Robert Adams (spiritual teacher)
Robert Adams in the early 1990s
January 21, 1928
New York City, US
|Died||March 2, 1997 (aged 69)
Sedona, Arizona, US
|Guru||Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi|
|Literary works||Silence of the Heart: Dialogues with Robert Adams|
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Robert Adams (January 21, 1928 – March 2, 1997) was an American teacher of Advaita Vedanta (Non-dualism). In his late teens, he was a devotee of Sri Ramana Maharshi in Tiruvannamalai, India. In later life Robert Adams held satsang with a small group of devotees in California, US. He mainly advocated the path of jñāna yoga[note 1] with an emphasis on the practice of self-enquiry.
Robert Adams' teachings were not that well known in his lifetime, but have since been widely circulated amongst those investigating the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta and the Western devotees of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.[note 2] A book of his teachings, Silence of the Heart: Dialogues with Robert Adams, was published in 1999.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Teachings
- 3 Publications
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Robert Adams was born on January 21, 1928 in Manhattan and grew up in New York City, USA. From as far back as he could remember he had visions of a small, white haired, bearded man at the foot of his bed, who was about two foot in height, and used to talk to him in a language he did not understand. He told his parents but they thought he was playing games. Robert would later find out that this man was a vision of his future guru Sri Ramana Maharshi. At the age of seven Robert's father died and the visitations suddenly stopped.
Robert then developed a siddhi whereby whenever he wanted something, from a candy bar to a violin, all he needed to do was say 'God' three times and the desired object would appear from somewhere, or be given to him by someone. If there was a test at school Robert would simply say 'God, God, God,' and the answers would immediately come to him; no prior study was necessary.
One day when Robert was fourteen years old he had a profound spiritual awakening. It was the end of term finals maths test and Robert hadn't studied for it at all. As was his custom he said 'God' three times, but with a phenomenal and unintended outcome:
Instead of the answers coming, the room filled with light, a thousand times more brilliant than the sun. It was like an atomic bomb, but it was not a burning light. It was a beautiful, bright, shining, warm glow. Just thinking of it now makes me stop and wonder. The whole room, everybody, everything was immersed in light. All the children seemed to be myriads particles of light. I found myself melting into radiant being, into consciousness. I merged into consciousness. It was not an out of body experience. This was completely different. I realised that I was not my body. What appeared to be my body was not real. I went beyond the light into pure radiant consciousness. I became omnipresent. My individuality had merged into pure absolute bliss. I expanded. I became the universe. The feeling is indescribable. It was total bliss, total joy. The next thing I remembered was the teacher shaking me. All the students had gone. I was the only one left in the class. I returned to human consciousness. That feeling has never left me.
Not long after this experience, Robert went to the school library to do a book report. While passing through the philosophy section he came across a book on yoga masters. Having no idea what yoga was, he opened the book and for the first time saw a photo of the man he had experienced visions of as a young child, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.
Journey to the Guru
At the age of sixteen, Robert Adams' first spiritual mentor was Joel S. Goldsmith, a Christian mystic from New York, who Robert used to visit in Manhattan, in order to listen to his sermons. Joel S. Goldsmith helped Robert Adams to better understand his enlightenment and advised him to go and see Paramahansa Yogananda. Robert did so and visited Yogananda at the Self-Realization Fellowship in Encinitas, California, where he intended to be initiated as a monk. However, after speaking to Robert, Yogananda felt that Robert had his own path and should go to India. He told him that his satguru was Sri Ramana Maharshi and that he should go to him as soon as possible because his body was old and in ill-health. Sri Ramana Maharshi lived at Sri Ramanasramam in Tamil Nadu, South India.
When I was eighteen years old, I arrived at Tiruvannamalai. In those days they didn’t have jet planes. It was a propeller plane. I purchased flowers and a bag of fruit to bring to Ramana. I took the rickshaw to the ashram. It was about 8:30 a.m. I entered the hall and there was Ramana on his couch reading his mail. It was after breakfast. I brought the fruit and the flowers over and laid them at his feet. There was a guardrail in front of him to prevent fanatics from attacking him with love. And then I sat down in front of him. He looked at me and smiled, and I smiled back. I have been to many teachers, many saints, many sages. I was with Nisargadatta, Anandamayi Ma, Papa Ramdas, Neem Karoli Baba and many others, but never did I meet anyone who exuded such compassion, such love, such bliss as Ramana Maharshi.[web 1]
Robert stayed at Sri Ramanasramam for the final three years of Sri Ramana Maharshi's life. Over the course of this time Robert had many conversations with Sri Ramana Maharshi, and through abiding in his presence was able to confirm and further understand his own experience of awakening to the non-dual Self. After Sri Ramana Maharshi left the body in 1950 Robert spent a further seventeen years travelling around India[note 3] and stayed with well known gurus such as Nisargadatta Maharaj,[note 4] Anandamayi Ma, Neem Karoli Baba and Swami Ramdas to name but a few. He also spent time with less well-known teachers such as Swami Brahmananda "the Staff of God" in the holy city of Varanasi.
In the 1960s Robert Adams returned to the United States and lived in Hawaii and Los Angeles before finally moving to Sedona, Arizona in the mid 1990s.[note 5] He was married to Nicole Adams and fathered two daughters. In the 1980s Robert developed Parkinson's Disease, which forced him to settle in one location and receive the appropriate care. A small group of devotees soon grew up around him and in the early 1990s he gave weekly satsangs in the San Fernando Valley, along with other surrounding areas of Los Angeles. These satsangs were both recorded and transcribed. After several years of deteriorating health, Robert Adams' mahasamadhi came on March 2, 1997 in Sedona, Arizona, where he was surrounded by family members and devotees. He died at the age of sixty-nine from cancer of the liver.
Confessions of a Jnani
|“||The teacher is really yourself. You have created a teacher to wake you up. The teacher would not be here if you were not dreaming about the teacher. You have created a teacher out of your mind in order to awaken, to see that there is no teacher, no world - nothing. You've done this all by yourself.||”|
—Robert Adams, The Mountain Path
Robert Adams did not consider himself to be a teacher, a philosopher or a preacher. What he imparted he said was simply the confession of a jnani. He said he confessed his and everyone else's own reality, and encouraged students not to listen to him with their heads but with their hearts. Robert's way of communicating to his devotees was often funny, and with interludes of silence or music between questions and answers. Although always in his own words, most of Robert's teachings echoed the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, and prior to both of them the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta. He stated that there was no such thing as a new teaching. This knowledge could be found in the Upanishads, the Vedas and other Hindu scriptures.[note 6]
Silence of the Heart
Robert Adams did not write any books himself nor publish his teachings, as he did not wish to gain a large following, but instead preferred to teach a small number of dedicated seekers. However, in 1992, a book of his dialogues was transcribed, compiled and distributed by and for the sole use of his devotees.[web 2][note 7] In 1999, a later edition of this book, Silence of the Heart: Dialogues with Robert Adams, was posthumously published by Acropolis Books Inc.[note 8] As conveyed by the title of these dialogues, Robert Adams considered silence to be the highest of spiritual teachings:
The highest teaching in the world is silence. There is nothing higher than this. A devotee who sits with a Sage purifies his mind just by being with the Sage. The mind automatically becomes purified. No words exchanged, no words said. Silence is the ultimate reality. Everything exists in this world through silence. True silence really means going deep within yourself to that place where nothing is happening, where you transcend time and space. You go into a brand new dimension of nothingness. That's where all the power is. That's your real home. That's where you really belong, in deep Silence where there is no good and bad, no one trying to achieve anything. Just being, pure being.
Robert Adams talking to students at satsang (4 November 1990).
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Although Robert Adams was never initiated into a religious order or spiritual practice, nor became a renunciate, his teachings were firmly based in the Vedic philosophy and Hindu tradition of Advaita Vedanta. Advaita (non-dual in sanskrit) refers to the ultimate and supreme reality, Brahman,[note 9] which is the substratum of the manifest universe, and if describable at all, could be defined as pure consciousness. Another term for Brahman is Ātman. The word Ātman is used when referring to Brahman as the inmost spirit of man. Ātman and Brahman are not different realities, but identical in nature. Robert Adams used a metaphor to explain this:
A clay pot has space inside of it and outside of it. The space inside is not any different from the space outside. When the clay pot breaks, the space merges the inside with the outside. It's only space. So it is with us. Your body is like a clay pot, and it appears you have to go within to find the truth. The outward appears to be within you. The outward is also without you. There's boundless space. When the body is transcended, it's like a broken clay pot. The Self within you becomes the Self outside of you ... as it's always been. The Self merges with the Self. Some people call the inner Self the Ātman. And yet it is called Brahman. When there is no body in the way, the Atman and the Brahman become one ... they become free and liberated.
Those in search of liberation from the manifest world will gain it only when the mind becomes quiescent. The world is in fact nothing other than the creation of the mind, and only by the removal of all thoughts, including the 'I' thought, will the true reality of Brahman shine forth. Robert Adams taught self-enquiry, as previously taught by Sri Ramana Maharshi, in order to achieve this.
In his weekly satsangs Robert Adams would advocate the practice of self-enquiry (ātma-vichāra) as the principal means of transcending the ego and realising oneself as sat-chit-ananda (being-consciousness-bliss). After acknowledging to oneself that one exists, and that whether awake, dreaming or in deep sleep one always exists, one then responds to every thought that arises with the question "Who am I?":
What you are really doing is, you’re finding the source of the 'I'. You're looking for the source of 'I', the personal 'I'. 'Who am I?' You're always talking about the personal 'I'. 'Who is this I? Where did it come from? Who gave it birth?' Never answer those questions. Pose those questions, but never answer them ... do nothing, absolutely nothing. You're watching the thoughts come. As soon as the thoughts come, in a gentle way you enquire, 'To whom do these thoughts come? They come to me. I think them. Who is this I? Where did it come from? How did it arise? From where did it arise? Who is the I? Who am I?' You remain still. The thoughts come again. You do the same thing again and again and again.
Four Principles of Self-Realization
Robert Adams rarely gave a sadhana to his devotees, however, he did often have visions,[note 10] and in one such vision he gave a teaching as the Buddha. He visualised himself sitting under a tree in a beautiful open field with a lake and a forest nearby. He was wearing the orange garb of a Buddhist renunciate. All of a sudden hundreds of bodhisattvas and mahasattvas came out of the forest and sat down in a semi-circle around Robert as the Buddha. Together they proceeded to meditate for several hours. Afterwards, one of the bodhisattvas stood up and asked the Buddha what he taught. The Buddha answered, "I teach Self-realization of Noble Wisdom." Again they sat in silence for three hours before another bodhisattva stood up and asked how one could tell whether they were close to self-realization. In reply, Robert as the Buddha, gave the bodhisattvas and mahasattvas four principles, which he named The Four Principles of Self-Realization of Noble Wisdom:[web 3]
- First Principle: You have a feeling, a complete understanding that everything you see, everything in the universe, in the world, emanates from your mind. In other words, you feel this. You do not have to think about it, or try to bring it on. It comes by itself. It becomes a part of you. The realization that everything you see, the universe, people, worms, insects, the mineral kingdom, the vegetable kingdom, your body, your mind, everything that appears, is a manifestation of your mind.
- Second Principle: You have a strong feeling, a deep realization, that you are unborn. You are not born, you do not experience a life, and you do not disappear, you do not die ... You exist as I Am. You have always existed and you will always exist. You exist as pure intelligence, as absolute reality. That is your true nature. You exist as sat-chit-ananda. You exist as bliss consciousness ... But you do not exist as the body. You do not exist as person, place or thing.
- Third Principle: You are aware and you have a deep understanding of the egolessness of all things; that everything has no ego. I'm not only speaking of sentient beings. I'm speaking of the mineral kingdom, the vegetable kingdom, the animal kingdom, the human kingdom. Nothing has an ego. There is no ego ... It means that everything is sacred. Everything is God. Only when the ego comes, does God disappear ... When there is no ego, you have reverence for everybody and everything ... There is only divine consciousness, and everything becomes divine consciousness.
- Fourth Principle: You have a deep understanding, a deep feeling, of what self-realization of noble wisdom really is ... You can never know by trying to find out what it is, because it’s absolute reality. You can only know by finding out what it is not. So you say, it is not my body, it is not my mind, it is not my organs, it is not my thoughts, it is not my world, it is not my universe, it is not the animals, or the trees, or the moon, or the sun, or the stars, it is not any of those things. When you've gone through everything and there's nothing left, that's what it is. Nothing. Emptiness. Nirvana. Ultimate Oneness.
- Adams, Robert (1999). Silence of the Heart: Dialogues with Robert Adams Acropolis Books Inc. ISBN 978-1889051536
- Adams, Robert (2010). Happiness This Moment Robert Adams Infinity Institute. ISBN 978-0578024868
- Jñāna means 'knowledge' in Sanskrit. The pronunciation can be approximated to 'gyaan yoga'.
- Bhagavan means God, Sri is an honorific title, Ramana is a short form of Venkataraman, and Maharshi means 'great seer' in Sanskrit.
- Arthur Osborne, a writer and devotee of Sri Ramana Maharshi, was reputed to have given some money to Robert Adams in order for him to travel around India after Sri Ramana Maharshi passed away.
- Robert Adams stayed six months with Nisargadatta Maharaj, at the time when Ramesh Balsekar was his interpreter.
- Clear biographical details of Robert Adams' life, from the 1950s up until the 1990s, are hard to come by as he rarely talked about his past.
- The Ashtavakra Gita, for instance, was a beloved scripture of both Robert Adams and Sri Ramana Maharshi.
- After being shown the first edition of Silence of the Heart in 1994, H. W. L. Poonja read out the whole book at his satsang in Lucknow. Something he never did for any other living teacher.
- Acropolis Books is a publishing company, set up in 1993, with the sole purpose of publishing and preserving the books of Robert Adams' first spiritual mentor, Joel S. Goldsmith.
- Brahman, with the accent on the second syllable, is not to be confused with the Hindu god Brahmā nor the Hindu class/caste Brahmin.
- Robert Adams would explain that visions were not the same as dreams. A vision is an actual experience that occurs in the phenomenal world. After Sri Ramana Maharshi died, Robert Adams would have visions of them walking along the Ganges together and discussing simple things like the weather.
- Ganesan 1993, p. 22.
- Ramamani 1997, p. 94.
- Parker 2009, p. 32.
- Dennis 2010, p. 13.
- Ganesan 1993, p. 21.
- Muzika 1998, p. 86.
- Krushel 2010, p. 40.
- Ullman 2001, p. 191.
- Whitwell 2004, p. 84.
- Ganesan 1993, p. 23.
- Ganesan 1993, p. 25.
- Muzika 1998, p. 138.
- Ramamani 1997, p. 93.
- Muzika 1998, p. 89.
- Dennis 2010, p. 380.
- Muzika 1998, p. 85.
- Ganesan 1993, p. 24.
- Ullman 2001, p. 196.
- Dasarath 2002, p. 53.
- Jacobs 1999, p. 205.
- Premananda 2009, p. 67.
- Parker 2009, p. 28.
- Maharshi 1923, p. 1-2.
- Adams 1999, p. 277.
- Maharshi 1923, pp. 1–2.
- Wilson 2011, pp. 161–162.
- Adams 1999, pp. 27–29.
- Adams 1999, p. 222.
- Adams 1999, p. 230.
- Adams 1999, pp. 237–238.
- Adams 1999, pp. 242–243.
- Adams, Robert (1999), Silence of the Heart: Dialogues with Robert Adams, USA: Acropolis Books Inc. ISBN 978-1889051536
- Dasarath (2002), Freedom Dreams, Book Tree. ISBN 978-1585091300
- Dennis, Waite (2010), The Book of One, O Books. ISBN 978-1846943478
- Ganesan, V. (June 1993), The Mountain Path - Silence is the Ultimate Reality - Aradhana Issue, Vols 30 Nos. 1 & 2, Tiruvannamalai, India: T. N. Venkataraman, Sri Ramana Ashram
- Jacobs, Alan (1999), The Principal Upanishads, Watkins Publishing. ISBN 978-1905857081
- Krushel, Renee M. (2010), The Spiritual Evolution of a Mystic, iUniverse. ISBN 978-1-45026-907-0
- Maharshi, Bhagavan Sri Ramana (1923), Who Am I? (Nan Yar?), Tiruvannamalai, India: Sri Ramanasramam
- Muzika, Edward (February 1998), Yoga Journal - The Mysterious Sage of Sedona - Issue 138, California, USA: California Yoga Teachers Association
- Parker, John W. (2009), Dialogues With Emerging Spiritual Teachers, Sagewood Press. ISBN 978-0970365903
- Premananda (2009), Arunachala Shiva, Open Sky Press. ISBN 978-0955573064
- Ramamani (June 1997), The Mountain Path - Obituary - Aradhana Issue, Vols 34 Nos. 1 & 2, Tiruvannamalai, India: V.S Ramanan, Sri Ramana Ashram
- Ullman, Robert (2001), Mystics, Masters, Saints, and Sages, USA: Conari Press. ISBN 978-1573245074
- Whitwell, Mark (2004), Yoga of Heart, USA: Lantern Books. ISBN 978-1590560686
- Wilson, Carol A. (2011), Healing Power Beyond Medicine, O Books. ISBN 978-1846943973
Quotes and biographies
- Keep Quiet - a website with quotes by Robert Adams
- David Godman - talking about Robert Adams on YouTube
- Ramana Periya Puranam - includes a biography of Robert Adams, p. 434
- The Lankavatara Sutra - translated by Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki
- Indian Philosophy Simplified - the basic concepts of Advaita Vedanta
- Acropolis Books - original publishers of Silence of the Heart: Dialogues with Robert Adams