Subud Vision - Discussion
David, thanks for this article. I returned to the latihan about 2 years ago and have found it useful, but I also returned to being a helper, and am having some trouble with things like the opening words for new members. This article was clarifying to me. I keep asking myself what it is I'm doing in the latihan, and your explanation, without using the G-word, helps. I was also glad to hear you compare the latihan to other practices, and to read your observation that Subud people aren't that different than people outside Subud, but often believe we're special or "the chosen." Even though Bapak talked about building character, some people appear to behave about the same as I knew them 40 years ago, even though they've been consistent with the latihan. I prefer to think of the latihan as a way to connect or align with the "spirit of life" of which I am a part.
Your observation about whether the latihan changes people or not is an interesting one. I can quote one dramatic case. When I had only been in Subud a few years I was badly offended by an incident in which a helper behaved towards me in a very superior way. I didn't see the man again for a year, and on visiting his group again, I tried to avoid him and not speak to him. I saw him on the other side of a room and was puzzled that rather than a feeling of hate, I felt love towards him. Later that week I read an article he had written in a Subud journal where he said he had experienced a revelation of his personal faults and was now endeavouring to behave in a new way. From that point on, we got on fine and I always had a feeling of respect for him. I could quote other incidents of people who have changed in a big way. I obviously can't give myself as an example in the sense of how other people perceive me, but I can say that internally if I think back to how I was in my twenties, when I was opened, I don't like that person at all.
The problem with all this is that although we can undoubtedly attribute some change in some people to the latihan, we can't separate out the degree to which life's other influences have played a part in shaping and rounding how someone behaves. And the big point, which you hint at, is that there seem to be a very large proportion of Subud members who hardly change at all.
OK, so some people don't change. Maybe Subud gives them other benefits like a social life, opportunities to get involved in activities they might have otherwise missed out on. Maybe without the latihan their life and their character may have got a whole lot worse. So what's the big deal?
The big deal is that Bapak promoted the latihan as a potentially world-changing force. The character of Subud members would shine out such that many would want to join and be similarly transformed, the change in our character would lead to a flowering of enterprise with a knock on effect on the good works we were able to perpetrate in society. Our descendants would start a notch up the ladder and achieve much more than us, and their shining descendants even more so.
This was easy to believe in the early days when even someone who had been doing the latihan for 5 years seemed like an experienced old-timer, but now, more than 50 years later, the idea doesn't stand up to the test of time. It has been disproved by practise. Most people don't change that much. And the Subud 2nd and 3rd generation descendants do not impress as being particularly special. But Subud people still carry on as if the decades had not passed, as if we were still back in the early days, dutifully preparing ourselves for the transformation of Subud.
Had Subud just been about the latihan I believe our perception of the latihan's effects would have changed to align with our long-term experience, but Subud's internal propaganda mechanisms constantly reinforce the old notions. Could the latihan ever be a transforming force? I'm not saying it couldn't. What I am saying is that experience has shown it cannot achieve that within the Subud straight-jacket,
P.S. You pointed out on another page we had mis-attributed a quote. That has now been corrected. Thanks for the observation.
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