Many people were once attracted to Subud’s promise of an absence of dogma, of a spiritual exercise and path which self-tailors itself to every individual. Yet we have developed all manner of fixed rules, customs and habits.
Encourage a process of experimentalism, in which new ideas are constantly tried out on a limited basis to see how they work in reality. Encourage the publication and exchange of experiences. Don’t worry if different people adopt different solutions.
There are three habits that tend to suppress change within Subud.
• An over-reliance on consensus. Although this can create communal solidarity, it can also lead to a situation where a very small minority can stop any change, by simply refusing.
• An over-reliance on Bapak’s words. Bapak termed his words ‘advice’, not ‘timeless truths’. The advice varied from time to time, and from situation to situation. And the whole aim and purpose of the latihan is to develop the ability to see what is right for a particular time and situation, not to look up answers in books.
• An over-reliance on testing. Testing is a useful process. But ultimately actions stand or fall by the way they work out in reality. Experimenting is another form of testing, in which the answers are sought not from inner perception but from reality itself.
It’s a widespread human experience that actual experiments often lead to results that surprise, and are necessary for any new learning and development to take place. Consensus (what everyone agrees on), books, and looking within are no substitute for actually trying out new ideas. A very famous and successful firm in New York, Stew Leonard Jr.’s, has a motto: ‘Try it for a week’. Rather than endlessly debate new ideas, they just try them for a week. They find time and time again that reality does not respond in the way they imagined that it would. This experimenting has it made it one of the most successful retail stores in the world.
Of course, there always risks with trying something new. That’s why it makes sense to carry out limited experiments: limited in time, and geography. An obvious geographical testbed is the group. For instance, a group might:
• develop and try using a Taoist understanding of the latihan for a year, and see how it felt, and what happened
• advertise locally for a year
• operate with a different name and symbol for a year
• give public talks
• reduce the three month waiting period to three visits to the hall
People can argue endlessly about what would happen. But such changes are not illegal, and they’re not immoral. We will only know the reality, when we try them.