Subud Should Not Promote Anyone’s Talks

By Merin Nielsen

The Problem:

Subud appears to promote the spiritual doctrines that are included here and there throughout the talks of Pak Subuh and Ibu Rahayu. To outsiders, this suggests that Subud members all embrace a certain spiritual teaching. Although this is not true, the general impression is liable to put off many people from trying out the latihan.

The Solution:

SPI should change its name so that ‘Subud’ is no longer within the company name. The Subud Association should cease to officially sponsor or host SPI at congresses. Also, every publication or website with ‘Subud’ in its name should stop publishing anyone’s ideas in a supposedly doctrinal context to the point of advocating them. This policy should apply equally to the words of Pak Subuh and Ibu Rahayu.

The Details:

The name ‘Subud’ occurring in Subud Publications International (SPI) seems to imply that the Subud Association is officially connected with this company and hence with SPI’s policy of giving prominence to Pak Subuh’s talks, outside of historical purposes. As these talks contain many statements about spiritual reality that are readily seen as doctrinal, the blurred distinction between SPI and the Subud Association gives an impression that Subud officially promotes the particular spiritual view of Pak Subuh. It strongly suggests, by default, that all Subud members likewise support or accept his perspective, whereas on inspection this is clearly not true. Moreover, officially promoting any spiritual doctrine is not within the mandate of the Subud Association, and is likely to go against the aim of making the latihan more available. Therefore another concern is with Subud newsletters, magazines and websites (whether or not for subscribers only) that often tend to prominently publish the talks of Pak Subuh and Ibu Rahayu to the point of inadvertent but exclusive long-term advocacy.

The World Subud Association should ask SPI to drop ‘Subud’ from the company’s name. The company could continue to publish and market Pak Subuh’s talks, but a suitable distinction between the position of the company and the diverse viewpoints of Subud members would be easier to recognise. If the company were to refuse, then suitable trademark and/or copyright protection of ‘Subud’ and the content of Pak Subuh’s talks should be applied to force the change. The World Subud Association should also ask all private publishers of magazines and websites with ‘Subud’ in their names to adopt the editorial policy mentioned above, again enforceable by legal action. All national Subud organisations should similarly be requested to follow this policy with regard to any newsletters, magazines or websites that they publish. Individual Subud members may naturally continue to promote the spiritual doctrines of whomever they choose, but this should not happen under the name of Subud.

Subud is not in the business of preaching. For the sake of historical legacy, there is no problem with reasonable efforts to accurately translate and make available the talks and writings of Subud’s founder. However, because Subud is not a religion and claims to have no doctrine, it is inappropriate for Subud to be directly linked with efforts to advocate or disseminate anyone’s doctrinal views — including those of Pak Subuh and Ibu Rahayu — whether to the public at large or to members of the Subud community. A strong stance of official neutrality toward all spiritual doctrines is required in order to reduce unnecessary obstacles to people trying out the latihan. In this way, Subud can be officially impartial regarding spiritual views, whereas it currently presents an obvious bias toward the spiritual perspective of its founder, which plainly alienates and deters many people who might otherwise apply for membership.