Innocence alone can be passionate.
The innocent have no sorrow, no suffering,
though they have had a thousand experiences.

It is not the experiences that corrupt the mind
but what they leave behind, the residue, the scars, the memories.
These accumulate, pile one on top of the other, and then sorrow begins.
This sorrow is time.
Where time is, innocence is not.

Passion is not born of sorrow.
Sorrow is experience, the experience of everyday life,
the life of agony and fleeting pleasures, fears and certainties.
You cannot escape from experiences,
but they need not take root in the soil of the mind.
These roots give rise to problems, conflicts and constant struggle.

There is no way out of this but to die each day to every yesterday.
The clear mind alone can be passionate.
Without passion you cannot see the breeze among the leaves
or the sunlight on the water.
Without passion, there is no love. --J. Krishnamurti