Is there any point?

by Sahlan Diver

Some observers of the SubudVision web site may wonder “Is there any point in publishing articles? Aren’t Subud members going to go on thinking what they have always thought?” Well, maybe not, as I hope to demonstrate by describing an experience I had recently.

In the articles that have been submitted for publication, a number of themes emerge as popular. One such theme, discussed by at least three writers, is “religiosity”, in the sense that we say we are not a religion, and that we are open to people of all religions, but there is much in the way we present ourselves that can be off-putting to both the religious and the non-religious alike. I have heard similar sentiments expressed before, but I always considered the supposed problem to be exaggerated and not worthy of serious consideration. However, the arguments expressed in the articles submitted to SubudVision are compelling, and caused me to think again about this issue.

Recently, I was in Dublin, and met with an Irish surgeon who has an international reputation. He asked me about my name, and so I mentioned Subud. There wasn't time to discuss further, but he was under the immediate impression that Subud was a new religion. I explained that it wasn't a religion, because we included members of all religions, and I suggested he looked up the word Subud on Google.

Out of interest I tried this myself and, as expected, it came up with “www.subud.org” at the top of the list. I tried to imagine how this busy professional, who gave the impression of being widely read in history and philosophy, might follow through the links.



Usually, when one surfs the Web and is in a hurry, one clicks from the top links on a page downwards, or one is attracted to the first link that best describes your interest. In this case the link would be "What is Subud". So far, so good. Now, not so good! I am immediately treated to a lecture by Bapak mentioning God, God, God all the way through. I say “lecture”, because what we, with familiarity, would regard as merely Bapak’s advice, will undoubtedly be seen by a non-member as being a much more substantial philosophical statement. I reverse out of that link and try the next one - it (written in the 1960s) tells us “Subud is not a religion” but is "based on a religious experience." I can imagine quite a few justifiably also reversing out at that point. The next two links are two more talks by Bapak. In our deference to Bapak by putting his talks first and foremost, we are already starting to look like a cult. Finally a FAQ (frequently-asked-questions) page - a lot better, but usually you go the FAQ after a decent and compelling introduction, and this I haven't seen yet.

I now agree with our article writers; Subud does have a problem. There is a disparity between our professed religious neutrality, and our actual presentation of what Subud is about, which at best looks remarkably like a religion, and at worst could be construed as being just another funny sect. It is an issue that requires urgent attention.

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