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#4140- Friday, January 21, 2011 - Editor: Jerry Katz

The Nonduality Highlights

Only That
The Life and Teaching of Sailor Bob Adamson
by Kalyani Lawry

Reviewed by Jerry Katz

Author Kalyani Lawry’s association with Bob Adamson has a long history. She first met ‘Sailor’ Bob in the 1970s when they were both devotees of Swami Muktananda. At one point Bob shifted his devotion from Muktananda to Nisargadatta Maharaj. Kalyani did not make that shift, however decades later Kalyani would find herself sitting with Bob at his home and, now, presenting us with a book of Bob’s life and a selection of his teachings.

Only That includes 16 glossy pages with 23 black and white photos of Bob from childhood through various stages of his life, including a few photos of Nisargadatta Maharaj, his teacher. The photos and the first half of the book, which is about Bob’s life, are new contributions to the printed Adamson works.

The Table of Contents for Part 2, The Teaching, is cleverly designed, with each chapter a teaching unto itself, for example, 'The Ego is Fiction,' 'Can You Get Out of the Now?' and 'Everything is That.' There is no index, which would be helpful for easily finding uses of the term 'full stop', or where Bob referred to Buddhism, for example.

Nisargadatta Maharaj was Bob’s primary teacher. To such a degree of success has Bob communicated the essence of Nisargadatta, that he is informally known as perhaps the best living representative of the Nisargadatta teaching. I make it clear that Nisargadatta never authorized Bob (or anyone else) to teach and Bob has his own style of communication.

This informality of lineage is important to point out because it informs potential students of Bob that they are not being invited into a formal lineage or a tradition. While there are benefits to aligning with a tradition, any association with Bob is that of two people getting down to what is true.

The author’s purpose is to introduce and further contribute to Adamson’s published works by presenting his teachings alongside his biography. The author has succeeded and also contributed something new, since there is no other printed work providing so many details of Bob’s past. I’m not aware of all the podcasts with Bob which may contain further biographical material. I know that Bob has discussed his past with people other than Kalyani, but I believe this is the first time Bob’s history has been published in print.

The biography is the bones of the book’s theme and thesis: a life of alcoholic suffering gives way to nondual spiritual enlightenment. The thesis is that it is possible to overcome suffering and alcoholism and to understand one’s true nature if one gets a foothold in sanity, values it deeply, and follows the path that opens up as far as possible.

While Bob Adamson’s teachings are available in other published writings, in podcasts, and in person, what I like about this book is the packaging of biography with teachings and the noting of the turning points in Bob’s life that opened up to the realization expressed in the section of the book on teachings.

The turning points were the final quitting of drinking and a question that arose out of that, a question I’d never heard, a question Bob posed about his life. I won’t say what the question was, leaving it to the reader to stumble upon.

What makes Only That relevant and significant is the biographical material in conjunction with the teaching. The phase of ‘Sailor’ Bob’s life in the Navy and his great psychological suffering and alcoholism are the most intense parts of the biography. They form the most important part of the book because they are new revelations in print regarding Adamson and they show the profound suffering, alcoholism, addiction, and despair.

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This is only half the review. Please click below to read the rest at Advaita Academy:

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