Subud Vision - Feedback

Aliman Sears - Forget about Outreach

Different kinds of Subud. From Merin Nielsen, January 16, 2008. Time 15:51

Hi, Aliman,

I agree with much that your article says, such as “We must not do projects for the express purpose of increasing the membership of Subud!” However, I think maybe we envisage different kinds of Subud. You highlight the importance of Membership Development, focussing on ‘abilities’, and you mention the need “to maintain group harmony and make Subud the kind of association that is attractive and helpful to all members”. I am not so community oriented, because for me the latihan is the main thing. In relation to increasing Subud’s membership, Outreach is forgettable, yet I feel some obligation with respect to the latihan’s availability.

If everyone in the world were to hear of the latihan, but hardly anybody wanted to try it, then Subud would eventually disappear, but only because it wasn't wanted. Nothing could be more appropriate.

If hardly anybody in the world were to hear of the latihan, then hardly anybody would have even a chance to try it. And so Subud would eventually disappear, but with no clue about whether it might have been wanted. Nothing could be less appropriate.

If heaps more people in the world were to hear of the latihan, then at least some would try it, and at least a few would remain in Subud. Then Subud might possibly grow, but still eventually disappear. Even if Subud then disappeared, however, this would be better than hardly anybody hearing of the latihan in the first place. At least more people would have had a chance to try it.

It really doesn't matter whether Subud grows for its own sake. What matters is whether more people get a chance to try the latihan, just in case it's something that they might want or need. There might well be many people who want or need the latihan, but who don't even know it exists. Therefore it's important for the latihan to be advertised as a simple practise that could help to provide spiritual or psychological benefit.

Indeed, there are many people who have heard of it, but are denied access to it because Subud is not genuinely secular. They are unable to give the latihan a try, because Subud presents it in connection with the talks and figure of Pak Subuh, which create a barrier. It's important to remove this barrier.

Here’s an example of what I mean. The following paragraph is fiction.

In the 1960s, the spiritual practice known as latihan began spreading far and wide throughout the world. Among all its practitioners, some preferred to associate it with the traditional religion and culture that it came from. Others, however, preferred to frame it in a secular context, downplaying its origins and treating it as simply an exercise enhancing spiritual or psychological health. During the 1970s, these two groups of practitioners drifted apart and ended up largely going separate ways. With the 1980s and 1990s, general social attitudes to religion grew less pious and more ecumenical. Meanwhile, attitudes to psychological health grew less traditional and more liberal. Consequently, fewer people were attracted to the religious version of latihan, whereas more were attracted to the secular version. By 2007, a few thousand were still practising the religious version, but millions were practising the secular version.

In the preceding paragraph, now change "latihan" to "yoga". Suddenly it all ceases to be fiction. Millions of people today are practising yoga in a secular context with tremendous benefit.


From Edward Fido, January 16, 2008. Time 22:36

Hi Merin,

Subud seems to me to be reasonably well known in certain circles. To do with Gurdjieff and 'New Age Religion'.

The problem with Subud vis a vis Yoga, Insight Meditation and similar popular spiritual movements in the West is that they have a long and known history and have been extensively documented as to their health benefits, both physical and psychological.

Subud came out of left field - Java - and apart from medically undocumented anecdotal reports has never been proved to have health benefits. With both provenance and effects questionable it is really a different story.

It seems to me the brotherhood is between a rock and a hard place.

Where to go from here?

Good question.

I have no answer.



From Merin Nielsen, January 16, 2008. Time 23:48

Oops! In the above passage, I meant to refer to the practice "outside its lands of origin".

Hi, Edward,

You're right - whereas yoga and other spiritual movements have had strong histories in the West, with documented health benefits, the latihan has not had anything close. But I'm contending that this is largely because Subud, the organisation caretaking the latihan, has never been close to being secular. The latihan has been in the West now for fifty years - but throughout that half-century Subud has kept it tucked away, cosseted among exotic beliefs and customs.



From Edward Fido, January 17, 2008. Time 1:59

Hi Merin,

Fifty years is a long time. Seeing that both the Gurdjieff and Javanese spiritual tradition are very secretive I'm wondering just how the presumed 'secret' of Subud will break out into the world.

Something totally unplanned would need to happen.

Both Christianity and Islam went through incredible suffering and persecution before they really spread.

Transmutation will not come passively. There is considerable resistance to any change.

We have, indeed, made a fetish of the bathwater.

It does nothing.



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