The Future Break-Up of Subud

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)

Subud has had two authority figures, first Bapak, and now Ibu Rahayu. I use the word “authority” here not in the sense of elected authority or assumed authority, but in the sense of someone who automatically attracts an attitude of great respect because of their high spiritual state.

After Ibu Rahaju’s death, one could say that spiritual authority in Subud will pass to the International Helpers. Although the regular helper system of group, national and zonal helpers is not supposed to be a hierarchy, the International Helpers are apart from this system, and could assume the status of guides for the development of Subud. Here I think Subud has a problem. Reports of International Helper behaviour in Subud Vision articles, and also my own experience of corresponding with some International Helpers, shows that they can be worryingly lacking in basic understanding. In fact, if these impressions are a correct guide to the future, one could say that Subud will be authority-less after Ibu Rahaju’s death. The lack of any persons qualified to take on a position of authority will, in my prediction, inevitably lead to the break up of Subud into separate movements, unless opposing viewpoints within Subud are recognised now and Subud changes to accommodate them within a workable, positive and forward-looking compromise.

Here is my own prediction for the four ways that Subud will split, and an estimate of the prospects for each.

I have called them:

  1. “Subud – The Religion”
  2. “Subud – The Habit”
  3. “Subud – The Latihan”
  4. “Subud – The Package Deal”



“Subud – The Religion”

This version of Subud will collect together in a scripture Bapak’s sayings on a wide variety of topics such as marriage, homosexuality, circumcision, women, meditation, Buddhism, physical illness, mental health and so on. Although the latihan will be central, members will be expected to read these new scriptures, agree with them and follow all that is recommended within them.


Will appeal to those people who want to adopt a new religion at the same time as practising the latihan.


Will exclude all Buddhists, many people of strong mainstream religious traditions, and most people in secular society where religious extremism or bad behaviour has given religion a bad name. Can therefore never be more than a minority movement.


Not good. There will be an inherent tension between the latihan's individual spiritual guidance, and an organisation requiring conformance to a rigid philosophy and rules of living. Dissension will not be welcomed, so that membership will diminish to a few, fanatical followers.

“Subud – The Habit”

This is Subud as we have it at the moment – no change.


The authority that comes through being for 50+ years the sole caretaking and development organisation for the latihan


The arrogance that comes through being for 50+ years the sole caretaking and development organisation for the latihan


A steady decline in numbers can be expected as the long-term members start to die off. Eventually the organisation will settle down to a low-energy, low-profile equilibrium state, with just enough members to keep small pockets of latihan practitioners meeting together twice weekly, and with periodic international gatherings acting as a sufficient antidote to flagging enthusiasm and as a means to keep the whole thing gently ticking over.

“Subud – The Latihan”

The practitioners of this version of Subud will have no interest in Bapak’s talks and writings. Their primary focus will be the practise of the latihan, unencumbered by any dogma, either overt or implied. They will also have no interest in officially encouraging enterprises, culture or charitable projects.


Potential membership of millions – the simplicity would have wide appeal, both to religious people and to people to whom any kind of religious or spiritual talk is anathema.


Concentrating on the latihan alone might create a never-ending supply of people interested in sampling it, but only a small percentage becoming permanent members.


One wonders whether the proponents of this variety of Subud mightn't turn out to be a little too “spiritual” and detached, and unable to collectively organise themselves to grasp the very great opportunity they have.

“Subud – The Package Deal”

Subud as it was envisaged by Bapak. Subud members achieving individual development through the latihan and the Subud organisation in the service of outer ideals being energetically worked on, rather than being an organisation that is just a talking-shop and an end in itself.


A spiritual movement that could also show itself to be capable across the board might be expected to attract capable people, further increasing its capability in all fields.


The difficult of successfully kick-starting the full package of significant and notable enterprise, cultural and charitable activity, an idea which now has only minority support amongst the membership.


A spiritual organisation that is neither pious, self-satisfied, nor elitist, but just gets on with doing things for the benefit of the world – now wouldn’t that be interesting!

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