by Sahlan Diver

(Note: The opinions expressed in any Subud Vision editorial are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the other Subud Vision editors)

The home page of the original Subud Vision web site stated that the object of the web site was “to promote change in Subud, not just criticism.”

This editorial is not about criticism, it is about change.

Let’s be clear that the use of the word “change” implies “change for the better”. I am confident that the reader will at least agree with me on that. However, this is where things start to get tricky. Your idea of what constitutes “a change for the better” might be completely different from mine. So, if I say “Subud needs to do this and that thing”, I may be proposing a future version of Subud that, even if my suggestions were shown to be practical and achievable, you would nevertheless be reluctant to sign up to.

Members who care about Subud will have their individual vision for it, but if we are to act together we need to find common ground. There are those in Subud who believe that progress is entirely in the hands of Almighty God. I am not going to argue against them here. This editorial is addressed to those of us who believe we should take a proactive responsibility for the development of Subud. The question is “Do we have sufficient common ground?” – a simple question with, I suggest, a non-simple answer, the reality being that there may be a number of common grounds, which all have too little in common with each other!



One possible common ground I will call “change without any change”. In this model for the future of Subud, everything is exactly the same as it is at the moment: our groups still have a committee with chairman, sec, treasurer, and various representatives, and we still have the same familiar pattern of group meetings, kejiwaan and social events. The significant difference is that, instead of a handful of members attending latihan, there are, say, 100 at each latihan night, every group has its own Subud house, and every member is within easy travelling distance of a Subud group. The equation is simple: A lot more members = much more funds = more groups able to purchase their own premises = more and more premises for attracting a lot more members. There are some who might suggest this is achievable simply by finding out why so many members leave Subud. Others might say “Sure, prevent the loss of members, but we also need to advertise in order to be able pull in sufficient numbers.” These would be differences of opinion about method, but the core idea is the same – Subud is doing fine as it is - if only it could find a way to attract and keep a lot more members.

Another possible common ground I will call “change through idealism”. This model for the future of Subud derives from Bapak’s advice to start enterprises and to donate surplus profits to the promotion of charitable and cultural projects. Proponents of this model would argue that Subud will never be able to impress itself on enough people if it remains as it is at the moment, a benign private spiritual and social club. It also needs to be seen to be an agent of good in the world, and this is only substantially achievable through concerted action on enterprise, charitable and cultural projects, just as Bapak recommended.

A third possible common ground I will call “change by going back to the latihan”. Proponents of this model would say that Subud has become over-involved with organisational structures at both the national and international levels. They want a new approach that reduces the applicant waiting period to a bare minimum, that simplifies our presentation of Subud by removing all off-putting spiritual jargon, and that permits us to strongly advertise our presence, to create a situation whereby anyone can be opened almost immediately just by asking. The aim is to get a large number of new people discovering and experiencing the latihan, thereby injecting new life into Subud.

In theory, these three models for change are not incompatible. They could happily coexist. The problem is that our numbers are so small and our resources so limited that we may need to commit to just one model. It is difficult to see how this could happen in practise. The idealists who believe we need enterprises and projects are unlikely to be enthusiastic about what they would see as a non-starter membership expansion initiative. On the other hand, the people who want no change apart from greatly increased numbers will not show any enthusiasm for enterprise and project ideas. And the “back to the latihan” people would want nothing to do with either, believing themselves to have a much simpler and more radical plan.

In this editorial I have suggested three models for change that I am aware of in Subud – there may be several more. So where some might say “Subud hasn’t grown because we don’t face up to our problems”, and others might say “Subud hasn’t grown because not enough members take upon themselves responsibility for where it is going”, there might be a much more fundamental issue we also need to address, that we haven’t yet agreed upon a common vision of the exact type of change Subud requires for a better future.

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