I never had the opportunity to meet Robert Adams although some of my good friends did. When he was teaching I was spending time with Jean Klein, but I love his book The Silence of the Heart and it was in that book that I heard him say, “remember the One to whom everything appears” which I find to be a powerful tool for inquiry.
Robert Adams (January 21, 1928 – March 2, 1997) was an American mystic and teacher of Silence and Self-Inquiry. 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 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 and the Western devotees of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. A book of his teachings, Silence of the Heart: Dialogues with Robert Adams, was published in 1999.
Robert Adams was born on January 21, 1928 in Manhattan and grew up in New York City, USA. Robert claimed that from as far back as he could remember, he had had visions of a white haired, bearded man seated at the foot of his bed, who was about two feet tall, and who used to talk to him in a language which 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 said that he 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.
Robert Adams claimed that at fourteen years of age 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.
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.
With $14,000 of inheritance money from a recently deceased aunt, Robert Adams set off for India and his guru Sri Ramana Maharshi in 1946:
“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.”
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 and stayed with well known gurus such as Nisargadatta Maharaj, 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. 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 died at the age of sixty-nine from cancer of the liver on March 2, 1997 in Sedona, Arizona, where he was surrounded by family members and devotees.
The above biography is from the Robert Adams Wikipedia page.
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