Abandon Subud Membership

By Sahlan Diver

The Problem:

Telling someone about the latihan should be easy, no more difficult for example than talking about other exercises that have spiritual overtones, like tai-chi or yoga. However, explaining to someone that one ‘belongs to an organisation called Subud’ is much more difficult. Immediately one is on the defensive — will the listener think I have joined a cult, gone funny, become a fanatic, given away my ability to think independently, signed up to a rigid and somewhat archaic belief system etc. etc.? Also the tribal and clubbish nature of Subud is much more evident to an outsider than Subud members are willing to admit and could be a significant obstacle to the spread of the latihan.

The Solution:

Subud should no longer be an organisation which has members, an organisation that you have to join. It should become purely a service organisation for people who practise the latihan.

The Details:

Subud, the organisation, would have the responsibility of furthering everything to do with the availability and practice of the latihan. That would include things like taking responsibility for preserving Pak Subuh’s talks and other important historical material, fostering communication and information through newsletters and so on, hosting international get-togethers and conferences, providing informational web sites about the latihan, all the kinds of things it does at the moment in fact. The essential difference is that Subud would have no longer have a membership; it would abandon its status as a membership organisation.

When someone finds out about the latihan and wishes to practise it, there would be some sort of induction period (whether that is very short or three months as at present is not relevant to this particular discussion) at the end of which they would be opened. They would receive some kind of certificate or card verifying that they were opened and entitled to attend latihan exercises with others, but there would be no sense of their having ‘joined’ anything.

Abandoning membership status would have an immediate clarifying and invigorating effect on the growth of the latihan, by removing the most oppressive aspects of Subud. No longer would people be able to say, for example, ‘in Subud, we have to consider harmony and consensus first and foremost’, because there would be no ‘in Subud’; latihan practitioners would become free and independent individuals again. This opens up the possibility of tapping into people’s natural creative energy and goodwill, instead of always fighting battles against the strongest personalities who wish to force all the other ‘members’ into a mould.