Subud Vision - Discussion

Hadrian Micciche - Both Simple and Complex

Being a Buddhist in Subud. From Rosalind Priestley, September 26, 2007. Time 22:54

Hadrian, I know it isn't easy to be a Buddhist in Subud. Before he retired, for forty years my husband was a professor of Buddhist philosophy (though not a Buddhist) and he often had the experience that students became very interested in Buddhism through his lectures and approached him privately to ask about his own practice. At that point he naturally told them about Subud. Over the years perhaps twenty or thirty of these enquirers were opened, but few, very few, stayed. First of all, some were put off by all the 'God' terminology. Many young people who take religious studies at University are trying to get away from the narrowness of their own theistic backgrounds, and Subud takes them right back into that mindset. Secondly, they were put off by encountering the wilful ignorance and judgmental attitudes of some Subud helpers and members on the subject of Buddhism. Subud members commonly accept Bapak's remarks about Buddhism as truth, without bothering to do any fact-checking. But it is obvious to any serious student of Buddhism that Bapak's understanding of Buddhism was no more extensive or sympathetic than one might expect from an Indonesian Muslim of that time.

I am somewhat amazed that you have persevered as a Buddhhist in Subud. I would be interested to hear more about your personal experience.

From Stefan, January 3, 2008. Time 14:24

Hi Hadrian,

One of my ambitions this year is to develop a short ("neutral") introduction to the Subud latihan followed by succinct personal accounts by practitioners from different backgrounds, such as atheist, Quaker, Pagan, humanist...

I second Rosalind when she says "I am somewhat amazed that you have persevered as a Buddhhist in Subud. I would be interested to hear more about your personal experience." I'm somewhat in awe of your ability to take what serves your spiritual growth despite the narrow or misinformed perceptions that many Subud peers may have about Buddhism.

I hope you'll write something about your experience of the latihan. Would you also consider if it may be used in a spectrum of personal views from Subud members with contrasting practices/faiths/backgrounds?

With thanks from Stefan

From Helissa Penwell, January 4, 2008. Time 0:6


Several years ago I wrote the brief introduction which is on the Outreach cards that were adopted by Subud USA. I can tell you from that experience that there is no such thing as "a neutral introduction" to Subud. The biggest issue that members made a fuss about was the word "God"--some people didn't want to use it at all and others were adamant that any intro not mentioning God would be meaningless. We temporarily got around that by issuing two cards, one using "God" and one without, so people could have their pick. I also used "Great Life Force", but I'm sure that some people don't like that either. And besides all of that, I need to mention that trying for "neutral" often results in bland, so that you don't capture the reader's interest; plus some readers would only join something that they feel is from God, while others are turned off by that. Sigh.

What I envision is something like a website where we would introduce Subud and say all of that-- that there's no agreement among us even as to what Subud is. The only agreement seems to be that doing the latihan is beneficial. Perhaps we can agree upon a few facts, such as names and dates and general history; but as to the deeper meanings of it all, well that comes down to personal experience and opinion. We might as well just lay that all out for people from the beginning. Then we can follow that non-explanation explanation with member's personal comments. Let a whole bunch of people each say what Subud means to them, and then post it all so that the readers can see for themselves that the latihan is a unique experience for everyone that does it and that each person is free to form their own opinions about it. I also don't think you'll have any success trying to lump Subud members under any kind of label and have them agree on anything, but if you try I might have fun debating in the Pagan group--haha!


From David W, January 4, 2008. Time 2:11

Hi Helissa

Your post reminds me of few things:

1. An image I have of an intro do Subud site which has on the home page just two buttons:

if you like the word "God"

if you don't like the word "God"

Each button would lead to a different explanation.

2. By my research about 50% of the people in the world are happy with the word "God". Also, about 50% of the people in Australia. I don't think the standard alternative "Great Life Force" does much for anyone, since it only seems to be used by (a) Theosophists, and (b) a Japanese Buddhist sect.

3. There is a Subud web-page which lists various member experiences. God-mention seems to be again about 50%. You can see it here:

I think what is most missing then, is the "neutral" intro, because the current introductions have a lot of God-mention, and--even worse--use the word "revelation". Most of the people that like the word "God", don't like contemporary people who claim they've had one.

The English word "revelation" is a translation of the Indonesian/Javanese word "wahyu". It's accurate in a kind of literal way, but misses the cultural sense of the word: in Java, "wahyu" is about as commonplace as PhDs are in the West. Not everyone has one, but several thousands of people receive "wahyu" every year. Therefore, to translate it "revelation" is quite misleading.



From Helissa Penwell, January 4, 2008. Time 2:39


Or maybe even better--

We could have everyone who comes to the site take a personality questionnaire of likes and dislikes, and then we could have a computer-generated Subud introduction come up that was specifically tailored to appeal to them!

Too funny!


From Helissa Penwell, January 4, 2008. Time 3:0

.....and, David, I also want to mention--

The "Great Life Force" might also appeal to folks interested in Native American Spirituality, New Age philosophies, shamanism, and neo-pagan religions.


From David W, January 4, 2008. Time 19:1

Hi Helissa

I think that New Agers might find "Great Life Force" okay, because the New Age is so informed by Theosophy. However, try this... Google "Great Life Force", with the quote marks. If this was really a popular Pagan or New Age term, you'd expect to find New Age or Pagan sites in front of Subud sites, but you don't.

I have certain heard and seen the word "God" in conversation. It's unavoidable. I have never heard nor seen the term "Great Life Force" in conversation or in print before google allowed me to search the crevices of the world for it.

We're not supposed to be inventing religion, and yet we are.



From Philip Quackenbush, January 4, 2008. Time 22:2

Hi, Helissa,

You said:

"I also don't think you'll have any success trying to lump Subud members under any kind of label and have them agree on anything, but if you try I might have fun debating in the Pagan group--haha!"

I've known for a number of years that there are Wiccans (neo-witches) in Subud, but I didn't want to rock the boat by "outing" them in a group like mine where they've been existing very much sub rosa for so long. I was also around to see Hadrian struggling as a Buddhist for some degree of acceptance in the group, which, at the time, only had what a now-deceased subscriber to Subudtalk called "Godders" being vocal in the group. But now the Subud house here has been rented at non-"latihan" times to what appear to be a group of Wiccans that include Subud members, so I sometimes wonder what the "Godders" think about it, if they know, or if they don't know. In any case, it may represent some progress in breaking through the rigid shells of the "Subud fundamentalists". Maybe the "latihan" "works" after all!

The interfaith church that I used to attend fairly regularly until I got tired of commuting that far had a couple of recovering-Catholic Pagans producing some of the services. It's the only one of its kind in the world, apparently, unless another one can be Googled now, but there are other interfaith movements around besides Subud, which could only nominally be called that, IMO.

Peace, Philip

From Helissa Penwell, January 5, 2008. Time 0:43

Hi Philip,

Actually it was David who first labeled me with that term. We were having yet another skirmish in our continuing battle over the reality of the forces when I said something about believing that everything is alive and has consciousness, and he replied that I must be a "pagan". Well, if the Birkenstock fits. Not that I've ever danced skyclad around a bonfire, or anything, although I have friends who have. Our family celebrates Winter Solstice instead of Christmas every year, but that's as close as I've come to embracing any actual pagan ceremonies. My bent is toward the Eastern religions; that online quiz about What religion are you? (David can give you the site) said I was strongly Hindu with Buddhist overtones. Whatever.

I'm always shocked to hear how closed-minded some Subud members/groups are. I thank TheGreatLifeForce/God/Other that I've spent my whole Subud life here in laid back Sacramento. I hope you're right about seeing signs that things are loosening up up North, and hopefully everywhere.


From bronte, January 5, 2008. Time 0:57

I am among those whose conditioning rejects Wicca. It also rejects spiritualism.

Lately it seems to be rejecting religion, though I call myself a fanatical religionist, with deep Christian beliefs.

The expressions of Islam and Christianity which get reported in the press are off-putting, compared to the caring humanity which can be found in some groups of believers of those faiths, among others.

All of them contain believers who think they are The Only Ones.

So does Subud, and I'm probably nearer to that category.

Yet now that I am an outcast to Subud, but not to the latihan, I begin to feel that all these belief systems and control systems for people are just stepping stones, and limit us. Until we get to the broader perspective, they are just limitations.

The reality is broader, unlimited, indescribable.

I like the story of the three hermits on an island alone, with no dogma or teaching, just an affirmation of their unity with ALL. A priest went to see them to teach them the prayers and dogma. After leaving in his boat he saw a light on the water, approaching him. It was these hermits, on foot, to tell him they'd not managed to remember what he'd told them.

He simply replied that, obviously, they did not need it.

Well, I don't say Subud will show us how to walk on water, but it seems to be able to take us to places in our selves and in life that the average dogma and ritual does not.

From Hassanah Briedis, January 5, 2008. Time 10:31

Hi All, I am so glad to see this conversation taking place. I have lurked in the closet for many years, not daring to tell my Subud acquaintances what my real beliefs are. The Subud community as I experience it in Australia is, at least overtly, monotone and one-dimensional when it comes to its supporting structure of religious belief.

It is such a relief to hear others discussing both the latihan and a non-theistic belief system in the same breath. I am also getting the impression that there are a number of conversations going on on different feedback pages, and many of them are interlinked and relevant to each other. It would be too much work I guess, but I would like to see some of these discussions collapsed into one, around the nature and experience of the latihan.

Good to look in on your feedback page Hadrian, and thank you very much for your article, a subject long overdue to be opened up.

Hassanah Briedis

From Stefan, January 5, 2008. Time 10:37

Hi Helissa, Bronte, Philip et al

Good to hear your thoughts.

I want to quote some of Bronte's entry to bounce off ...

"I am among those whose conditioning rejects Wicca. It also rejects spiritualism."

I grew up in a Jewish family. My rabbi and my closest uncle cautioned us kids not to have Christian friends! Childrens stories equated witches with scary malevolence so prejudiced me against Wicca and Pagan practices. My maternal grandmother however was an active spiritualist, and helped open my mind to mysterious stuff. She met my Subud friends after I'd been opened and get opened herself when she was almost 80.

"Lately it seems to be rejecting religion, though I call myself a fanatical religionist, with deep Christian beliefs..."

Similar. I don't reject the idea of a universal consciousness, which many call God. In the latihan I sometimes experience what seems to be unconditional love. But I feel more and more disheartened by the "tribal" aspect of organised religions which have to prove their spiritual superiority.

I thought Buddhism might be an exception, but from my son who is a Tibetan Buddhist monk I learn that shisms, bitter rivalries and quarreling factions are just as common among Buddhists as in every other faith. When we humans get into tribes we start acting up, like football hooligans.

I'm hoping that the Subud tribe can somehow move past this stage ...

"Yet now that I am an outcast to Subud, but not to the latihan..."

Bronte, is this perception changing at all, seeing many others "coming out" as dissenters? You are dialoguing with a global gang of Subud freethinkers who are keenly interested to learn about your experience and (I imagine) are regretting the narrowmindedness that you encountered.

"I begin to feel that all these belief systems and control systems for people are just stepping stones, and limit us."

So do I. I move closer and closer to the outlook that is called "Earth religion" or Pagan. The mist shrouded moon, woodsmoke, sunlight patches through dancing leaves, singing at Solstice, noticing the peaceful aspect of "wildness" - these feed my hunger for enchantment, mystery and beauty. Yet I'm reluctant to identify myself with any "tribe" because I don't want to reject or compete with other beliefs. I'm like an interfaith member with no particular faith, and a lot of sympathy with atheists.

Somehow - finding so much substance in the latihan - I haven't handed in my Subud badge, though I've often wondered about it. But I'm very fortunate with my local latihaners (one of whom is a dedicated longstanding Subud member and Atheist)


From bronteb, January 5, 2008. Time 12:0


Thanks for stimulating my understanding of my own beliefs.

I have to ask "Why Not Wicca etc"

And my only answer comes well within the "Subud Speak" that I have made mine.

The concept of Man being superior to all other creation is truly a Christian one. Bapak, with all his talk of the "nafsu" left us little option but to have some of the same.

Yet in Subud there are many anecdotes about people paying respects to the spirits of a place, even Bapak's stories defer to the spirit of place now and then if I recall.

Indeed, the very idea that there are such spirits riles some people, either because they don't believe in the non-material world, or because they do. Go figure.

My reaction to people who want to pay respects or even obesience to spirit of places or things is definitly Christian sourced. Meaning : We must only give Obesience to God. In more general terms, we must never be submissive to things, or powers, lesser than ourselves. So the nature spirits are lesser than us? Yes! Bapak's Hierachy of Forces explanations leave no other option. Neither do many beliefs I have read about.

And in Subud I believe some have experienced the reality of this. But having said all this, I must declare I believe we owe respect to all creation whether or not it is controling us, like the climate and environment, and evil people, do, or we are controlling it. It is that respect which I believe is part if the "inner training" that is part of Subud.

Even Bapak half-jokingly is supposed to have said that nature had a task to look after him, as I think I saw happen when he flew out of Adelaide once. As the plane took off, in came the nasty weather, to replace the mild pleasant weather we had while Bapak was here that time.

Pity the weather can't be a bit kinder to the people having Subud National Congress here this week, who are roasting in it so far, being day 1 today. Oh well, it doesn't know it's duty to all Subud people, just Bapak.

If this matter of getting a right relationship to all nature, as well as other people and ourselves, is really part of Subud, (and I believe it is) then let it come.

I have barely begun to get my relationships right to anything or anybody.

From Philip Quackenbush, January 5, 2008. Time 13:37

Hi, Stefan,

You wrote: I move closer and closer to the outlook that is called "Earth religion" or Pagan. The mist shrouded moon, woodsmoke, sunlight patches through dancing leaves, singing at Solstice, noticing the peaceful aspect of "wildness" - these feed my hunger for enchantment, mystery and beauty.

Well, I'm reading a book on chaos theory published about 20 years ago called Chaos [oddly enough]: Making a New Science, that explains, from the viewpoint of that (still) new science, why that's so: Straight lines (and linear thinking) are inhuman, which is why nobody really wants to inhabit a bauhaus building and prefers the lines of a Ferrari to a Model T Ford. The human brain, being a part of nature (as is the "latihan") works on fractal, or "nested" principles, so what you see in nature is a reflection of what's having the experience, i.e., a part of nature itself, and that's how the universe works, as Mandelbrot discovered in the Mandelbrot set (to circle back to the dynamic geometry at the "heart" of chaos theory). So, IMO, you're getting "closer" to Reality than any theology (which is just words without the music) can express.

Peace, Philip

From stefan, February 6, 2008. Time 7:29

Thanks for that affirming observation Philip. I used to be plagued by buzzing thoughts, which made the outside world seem rather remote. When I first started moving in latihan I was spun around like a spin dryer and was left with an unfamiliar respite from the monkey mind. These days I love thinking (and recently, writing) but I'm having an intimate and passionate affair with the natural world which at the same time seems miraculous and mystical!

I see in your writing a great capacity for reaching below the surface of things to reveal hidden connections, to challenge lazy assumptions, cut through crap and liberate peoples' thinking. It took me awhile to get used to your irreverent humour but I've come to appreciate your insights.


Have you seen the dialogue about whether Subud is a form of meditation? (see recent entries under my feedback on Lilliana Gibb's article). In my article about Buddhism I mentioned my friend who values latihan and sitting meditation but I hadn't realised how many other Subud practitioners also meditate and find the two complementary. I'd be very interested to hear your take on this. Do you consider latihan to be a form of meditation?


From Philip Quackenbush, February 6, 2008. Time 19:44

Hi, Stefan,

You said,

"I used to be plagued by buzzing thoughts, which made the outside world seem rather remote. When I first started moving in latihan I was spun around like a spin dryer and was left with an unfamiliar respite from the monkey mind."

This was true of my early "latihan" as well, once I got off the floor after six months of "doing" my "latihan" there. I subsequently was introduced to a form of moving yoga (from Tibet? Nepal? Somewhere in the Himalyas) that included spinning, which in a book I read later explained that it gets the chakras "spinning" in synchrony, but that too much of it dissipates energy by "throwing it off". When I stopped doing the yoga except for the spinning occasionally (a maximum of 21 turns, always to the right; as I recall my "latihan" had me doing it to the left originally, but when I was doing the yoga and had a hiatus on the way to a congress, my "latihan" "took over" and did the yoga series [all of it, not just the spinning] for "me", as I had learned it, with much greater freedom as my last "latihan" for that congress; I had had about 15 "latihans" in a week, including those in the local group.

I took it as a "sign" that I was doing the "right thing" at the time. I have subsequently come to understand that the "latihan" is always based on learned behavior patterns of one sort or another; the human body is limited in its capabilities of motion, as is the brain in terms of thoughts, though they may seem virtually infinite when not observed closely. Anyway, when I was introduced to the form of qigong that a Subud member from Oz or NZ had discovered in China that was basically indistinguishable from "latihan", except for its lack of theological overlays that limit the "receiving" (as any beliefs of any sort will), my "latihan" went from being about three minutes of relatively inactive "receiving" to about 30 seconds to a minute or two of quite active movement that virtually always starts with a small number of spins (to the right now).

I make no claim to being "right" about what was happening, but my "latihan" seemed to have become more "efficient". Since attending the Menucha Subud retreat last year, though, my active "latihan" time has sometimes increased to a full half hour or more, depending, apparently, on the circumstances of my life at the particular time, but almost always begins with a couple of spins to get things moving in harmony, as I currently interpret it.

I think it's important to keep in mind that the body contains far more intelligence than the brain does, especially the frontal cortex that is the seat of thinking (the cerebellum contains 80% of the neurons in the brain, the midbrain and neocortex only 20%); in fact, there are more neurons in the intestines than in the brain (which might have something to do with "gut feelings"), but every cell contains its own intelligence and awareness, so the "latihan" process can then be seen to be an attempt by the whole body to get back in balance with the rest of itself and its environment.

One simple technique that I've found to be useful for getting the "monkey mind" "off my back" when I'm not in a situation where doing "latihan" might freak out somebody watching it (though I often do it in the open at rest stops or destinations on trips with no such reactions seen from others) is what are known as "crown pulls", where you simply pull your fingertips across your forehead from the towards the sides with a moderate pressure, then progressively further back on the head until you reach the back and repeat as felt to be necessary. The fact that it seems to work for me may be simply a result of the placebo effect, believing that it will, but, then so may the "benefits" of the "latihan". I still find Sgt. Shulz' philosophy from Hogan's Heros to be valid in all circumstances: "I know nuthink....nuthink." Enjoy.

Peace, Philip

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