Common steps and sub-activities
Subud originated in Java, Indonesia in the mid 1930's as a movement founded by Muhammad Subud Sumohadiwidjojo (referred to affectionately by Subud members as 'Bapak', an Indonesian word meaning 'father' or 'sir'). It was an informal association until 1947 when it was agreed to use the word Subud. It is now an international spiritual movement, with members coming from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds, nationalities and cultures in over 70 countries. It is not a religion, it is open to anyone whether they have an existing faith or none at all, and can be practised alongside whatever culture, traditions or beliefs a person already has.
According to The Basis and Aims of Subud, published by Subud Publications International (SPI), the name derives from:
- Susila the good character of man in accordance with the Will of Almighty God
- Budhi the force of the inner self within man
- Dharma surrender, trust and sincerity towards Almighty God.
In addition, Batak also described the word Subud as having its own meaning: originating from the source and returning to the source.
According to Muhammad Subud Sumohadiwidojojo he had an experience whereby
"he was moved from within to stand up and perform movements similar to his normal Muslim prayer routine. It seemed that he was not moving through his own volition; but was being guided by what he interpreted as the power of God. This same kind of experience reportedly happened to him for a few hours each night over a period of about 1000 days during which he slept little but was able to continue working full-time. He said he experienced a kind of 'inner teaching' whereby he was given to understand a variety of things spontaneously".
His experiences eventually led him to enable others to 'receive' in this way, in what is called the latihan kejiwaan (meaning 'spiritual exercise' in Indonesian). There is no training or learning, the ability to 'receive' is passed on by being in the presence of other members practicing. The first time this happens is called 'opening', the person must be at least 17, and want to join of their own free will. There is usually a 3 month period called 'enquiring' before a new member can join, during which time they can find out about Subud and ask questions, in preparation for their first latihan.
The latihan takes place in a Subud venue, where men and women practise in separate rooms. There is a quiet period before and after the latihan itself which lasts for 30 minutes. During the latihan each person is simply to close their eyes lightly, relax, let go, and follow whatever may arise spontaneously from within. This may be moving around, singing, various physical or emotional expressions. Each person is required not to interfere with anyone else's experience, or mix the exercise with any learned techniques such as meditation, mantras, postures etc. but just follow what is received. The use of alcohol or drugs is not allowed. Participants are fully conscious, and can stop at any time if they want to.
The Subud Britain website explains the latihan kejiwaan in this way:
The practice of the latihan involves the individual voluntarily surrendering to the power of God. This is achieved by the individual quietening themselves by releasing themselves from their thoughts and desires while making an inner intention to surrender to the power of God, which is the source of and within the latihan. Once in such a quiet state, the individual may feel spontaneous vibrations or movements that derive from divine grace. The individual then willingly follows those movements to experience a worship free of thought and desire.
Bapak explained that the movements and vibrations represented the awakening of the inner self or soul of the individual by way of the action of the latihan. Following this awakening, individuals start to become aware of their true selves and their connection with the divine grace, humanity and life in the universe. Over time, individuals may find that this enables them to live their worldly lives more in accordance with their true inner nature and in a way that benefits themself, their families and their community.
Since the latihan is unique to each individual and is guidance by the will of God for that individual, no two peoples’ latihans are the same and there are thus no teachings, rules or requirements in Subud regarding what any individual should receive or how they should move in the latihan. This is a matter solely between the individual and the power of God which is the active force guiding the latihan.
The founder explained that the source of the latihan is the One Almighty God and referred to the source in those terms. However, he left it to individual members to verify that for themselves through their own latihan and to refer to that One source of the latihan by whatever name or reference they felt comfortable with (e.g. the great life force, universal life force, the divine, God, Allah, Yahweh, Ishvara, Brahman, Waheguru, the Tao).
There is no membership fee, but most Subud members contribute, for example, to the rent or upkeep of premises where they meet.
Additional notesIn our research we found confusing use of the word Subud and the use of the term
latihan kejiwaan . It appears that there are ashrams being set up, which are using the name, but which are practising different techniques entirely from those described above. One journalist attending such a centre mentioned the use of chant and mantra, meditation and controlled breathing, fasting, repetitive loud music, and the use of herbal tobacco [as a drug]! They were also encouraged to use prolonged frenetic shaking. This latter technique is then the modern day equivalent of the older techniques of quaking and shaking. The techniques were being used to heal trauma in a method close to a form of catharsis - an emotional breakdown to purge the person of the trauma.
But these techniques are not Subud as is now described by the Subud Britain organisation themselves. We have included the observations of all those who use the name Subud in this section, but those of people who use the word Latihan, [or shaking meditation] in the latihan kejiwaan section.
Symbol of movement
The symbol of the movement is the egg shown as a matrix and contains seven levels. The symbol was actually derived from traditional Javanese mysticism.
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