(Robert Adams was an American neo-advaita teacher who claimed to be a direct disciple of Ramana Maharshi and to have lived in and around Ramana Ashram in Tiruvannamalai for about 3 years, and also with other renowned saints and sages in India, including Anandamayi Ma, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Swami (Papa) Ramdas, Baba Muktananda (from Ganeshpuri), Neem Karoli Baba and many others. This is Part 1 in our series.)
Part 2 is now available at this link: https://selfreflexiveloopphotography.photo.blog/2020/05/17/was-robert-adams-really-in-india-part-2/
An interview with Steven Strouth
Q: How did you meet Robert Adams?
A: In 1986 I operated a Ramana Maharshi study group in the Los Angeles area and he called me up and asked if he could attend. He said he didn’t have a car and we agreed to have our next week’s meeting at his place. I was the only one at the next week’s meeting and so I drove to Panorama City and met with him.
Q: What was that like?
A: In those days Panorama City was sort of a more dangerous type neighborhood with a certain amount of gang activity. When I got there Robert seemed sort of apologetic for living there and said the only reason he lived there was because his brother had died and left him this large apartment building. That turned out to be a lie. He did not own that apartment building, no one died and left it to him, and I don’t even think he had a brother.
Q: What was your first meeting with him like?
A: We went into one of the empty apartments which I later found out he had the keys to because he was working as an apartment manager there and we started talking about Ramana and self-enquiry and how self-enquiry was not a mysterious process like people used to think. Then Robert told me he had actually been to India and met Ramana which really impressed me. He told me he had actually been at Ramana ashram for two weeks when he was 18 years old. Meeting someone who actually knew Ramana in 1986 hadn’t seemed like even a possibility, but when I did the math I realized it was possible and I was quite impressed.
His supposed India trip would have been right after he got married to Nicole. Nicole was an heiress from the Cayman Islands and had money, according to his story. I thought he said it was Nicole’s money that financed his supposed trips to India but there was also a story about an aunt that died and left him money. He said he spent 17 years in India traveling, so I thought perhaps he was flying back and forth. I never really questioned him on how he spent time with his two young daughters and at the same time spent so many years in India.
Anyways we talked some more and Robert wanted to be part of the study group and said we needed to expand it. I was 32 years old at the time and while I never took Robert Adams as my guru or as any guru, I did think he understood the correct approach to self-enquiry and so the next week I met with him again.
Q: What happened at the next meeting?
A: Again no one else came and I drove to Panorama City from Burbank. Robert said he wanted to run ads in the Whole Life Times to let more people know about what we were doing. He said he envisioned starting an ashram/health center. I thought that would be fun. So anyway we ran ads and slowly a few people started to come. Robert wanted to charge everyone $10 to come to our meetings and was quite insistent on it saying it was the only way we could get the ashram going. I told him I would have nothing to do with charging money for satsang and he would be on his own if that was the approach. He reluctantly agreed to not charge money.
As it turned out, the house I was living in was bought to be demolished and I needed a new place to live and Robert said: “Hey why don’t you rent an apartment in my building and we can hang out and plan our ashram.” So I did that. I used to work from 5pm to 1am in those days. I moved over there and we used to hang out every day and talk and plan our ashram. Robert used to regale me with stories of all the spiritual teachers he met.
He said he had co-owned an import shop in Manhattan, NYC with Rudi where they sold artwork, statues and trinkets from India. He said Franklin Jones used to hang around the store and he used to give him errand jobs and such in those days. Robert often talked about Swami Chetanananda (whom Robert jokingly called Swami Shit-ananda), who inherited a guruship from Rudi. They had obviously been buddies at some point. Later I talked to someone that had been with Rudi from early on and he never heard of Robert Adams and didn’t recognize his picture so a lot of the Rudi stuff may have been made up too. It is unlikely Rudi shared ownership of his store in NYC.
My impression was always that Baba Muktananda was really Robert’s guru and he talked about him a lot… always reverentially. Loved to talk about him, tell stories about him and defended him against scandalous stories.
Robert also mentioned to me that there were a lot of wild sexual hijinks and orgies going on at Ramana Ashram. Something few people knew about. I remember finding this so shocking. He also said he met Papa (Swami) Ramdas who was inappropriately sexual in front of little girls according to Robert.
In those days (1986) I started reading Nisargadatta Maharaj and I showed Robert the book of his dialogues, titled “I Am That.” Years later I’d heard he was telling people he met Nisargadatta, and that he spent time with him in his upstairs loft in Bombay going to satsangs for six months straight during the last three years of Nisargadatta’s life, but no one ever recalls having seen him there and it’s curious he never mentioned anything like that when I introduced the books to him.
When I knew Robert he talked normally and walked normally, but there were certain hints of Parkinson’s like a slight shaking in his hands now and then.
When we first decided to hold satsang I said to Robert that I may not have enough furniture in my apartment and he said, “Don’t worry about that, I have a lot of furniture in storage,” and we went down to a storage room and got some really nice chairs to use for holding satsang. Robert said that he had furniture in storage in Nevada, Florida, Washington State, New Mexico, Hawaii, and I think somewhere else where he had given shaktipat and had held satsang, but then moved on. He said Nicole got tired of losing all of her good furniture every time they moved and so they started putting it in storage.
Q: What was the Hawaii kidnapping story?
A: At first the Hawaii kidnapping story sounded bizarre, but after knowing Robert for a while it made perfect sense. Robert had the habit of “borrowing” money from followers. Yet while most people use the word “borrow” with some slight intention of someday paying it back, Robert never used the word like that. In fact, he would be shocked if someone even mentioned “paying back” in association with money he “borrowed” … so my guess is that the kidnapping involved someone that lost a lot of money. Robert didn’t do things in a small way. Robert said some of his followers kidnapped him and held him for ransom. I think he said this was in Hawaii but I’m not sure of the exact place – it could have been New Mexico. I think he said he held satsang there under the pseudonym “M.T. Mind”.
Q: Did Robert Adams hold satsang in Hawaii?
A: I had heard that he taught on the Big Island under the name Robert Siegal. At that time, he was saying his guru was Baba Muktananda and he was not claiming to have been with Ramana Maharshi. The story I got was that after the kidnapping incident Robert left Hawaii and it so happened that some years later two women (former students) were visiting L.A. and heard about a satsang being given by someone named Robert Adams who claimed to be a direct disciple of Ramana. They went and were surprised to see it was the Robert Siegal who they had been students of in Hawaii, who had been previously been saying that he was a student of Muktananda’s in Siddha Yoga and never mentioned having met Ramana.
Q: What is the story about Robert Adams having been under psychiatric care?
A: Robert told me his mother had him under psychiatric care starting when he was around 12 years old. He said it was because she didn’t understand his “spirituality.” At the time I took that to mean she found it odd that he was talking to a 2-foot-tall Ramana by his bed, but perhaps she discovered more troubling aspects of his behavior too.
Q: What was the story about Henry Denison kicking Robert out of his house.
A: I only heard that second hand but from several people. In those days Henry Denison used to have a wide variety of spiritual teachers give satsang at his house in the Hollywood Hills overlooking Lake Hollywood. A student of his, Karen Evans, was having regular private interviews with him. Karen was a classically beautiful-looking woman about 25 years younger than Robert. During one private interview Robert sexually propositioned her. Karen said no, and then Robert tried to grab her, but she slipped out, and told him never to do that again, and that she will only engage with him in a student-teacher relationship. He agreed to that, and she believed him, and the next week she went for a private interview, and he grabbed her and tried to force his tongue in her mouth. She pushed him away, ran out, and some days later went to his next satsang, where, when Robert asked for questions after his talk, Karen asked him why did he try to kiss her (or why did he grab her, was another report). Robert answered, “I tried to comfort you.” and she answered, “With your tongue down my throat?”. An uproar ensued, and Henry Denison got up and told Robert, “Robert, you are a dirty old man, get out of my house.”
It plunged her into a depression, and she later killed herself.
Q: Did you ever witness Robert being sexually inappropriate?
A: No, but he talked a lot about women that came on to him and how his wife Nicole used to get jealous. One day at our satsang a very pretty 30ish girl came for teaching and I didn’t see Robert the next day and two days later he mentioned that he had been over to her house, and she had made a pass at him and tried to get sexual with him by wrapping them up together in a blanket. He said her little boy was a brat and he didn’t want to have anything more to do with her, and she never came back to our satsang.
Q: Did you lose money loaning to Robert?
A: Yes, and I think a lot of people did.
One day Robert came over to my apartment with an ad for a Honda Prelude. He said he needed it so Nicole could get back and forth to the swap-meet to sell her t-shirts. He asked me if I would co-sign for it. $19,000. He said I wouldn’t lose any money. He would make the payments of $200 a month.
I told him I would think about it. The next day I told him I would not be co-signing for him to get this car. He was annoyed about it. I said I would look for a used car for him and he could pay me back. I said I would get something cheaper, and in the next week I bought a $600 Honda Civic. It was a beautiful car… it ran great. It did have a dented up front fender, but mechanically it was perfect.
After two months Robert had not paid a dime on it. I asked him why not. He said he could not pay anything, that he didn’t have any money, no job… where was he to get any money? (In other words the whole $19,000 would have been on me.)
I told him that if he didn’t pay me something in two weeks I was going to sell the car. He laughed at that. Two weeks later he had paid nothing and I sold the car. He was angry and started blaming me. Later that day, Nicole came over, and was mad that I had sold “their” car. I explained to Nicole the situation and she calmed down.
Later I asked Robert why he had not told Nicole that he owed me money for the car? He said he had made Nicole think that the car manifested by magic.
Q: What is the story about him posing as a medical doctor and operating a medical stress clinic?
A: One day I was over at Robert’s apartment and we were just sitting around chatting and I happened to pick up a piece of paper under the chair he had been sitting in. It was an ad for a medical center stress clinic in Las Vegas. It was clearly written by Robert, I could recognize his way of talking and writing. It said this particular medical doctor would cure you of stress.
Robert seemed very uncomfortable at my reading this. I asked him what it was. He said it was something he had written for a doctor friend of his. I sensed he was lying and it also seemed highly unlikely that a medical doctor would have Robert Adams write his ad material. Also this was after the whole apartment manager union idea went bust and I knew he had money trouble. He had already started referring to himself as Dr. Robert Adams and I was noticing how much respect he had gotten from people this way. He actually did look the part of a doctor.
Anyway, all I can tell you is I sensed there was something very strange going on about this and his behavior that day.
Fast forward a few years… a friend of mine tells me she was having lunch with Robert at “Follow Your Heart” in the valley and a man comes up to them who recognized Robert and says to him, “Dr. Anderson, how great to see you again.” Robert shakes the man’s hand, hugs him and goes back to his dinner.
Also later I heard that Robert had operated a stress clinic in Hawaii.
By that time he had already told me so many blatant lies that I knew absolutely nothing he said could be trusted. I believe Dr. Robert Adams aka Dr. Anderson had worked as a medical doctor in more than one state.
Also, I remember that one time after I had bought the car for Robert, his daughter Prentiss (about 19 at the time) had been driving it a lot, I asked him how she liked it. He said she was used to driving their Ferrari but it was fine. And I’m thinking, she was used to driving their Ferrari? Robert had no job skills and actually never mentioned ever holding down any job anywhere. How did he get money for a Ferrari?
Q: What about Nicole’s heiress money?
A: When I knew him his family was pretty much broke and he was trying to make ends meet as an apartment manager. I had heard mainly from Dana who used to have lunch with Robert every Wednesday at “Follow Your Heart,” that Nicole was due to inherit money from her family in the Cayman Islands but I never heard about any of that ever having come through.
Q: Who is Dr. Blake Warner?
A: Robert had two daughters, Melanie and Prentiss. Melanie was married at the time and lived in Woodland Hills I think. I never met her but I often saw her husband David Warner. He used to come to our satsang. He was interested in Robert’s teachings. He played guitar, sang and all around was a great musician. Dr. Blake Warner is Melanie’s husband David. I always liked David and thought he was very sincere. In those days he used to work for the cable TV company. I think he was an installer. If we could ever get a hold of him and get him to tell the truth, I bet a lot of truth about Robert could come out.
Q: Nicole Adams wrote a biography of Robert Adams. Have you read it?
A: No. I was told that it contained no information on where they lived, where they travelled, how Robert earned money, no dates, no places, or anything. What kind of biography leaves that sort of stuff out? My speculation would be one that knows if she says anything at all, then the whole pack of lies and misinformation all of a sudden unravels.
I did see somewhere a promotion for Nicole Adams’ book in which it was claimed she was by Robert’s side “every day for 40 years,” but that quote seems to have disappeared. Since Robert said to me and many others that he traveled alone in India for 17 years, maybe someone told her the numbers didn’t add up that way. See what I mean? As soon as she mentions even a single number it all unravels. At least she didn’t put anything definite like that in her book according to reviewers.
With Robert it was kind of an advaita game you might say. Anytime you might start to question something he had said that didn’t seem to add up, he would say, “don’t live in the past. The past doesn’t exist, the past is unreal,” that sort of thing. When talking of his “spiritual experiences,” or supposed interactions with Ramana the past seemed important.
When he needed to borrow money it was pressing and important and when you brought up repayment, it was always like, “the past is unreal. Why are you living in the past?”
Q: Did Nicole or their daughters ever come to any satsangs while you were there? They are portrayed on their website as his most devoted students.
A: No. I asked Robert why and he said they get enough of him at home. Prentis used to go to Science of the Mind classes in the Valley.
In hindsight perhaps if they were there, then personal questions might have come up that were being kept hidden? I don’t know.
Nicole did come over to my apartment one day and told me she was “Mrs. Da Free John,” so I guess by that she meant she had read his books. She also said she knew what I was doing alone in my apartment, whatever that was supposed to mean.
Q: Who was Tony?
A: Tony was a young man that hung around the apartment complex and did various jobs for Robert including night watchman/security for the apartment complex. Robert and Tony seemed to be very close. Tony had worked with Robert in the previous place they both lived, I never asked doing what. One day I asked Tony why he never came to our satsangs and he told me he wasn’t interested and besides Robert never said anything new, just repeated the same old stuff.
When Tony was arrested for shoplifting Robert borrowed $300 from me to get him out on bail and that was never paid back. Again, “borrowing” meant something different to Robert than I had (until then) understood the word.
Q: Did you ever actually ask him for the “borrowed” money back?
A: Many times. He always just said he didn’t have any money. A couple of times he reached into his pocket and pulled out a one-dollar bill and gave that to me. (This is out of thousands owed).
Q: What is the apartment manager’s union story?
A: One day Robert came over to my apartment and told me he had had a vision from God and that all the money needed for the ashram would be forthcoming. He said God has taken him into a higher realm and showed him this beautiful ashram and said it would all come to pass. He said God asked him, “Where will the money to build this ashram come from?” He said to the Divine, “the One who is showing me this will provide the money also.” At that, the Divine showed him that Robert would start a union for apartment managers all throughout the USA. They have never been unionized and this would make all the money needed for the ashram. He asked me if I wanted to be a part of this. Yes, I did.
So, he said, going by the vision, we needed to get the addresses of every apartment manager in the USA, and send them an invitation to join our newly formed union. Long story short, we followed everything Robert was told to do in the vision and I lost more money. This time over $2,000 dollars.
Q: You must have felt like an idiot.
A: Yes, and no. At the time I was confused about the whole self-enquiry thing. Every time I asked, “Who am I?” I came up with nothing. Nothing happened, nothing seemed to work. Robert claimed something had happened for him. He said the Self rose up and pulled him into the Heart on the right side of the chest and made him God-realized. He had such confidence and spoke with such authority about it… I had nothing with which to doubt his authenticity except the evidence of a few lies, and his lack of morals which is often said to be no indication of anything.
With the apartment manager thing, we did get two people that sent in their $30 to become members and I told Robert that we can’t run an apartment manager union with only two people paying membership dues and it looked like we needed a new idea. Robert agreed. At that point I said I was going to mail them back their money and Robert said, “Why would you send them back their money?” In other words, he wanted to keep their money even though there was no union. More than anything that was when I realized Robert was not in a state of unity with all beings.
Q: Is that when you left involvement with Robert Adams?
A: After that I moved and didn’t have much to do with him, and some weeks later I met Bernadette Roberts and started going to her talks and retreats and it was only after meeting someone so real and genuine as Bernadette that I saw in hindsight what nonsense Robert Adams was up to. Now it seems like a big laugh, but at the time when all this seemed so confusing and someone shows up with such confidence and speaks with such authority it is hard not to be taken in by them.
Q: What did Bernadette say about self-enquiry and focusing on oneself?
A: My interpretation of what she taught is that there are two types of inward movements. One is the self-reflexive loop of the ego. When you spend a lot of time focusing on yourself you can glorify the self-reflexive loop to the point you convince yourself you are Divine. She said she saw a lot of that in modern “spiritual” teachings. The self-reflexive loop is very attractive to narcissists because they are already extremely self-obsessed. The true spiritual movement is not to focus on “oneself,” but involves the still center, that immovable still point that has never changed amidst all of the comings and goings of life.
I came across this quote from Robert Adams:
“Robert: […] As you keep referring back to yourself and saying, ‘Who am I?’ the ‘I’ becomes weaker and weaker and weaker. Eventually it has to disappear, and then you’re free.”
Actually no, that’s how you become more and more stuck in the self-reflexive loop until you eventually start thinking you (the separate self-sense) are Divine. Now you can bask in the reflected glory of your fake “Divinity,” sit on a dais and be honored. You have become in your mind a superior being to others and can tell them to glorify their ego selves too as a remedy to low self-esteem. Actually loving your ego self is a step ahead of self-hate and the low self-esteem most people are in, but nothing like actual freedom.
Here’s another quote from Robert Adams:
“Begin to practice this exercise. Looking in the mirror, begin for maybe a minute, then you go on to two minutes, three minutes, four minutes, five minutes. Look at yourself. Admit the truth to yourself. “I am Brahman. I am the ultimate reality. I am boundless space. I am the atman, the perfect intelligence, the one without the other, all-pervading, perfect self.” What if you told yourself this every day? What do you think would happen? If you looked in the mirror and did this every day, you would turn into the God that you are. And you will find peace, total peace, total love.” ~p. 838 Robert Adams complete works.
To look at your self-reflection in the mirror, your self-image, and repeat, “I am Brahman, I am ultimate reality,” at it, is to attempt to deify your own self-image. This doesn’t end in enlightenment, this ends in crack potted-ness and neurotic self-reflected glory, which is perhaps not so harmful to yourself as to your followers (narcissistic supply).
Overall though, I don’t recommend Bernadette’s Christian stuff to anyone and don’t feel it is suited to our current times. But she was the real deal and her company was a great inspiration. I like Swami Sarvapriyananda and Atmananda Krishna Menon among others for nondual teachers these days but one thing Bernadette said to me that has always seemed helpful. If you are sincere and true, a path will open up for you. From there it will just be a matter of remaining true and sincere.
Q: Did you ask Bernadette about self-enquiry?
A: Yes. Usually the first thing she would ask in return would be about the dark night of the soul. When you deeply investigate your true nature you come face to face with emptiness. This is the emptiness everyone is running from, not just spiritual people but everyone. Spiritual people will often hold on to love and bliss and happiness as a protection against their own emptiness. Generally speaking, if a teaching or teacher doesn’t talk about going into that emptiness, that emptiness in which death would seem infinitely better, it means they have just haven’t gotten that far and instead have burrowed into another hole this time one of love and light. Emptiness holds everything— love, hate, joy, misery, life, death— it is fine with it all.
That’s why true “atma vichara” is more about: self-investigation and not a holding on to the “I” thought or “I” feeling. When you point at yourself, you are pointing at nothing, emptiness, and generally that emptiness is what everyone is wanting to avoid. You hear it everywhere, “I felt so empty.” Emptiness is generally everyone’s worst nightmare. But that still hasn’t gotten to emptiness because there is still a “you” experiencing it. That has to be seen through.
Q: What is the difference between “practice,” and “investigation.”
A: A practice is when you do the same thing over and over again, perhaps trying to do it better each time.
An investigation is a firsthand looking in order to find out the truth. These are very different things.
Let us say I determine that I am a physical tube that takes in food on one end and excretes it on the other. No one can really argue about that as being what I am, from a certain level. So from there I can practice holding onto the sense “I am Brahman.” And with practice I can get a sense that “I am Divine.” But subconsciously I haven’t fully discarded the tube identity. I have deified it. You can deify your own image, your past, your own energy, your kundalini energy, your separate being-ness. In your mind you can deify anything you might take yourself to be.
But an investigation is different. It’s when you start to question, “am I really a tube that takes in food?” Maybe I am something else? Maybe I am energy. Maybe I am perception. Maybe I am love, or happiness or awareness. You don’t stop investigating until you are certain about what you truly are. This is not a practice, it’s a quest.
(Note: readers may be interested in this conversation on Michael James’ blog involving Arthur Osborne’s daughter Katya who lived at Ramana Ashram all during the time period when Robert Adams claimed to be there. Her comments are in red.)
Link of the discussion website page:
Michael James said…
Salazar, in your comment of 14 November 2019 at 21:08 you write that Robert Adams claimed that he stayed at the house of Arthur Osborne and one afternoon Bhagavan walked into his room and gave him a mango. What you write seems to be a summary of what he said on 2nd August 1992 as recorded on pages 2839-40 of this https://robert-adams.ru/wp-content/uploads/sites/21/2019/01/Robert_Adams_Transcripts-English.pdf 3652-page transcript of ‘Robert Adams Satsangs’ from August 1990 to June 1993, in which he said: ‘I had been living in Ramana ashram for about a year and a half. This was the end of 1948. I stayed with Arthur Osborne, in his house. In those days when foreigners came they were put up with Arthur Osborne most of the time without him knowing. And on one particular evening about 4 o clock Sri Ramana walked into the cottage and he brought me a mango.’ He made a similar claim a week later, on 9th August 1992, when he said, as recorded on page 2868: ‘In 1948, I was at Arthur Osborne’s home near Ramana ashram. And Ramana used to walk in there every once in a while. He came in one day, sat down and he started to talk about not reacting to things.’ To set the record straight, despite what he claimed, Robert Adams never stayed in the Osborne’s house or compound, and Bhagavan never visited there. As Katya Douglas (formerly Kitty Osborne) wrote to me today,
‘Our house in Tiruvannamalai was…and is…tiny and NO ONE could stay in it without us knowing. What a ridiculous idea. Bhagavan NEVER came to our house, that is pure fantasy, a polite way of saying it is a lie!’
I do not know why Robert made up such stories, but such patently false claims call into question all his claims about having met Bhagavan and having lived there so long in those days.
I came to know about this claim that Robert stayed in the Osborne’s house only last weekend at a meeting of the Ramana Maharshi Foundation here in London, when a friend came up to me and said something to the effect, ‘You know people say that no one in the ashram remembers seeing Robert Adams when he stayed with Bhagavan. Well apparently Kitty Osborne remembers him, because David Godman wrote under his video on Robert that her father lent him their car so that he could tour around India’. I was vaguely surprised to hear this, because it seemed to me rather implausible, but did not give it any further thought until I saw the comment that Asun wrote on 14 November 2019 at 12:15 asking, ‘By the way, have any of you read Kitty Osborne’s letter denying the information which according to David Godman he got from her, about Robert Adams visiting Ramana’s ashram and the story about her father and the car that he tells in a video?’, and then your comment written later that day that I refer to above.
This prompted me to do some fact-checking, so I searched and found David’s video https://youtu.be/KIo0AbN8LzA Robert Adams and Ramana Maharshi, under which he wrote a comment six years ago saying: ‘I gave this interview ten years ago. At that time I knew no one who had met Robert in Tiruvannamalai. Since then I have discovered that he was well known by the Osborne family. Arthur wrote or edited three books on Ramana. He liked Robert so much he gave Robert his only car so that Robert could drive around India after Sri Ramana passed away. I received this information from Arthur’s daughter, Katya, who remembers being annoyed that their family vehicle had been given away.’ However, under this comment there is a reply written two years ago by someone called Steven Strouth saying:
This is an email from Katya Osborne disputing this claim you are making:
“Dear [……] I would like to clear up some obvious misconceptions you have been led to believe about Robert Adams etc. Firstly I have never, until now, ever heard of Robert Adams. I don’t say he never visited Ramanashramam, I would not necessarily have met him if he had, but he most certainly did not stay there for 3 years as I would certainly have met him in that case.
Secondly the story of Bhagavan giving him special attention and having food served in his room is nonsense. Bhagavan did not do that sort of thing. I can only think that it may be an excuse proffered in order to explain why nobody saw him!
Thirdly, our family never had a car so it was impossible for my father to have given it away. I cannot understand how David Godman got his idea that I was part of that whole fantasy. The only business connected with a car was when a friend of my parents, Louis Hartz, imported a car to India for his own use, and when he was ready to leave the country he offered the car to my father. My father refused, explaining that he had no use for a car. End of story. I cannot understand how I can be so completely misquoted while I am still alive and my memory is in pretty good working order. Surely the slightest fact-checking would straighten things out?
Lastly, I should point out that it was completely impossible for my father to have given money to ‘Robert Adams’ as until 1948 we were living on a war pension which he qualified for after 4 years in a concentration camp in Bangkok. In those years we barely had enough to live on, and most certainly didn’t have enough to give away.
I have read the obituary written in 1997. I t seems as though it is well meant but based largely on hearsay. This is a recurring problem when people write about anything to do with Ramana Maharishi. There are so few of us left who were there way back then, and many people prefer the stories they have been told without reference to facts.
To reiterate: I would like to state quite clearly that I have never met or heard of Robert Adams until reading your letter.
Secondly, the story of the car is completely spurious.
I therefore wrote to Katya through a mutual friend to ask her whether there is any truth in what David wrote, or whether the email quoted by Steven Strouth was actually written by her, and she replied confirming that she did write that email, and that she had also sent a copy of it to David, who replied to her saying: ‘I got the story second hand from someone who said that you were the source. I will not cite you as a source on this again, and if anyone asks, I will say that the car story is false. Thanks for letting me know about this’.
Michael James said…
In her first reply to me Katya wrote:
‘There is no way I could remember Robert Adams because I never meet him, neither did I even heard his name spoken of until recently. My father could not have lent him a car because didn’t own one. Neither of my parents drove. The whole thing seems a complete fantasy’.
In another email she wrote to me today she said:
‘It is so deeply offensive when people make up stories about Bhagavan and pretend they are true. We all know that being a so-called ‘guru’ is the biggest ego-trip possible, and some people just cannot resist. Devoteees of Bhagavan…especially those who live around the ashram and have access to all the writings and some of the people from way back then, have a particular responsibility to try, as far as possible, to maintain the authenticity of Bhagavan’s words and actions. To make things up and publish them as fact is unforgivable and so is condoning others who do the same. I will say again that Bhagavan NEVER came to our house for a visit or a chat. Robert Adams NEVER stayed in our house and we NEVER lent him a car that we didn’t in any case own. He made up all these stories, obviously to give himself a bit of stolen lustre from Bhagavan. It is pathetic. Anything you can do to put a stop to these utterly fabricated stories, please go ahead and do with my blessings.’
Michael James said…
For the record, in continuation of my previous three comments, another remark Katya made when writing to me today was:
‘Bhagavan would never have come visiting anyone and offering fruit. He just never did anything like that’.
Katya has written to me today:
“Dear Michael, I just came across a comment by somebody or the other that he had seen our house in Tvm and it didn’t seem small at all! I am moved to elucidate. When my parents were alive our house consisted of 2 rooms downstairs plus a bathroom. There was one room on the top where we put guests. The bathroom downstairs was used by everyone, including any passing frogs or snakes that wanted to cool down. We children slept all over the place on the verandah. We took our beds…the sort of tape cot that one can easily carry…and we attached our mosquito nets to some of the numerous nails that decorated the walls. I call that a tiny house. After my mother died I built on to the house quite a bit so that my family could have regular bedrooms etc. I also built more bathrooms and a kitchen. In the old days we used to cook outside, or when it rained there was a kerosene stove in the passage from where we ate on the verandah. Trying to imagine an unknown guest creeping about there unnoticed makes me laugh.
I still cannot come to terms with people who are so desperate to be acknowledged as spiritual masters that they tell barefaced lies about everything and everyone. They even lie about Bhagavan. That seems to me to be the ultimate in disrespect.
Yours, Kitty Osborne”
[End of Michael James’ comments.]
Another commenter A. Dostal on the same website added this insightful comment:
There are other alarming ciphers in R. Adams biography *(his claims, personal communications) that Robert donated to Ramanashram and three years later got from Arthur Osborne, $7000:
From biography of saga Rober Adams:
….Robert stayed at Ramana Ashram for a little over three years. Visitors then were not allowed to stay long, so he lived in caves above the Ashram. During his time there, he bought a jeep for the Ashram to bring supplies from town, and helped build a large hospital at the Ashram using money from an inheritance…. (Robert donated about $7000).
….After Ramana died, Robert had wanted to visit several other saints in India, but had no money left. The famed Ramana biographer, Arthur Osborne (Ramanashram resident), heard about Robert’s situation and deeds and gave him $7,000 to continue his travels and spiritual education. In the strange way these things happen, which is my own experience; this was precisely the amount he had spent for the jeep and hospital. (“I once gave Robert $7,000 in 1990, when I still had money. He said it was an investment in his wife’s business of sewing clothes for sale to retailers and at swap meets. However, deep in my heart, I knew this was my first donation towards his support. $7,000 seems to be a significant figure in out lineage. However, inflation-adjusted, in case anyone cares, that 1942 amount would be about $70,000 in 2006 dollars” by Ed Muzika, Robert Adams disciple and friend, online)…
Everybody could imagine what kind of sums in dollars R. Adams talked about in his talks during his Ramanashram visit in 1946-7. Supposed, Robert exchanged $7000 in India 1946-7, he got something about 23,000 rupees (exchange rate in ‘46-7, online), then we are talking about “astronomic” figures here. When an Indian rickshaw driver made 10 rupees per month in 1947.
David Godman took down his talk about R. Adams at YT in the discussion below there video the critiques were very concerning about R. Adams’ money/car statements in 1946-7 and included some first-hand statements from Katy Osborne (daughter A. Osborne, who was there 1946-7) and other US disciples of R. Adams. Indeed, there has been no proven record or remembering about a generous donator and a car ownership in Ramanasram in 1946-7. I do not know what to think about that…?”
(This article may be reprinted or republished freely without contacting the author).
[Note: This article was originally published with a 1985 first meeting date. I have discovered the actual date was 1986. I immediately changed it.]