What Is Subud?

SUBUD is something simple, something natural in that its process takes place in anyone who wants it, at one's own pace, according to one's own nature. It is the renewal of contact with the essential force of life, which is positive and constant, but with which we have lost touch.

We seek what we think will make us happy, but we are endlessly mistaken in our actions and thoughts. Only sometimes, when we are very quiet, or in some unusual state, we can be suddenly, brilliantly aware of this other life going on. The process of Subud reconnects us and keeps this special awareness alive and active in a way which seems entirely natural.

Bapak - Founder of Subud
© sahlan simón cherpitel

Subud was founded by an Indonesian, Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo. He is usually referred to by Subud members as "Bapak," which is an Indonesian word for a respected older man. The experience, the spiritual exercise, which we call by the Indonesian word "latihan," came to him as a revelation, suddenly. He was able to share it, pass it on to others, and it is now known in more than seventy countries and practiced by thousands of people.

To practice the latihan is to stand relaxed in a group of people, men and women separately, and to allow the process to take place. Many people feel a vibration, and most soon feel an impulse to move, to utter sounds, or to sing. The impulse is spontaneous – not suggested or controlled by thought – but during this time a member is fully alert, with mind and desires passive.

The latihan continues for about thirty minutes and is repeated twice a week. The experience varies: indeed, it is different for each person. For some the development is gradual, and changes are noticed in the outer life before there is much movement in the actual latihan.

The process is one of cleansing, or purification, which reaches more and more deeply into every part of one's being.

It is necessary to be a member before one may attend a latihan. A period of three months is normal during which one attends meetings with Subud members and satisfies oneself that this is a spiritual path worth taking before being opened. This gives those intererested an opportunity to meet people who have experienced the latihan for some time and to learn from them something of what may be expected.

It is also a time for one to draw nearer to a movement which is likely to change one's whole life. The moment of actually joining Subud is when, for the first time, a person stands with other members who are doing their latihan and receives the contact. This is experienced by some immediately, or by some after awhile, as a quickening of their inmost being.

Often in life we do not know (as we say) "which way to turn." We do not know what is right. In Subud we learn to trust and receive guidance through the latihan.

For some there is considerable pain. The process of purification brings out problems and can remind of past mistakes. Many things have to be faced before they can be corrected by the Will of God and removed from one's character.

Subud is a process, a receiving, not a teaching or a religion. It is not a religion. There is no dogma or theories in Subud. People of different religions find their faith deepened, and they practice the latihan in complete harmony with each other and with those who have no religion.

The Subud organization is world-wide. There are national and international officers and committees, and there are local groups where people meet to do the latihan. The association, which has been established in the West for over forty years, is working to help in the world. Subud members are setting up business enterprises with the ultimate aim of supporting the welfare projects of Subud (especially help for children, refugees, and the elderly). Much of this activity is in the Third World.

Susila, Budhi and Dharma are the three Sanskrit words from which the name Subud is derived.

Sushila, Budhi, Dharma means to follow the Will of God, or the power of the life force that works both within us and without.

Originally published on behalf of the International Subud Committee by Subud Publications International, 55 The Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England. Revised by Robyn Penwell for Subud California at Sacramento.

Subud® and the seven circle symbol are registered marks of the World Subud Association.