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Sjahari Hollands - How to Read Bapak’s Talks and How Not To

Bapak's talks. From Rozak Tatebe, June 8, 2008. Time 2:42

Dear Sjahari,

I fully agree with your suggestions and comments on how we should approach Bapak's talks and how, and with what attitude, we should read them.

From my experience as a translator of Bapak's talks, I can also affirm that this is what Bapak himself advised us to do in listening to or reading his talks.

It should be common knowledge amongst Subud members. And I assume this is one of the reasons why Bapak gave his talks only to Subud members, and why his talks are not recommended for people outside Subud.

From Merin Nielsen, July 20, 2008. Time 11:9

Hi, Rozak,

Sjahari's explanation of how we should approach Bapak's talks is based on his view that, by listening to Bapak's talks, we join Bapak in the latihan. Sjahari says that the talks are expressions of Bapak’s latihan in which we can participate. Since you agree with Sjahari about this, could you please explain in what way is Bapak, or Bapak's latihan, somehow present within the replays (or readings) of Bapak's talks?


From Rozak Tatebe, July 21, 2008. Time 8:5

Dear Merin,

I will not say that Bapak or Bapak's latihan is present in listening to or reading his talks, but I fully agree with Sjahari about the right attitude toward Bapak's talks. In this connection, I would say that the proper attitude in listening/reading his talks can be compared with the attitude that we should take in receiving the test.

In the test, our thinking mind and heart are completely passive as if we are in the latihan, but we can still hear and understand the question asked. And our inner will either react to the question so that we can have an answer, or will not react at all and we will feel nothing. In this way, we will be able to know by ourselves how far we have progressed in the latihan.

Testing and reading Bapak's talk are, of course, two different things, but if we read Bapak's talk with the right attitude, it is possible that we go through somewhat similar process.

In giving the talk, Bapak is always referring to some spiritual truth that we may be able to experience and realize during our spiritual journey. If we have already experienced it to some degree through latihan, our inner will respond to Bapak's words, saying 'yes, it is true', and will feel satisfied by getting an explanation and confirmation about what we have experienced inwardly. Because it is rather often that even if we have experienced something inwardly, it does not yet come to our 'understanding'.

In this way, we will be involved in the process intended by Bapak in giving talks from his latihan.

On the other hand, if we do not yet have any experience about the truth that Bapak was referring to, just as the people who have no latihan experience, or if we read his talk only with the heart and mind, our inner will feel nothing and we will find in it just a theory and may feel boring.

This will explain why we are recommended to read Bapak's talk from time to time. It will serve to check our present position in our spiritual path as in the testing and will help deepen our understandings. And this is also the reason why even if we read the same talk again, we may feel it very differently after few years' time.

With best wishes,

From Merin Nielsen, July 21, 2008. Time 9:56

Hi, Rozak,

Thanks for your patient explanation. It leaves just one or two issues unclear.

First, we may reasonably assume that latihan is not the only way in which human beings may encounter 'spiritual truths'. In this case, according to your explanation, reading or listening to truths provided by people besides Bapak must have similar value. Of course, this refers to truths which, as you describe, we have previously experienced inwardly to some degree, through the latihan, but which perhaps have not yet reached our 'understanding'. Do you agree, accordingly, that the talks of various other people (talks which are similarly approached in a proper attitude) must have similar value?


From sjahari, July 21, 2008. Time 17:50

I am going to jump in here since you ask me a similar question in another thread. The point you are making here was also made frequently by Bapak in his talks, and also in the book SBD.

He spoke about how you will be able to discern whether what you are reading really comes from a latihan type of place, and whether there is a spiritual truth. there. This is an entirely personal understanding you will get and will come only when you approach these writings in the right state. (similar to the state i was trying to describe in my original article and which Rozak does a better job of explaining.)

If you approach the writings in this way you will find that you will experience yourself how Some do come from this place. And that others do not. You wont have to be told this by someone else. You will be able to feel it and know it yourself.

Subud as an organizational entity however does not set out to decide or make pronouncements about which is which. It would be totally inappropriate to do that. Therefore As an organization we can only confine ourselves to what we know for sure ie. That Bapak"s talks DO come from that place. (which is not at all the same thing as saying that others do not come from that place)

As individuals we are welcomed and encouraged to explore the rest of the wisdom available to us in world literature.. The latihan gives us a technique with which to determine for ourselves whether or not the writer has anything important to say to us personally .

For me many do. And indeed at times I have found other wisdom to be more relevant and important to me than what i find in Bapak's talks.

but to answer your question: some do have similar value and some do not.


From Rozak Tatebe, July 22, 2008. Time 5:51

Hi Merin,

I believe that Sjahari's answer is adequate to your question.

Because of the latihan, our inner feeling awakes and it can be purified more and more if we continue the latihan. Then we will become able to discern the spiritual truths and the mind products existing in religious literatures.

The difference between Bapak's talks and other talks speaking about the spiritual truth is that other talks are directed to the people in general, so that they do not require special attitude to read them as in the case of Bapak's talks. They can be read with the heart and mind, and so are easier to approach and enjoy, even though good ones have the quality to touch our inner feeling. Bapak's talks require the special attitude and some latihan experience to appreciate. Generally speaking, they can have the value only to Subud members, but have a great value to them.

For instance, I happened to know Krishnamurti after having practiced latihan for a few years. His talks gave me many precious insights that I needed and I felt peaceful and enjoyable in reading his talks, much more than Bapak's talks. However, many decades have passed and I have changed since then. Now I find Bapak's talks much more useful and enjoyable to me than K's talks, although I still respect him much.

Best wishes,

From Merin Nielsen, July 22, 2008. Time 7:5

Hi, Rozak,

Thanks for your considered reply. I wonder if Bapak's talks would be even more valuable if they were more like the talks of others which -- as you say -- "do not require special attitude to read them as in the case of Bapak's talks. They can be read with the heart and mind, and so are easier to approach and enjoy, even though good ones have the quality to touch our inner feeling."

Hi, Sjahari,

You wrote:
> If you approach the writings in this way you will find that you will experience yourself how Some do come from this [latihan type of] place.
> And that others do not.......
> As an organization we can only confine ourselves to what we know for sure ie. That Bapak"s talks DO come from that place.

But we don't 'know' any such thing.

By "latihan type of place", I guess you mean a background of deep familiarity with latihan. The Subud organisation takes no official position on Bapak's talks, and it's actually a matter of conjecture, pertaining to merely subjective evidence, whether Bapak gave any useful explanations about latihan, or had any true understanding of it. Surely you acknowledge this.


From Philip Quackenbush, July 22, 2008. Time 20:46

Hi, Sjahari,

You said,

-- As an organization we can only confine ourselves to what we know for sure ie. That Bapak"s talks DO come from that place.

That is an assumption, and, unfortunately, one taken far too often by Subud members. In the matter of discernment, one can only take one's own sense of discrimination based on past experience and knowledge, and, when seen in that light, much of the material both printed and on tape by M. Subuh falls short of being either ideal or uplifting.

A very good guide to deciding what is "correct" "channeled" material (which M. Subuh on several occasions claimed he was "receiving" (or "channeling" to translate that in to the more commonly used societal terminology) from "God") can be found somewhere on the website of David Wilcock (the putative "reincarnation" [as it's commonly called] of Edgar Cayce) in one of his own "channelings" (I'm willing to look it up for anyone who's interested and can't Google it themselves).

The essential thing in that guidance is to look for the negative or manipulative tone of what's being said, especially anything that would impose on one's free will. This sort of "receiving" was often mixed in with other material in M. Subuh's lectures and letters, as well as his own cultural and religious biases when, IMO, he was not "receiving" from a "good" enough source (a potential failure of all "channeling", which everyone does, consciously or unconsciously, in Subud and out of it, so there's no blame to be attached to it in any case; everyone's telepathic to some degree, too, BTW).

Peace, Philip

From Stefan Freedman, July 22, 2008. Time 23:58

Hi Sjahari, Merin, Rozak and Philip,

What a chasm to bridge!

If you treasure Bapak's words (I like the way you explained it, Rozak) and feel that they are a source of validation, providing landmarks on their inner journey, you must be
saddened when others criticise and don't seem to "get" the subtleties, seeing only faults. There may be a concern that the next generation of latihaners will be indifferent custodians for Bapak's talks. So it's understandable that some enthusiasts want to expose less-convinced members to these talks.

While you who don't find Bapak's talks inspiring, and find some aspects unpalatable or offputting, feel embarassed both by the talks and by our organisation's emphasis on them. You must be very brassed off with having them "pushed" at you, and quoted liberally to applicants.

A vital step in bridging this divide is what is happening here: listening with "beginner's mind" to what others are saying. Though we won't end up agreeing, some appreciation for an alien view is growing. This gives me hope. The skill of extending boundaries is the key (in my view) to Subud's future and our outreach to a broader public.

I appreciate all the parties in this dialogue for being able to maintain respect for and interest in those presenting opposite and "antagonistic" views. This is the Subud I want to be part of - in which diverse opinions can be openly explored, and we are big enough to allow each person's viewpoint to matter.


From Rozak Tatebe, July 23, 2008. Time 8:21

Hi, Merin and all,

Merin, I also wondered the same thing in the past. As the person who was given the latihan from God first and who went through the special latihan for 1000 days, Bapak was clearly the best qualified person to explain the latihan. And in fact, he did it, by traveling the world many times and giving more than 1300 talks - but only to Subud members! He never gave open talks. Why?

Of course, the real reason can be obtained only from Bapak himself. However, if my memory is correct, someone - maybe Ian Arnold - asked Bapak about this once, and Bapak replied that the explanation to people should be given not by Bapak but by Subud members, using their own languages, that is, using the words and terminology which are understandable by people living there.

Further, I am pretty sure of this because I still remember that I was rather surprised in reading it probably in Subud Voice or something like that many years ago - that is, when Ian asked Bapak if it is allowable to explain Subud without using the word 'God' at all in order to reach a wide range of people, Bapak said to him that it is OK.

I think that this suggests that Bapak himself was aware that words, notions and terminology he used were based on the culture he belonged to, and are not necessarily acceptable by people living in different cultures and different religious backgrounds. I think that, nevertheless, he had to use the language he was familiar with, because there was no other choice and no one can do otherwise.

I assume that this is at least one of the main reasons why Bapak wanted to restrict the accessibility of his talks to members, on the ground that people outside Subud, if they read his talks, would misunderstand what he said.

So, my answer to your question will probably be as follows:
Yes, it is, but Bapak did not do it. He concentrated his effort to help and educate Subud members. So I believe that he would be happy if some member or rather many members could do it in place of Bapak, using their own languages and explanations.


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