Robert Adams never named a successor. He told me once that there was a book he had just read by Lakshman, who claimed that Ramana Maharshi had named Lakshman as his successor. Robert said that Ramana never named a successor and he should know since he was there. A few years later, I met Ganeshan, the editor of the Mountain Path, the publication of Ramana Ashrama, as well as Ramana’s nephew, who said he too never heard of a successor.
Perhaps Ramana gave a secret transmission, as did the Fifth Buddhist Patriarch to the Sixth Patriarch, so that the latter would survive. As it was, the latter was pursued for 12 years, sought by both jealous wannabes, who wanted his succession bowl and robes and those who wanted enlightenment at the point of a sword. But, what would be the point of a secret transmission?
There is and was no need for a line of succession from Robert’s point of view. Robert laughed at that idea and said, “What’s the point?” He hadn’t needed to be named a successor. He saw the whole concept of imaginary succession of imaginary students within an unreal mental space as the ultimate joke.
Robert’s only wish was to have his students find their true selves and be liberated from imagined suffering and death. He left it to his students to find and teach their own way, without the public relations boost to build their “practice.” If anything, he went out of his way to tear down anyone with an ego declaring that he/she was his successor or being enlightened, and there were so many around Robert. He never even claimed that for himself; however, he never denied it either. We just knew it by his bearing and his teachings themselves.
Robert almost always refused to comment on whether he thought one or another teacher was enlightened. I remember asking him once about Rajneesh, because he had the bearing, far off look and soft voice of Robert. Robert nodded and said yes, that he was. All of the other times I asked any such nonsense questions about anybody, he would say no. For Robert, enlightenment was a rare, rare thing.
My friend Swami Shankarananda calls the endless list of those claiming successorship of one Advaitin guru or another, “California Advaitins.” This is very apt.
The point of this is, is that no one knows who has it or not. Just try the only practice Robert Adams ever taught, namely self-inquiry, Atman Vichara, and watch the impact on your imaginary self. Of course, to do that, you need to have faith, and that is an entirely different story.
More of Robert’s last days:
Robert’s health had been seriously deteriorating beginning sometime during 1993 or 94. The L Dopa medication he had been taking to control his Parkinson’s symptoms was becoming ineffective. He was finding it increasingly difficult to move or talk. His voice had grown very weak and sometimes, if his medication was not working, he was almost impossible to understand.
Before going to lunch with a student (this was his way of giving private teachings, which was to go the a vegetarian restaurant near his home called Follow Your Heart), he’d take his L Dopa an hour ahead of time so that he could move and be understood. The same with Satsang. On rare occasions, but increasingly so, he would sit before the audience in his chair and just stare out into the audience. He would do this for a long time, then suddenly get up and briskly walk out. He could not talk, and his walk seemed off balance.
His close students knew something was wrong.
By 1994, he had grown very weak. His wife, Nicole Adams, later told me that Robert knew that there was something wrong with his body and that is one of the reasons he wanted to move to Sedona, thinking he might have better health there.
As related elsewhere on this site, by 1994 the number of people coming to Satsang had increased dramatically. During the last six months before he moved to Sedona in 1995, it was obvious he was very ill. People were coming to Satsang from all over the world.
One day at Satsang, we had an exceptionally large audience. Just before Satsang began and people were milling about and talking, Robert leaned over and whispered in my ear, “They are all coming to see the dying guru. The day I die, the place will be packed.”
Before Robert moved to Sedona, I believe in September of 1995 (I am chronologically challeneged.), his wife, Nichole would spend much of the day taking care of his daily needs. Robert was barely functional before he took his L-dopa and another medication the name of which I forgot.
After he moved to Sedona, Mary Skene, one of the last of the old-timers, began to assume the task of taking care of him.
Robert had liver cancer. After a while the pain gave way, as he described it, to a “tingling.” He gradually ate less and less as the disease progressed and became quite thin. Other students would come over and do the shopping and sometimes prepare meals.
Robert became evermore silent. He wanted quiet throughout the house. When I came to visit the last time, he would pace back and forth between the bedroom and the living room where I was sitting. He wanted to be with me, as he knew this was our last meeting, but he had a hard time socializing and being up out of bed.
Robert died in 1997. The picture above was taken about six months before he died. It seems that all Advaitin teachers and most Zen masters die of cancer. Anyway, after he died, wannabe gurus from all over the world began to descend on Los Angles and Sedona giving talks and workshops. It was apparent they were trying to glean Robert’s students. I felt them to be spiritual vultures.
The point of all this, is beware of teachers who proclaim some special talent, enlightenment or successorship. Beware of those who do a lot of advertising or give expensive workshops. Robert never charged a dime for someone to come to Satsang and never gave any workshop. As Robert said many times, the best teachers are unknown. They avoid having large following and are looking for quality not quantity.
However, as he thought very highly of Rajneesh, one of the highest profile teachers of our time, it appears there may be exceptions to this rule.