Subud Vision - Feedback

Marius Kahan - Can We Fix IT?

Making Subud a learning organization. From Andrew Hall, August 24, 2009. Time 20:18

Hi Marius,

I just read your article and would like to respond with the following comments.

You say all Subud members agree they are practitioners of the latihan. True - but there is no agreement as to what the latihan is or how to describe it. I usually describe it as a type of spontaneous, moving mediation when talking to outsiders, but I wonder about those Subud members, including the current WSA chair, who seem comfortable with calling the latihan our worship of God. To me, this choice of words may alienate people who are definitely not looking for another religion. It seems to me that Subud people are so comfortable with the culture and shared memory of Bapak's talks that they are incapable of describing the latihan in terms of Western psychology or comparative religious studies. So I do like your suggestion that we de-weird Subud by getting rid of Javanese terms and using the English equivalents.

Regarding your hope that "anyone who turns up to engage in the latihan can personally adopt or reject whatever beliefs and linguistic quirks they choose ó as long as they donít make the mistake of thinking that everybody else should share their convictions, or that these things constitute an official party line," I'd like to make this explicit and post a sign with this massage at the entrance to each latihan hall. I wonder if we could get 90 percent of the membership to support it?

Your mention of members being embarrassed by Subud is spot on, but it isn't only because of the string of past failures. The recent Subud Voice describes a book by Emmanuelle Elliot that I really find it difficult to associate myself with. Besides the outlandish experiences that Emmanuelle writes about, what I find difficult is the Subud mindset that such experiences prove that Subud is real, that Bapak really was right, etc. I question whether such spiritual experiences prove anything. Do they lead to someone becoming more compassionate and forgiving, to helping people and giving them comfort? What other measure is there to judge their worth? I would be a lot more comfortable with and proud of Subud if the membership could agree that spiritual experiences are merely scenery on the spiritual path and can easily be distractions. So it comes as no surprise that I fully support your suggestion to make it official policy that Bapak was an ordinary man.

Since I am on this topic, I also find embarrassing the books that associate Bapak with the third secret of Fatima and the supposed cover-up by the Roman Catholic Church. For God's sake, how many Subud members agree with this fantastic tale?

Regarding the offensive things that Bapak said, especially about gays, I am not very forgiving. Given the reverence for his person and words, I think his stereotyping of gays as less than human sent a clear message to the Subud membership that justified their own prejudices. I feel it is time to acknowledge and correct this. I do not agree with your assertion that there is no official Subud line on homosexuality. It seems to me that saying so ignores the reality and is a variant of "don't ask, don't tell".

You may be right that adopting an explicit policy about homosexuality would split the Subud organization. What is wrong with that? At least it would be an honest split about something that matters.

I would also like the Subud membership to explicitly disassociate themselves from what you call "Bapakís talks (that) contain glaring inaccuracies regarding Buddhism. Even as a non-Buddhist, I recognize that these demonstrate extraordinary ignorance about the aims and ideals of Buddhism, mistakenly identifying it with bizarre and extreme ascetic practices and even ascribing philosophies to Buddhism which are diametrically opposed to its actual stated beliefs and goals." I agree these statements are a tremendous embarrassment so your statement that Bapak may be right or wrong about his view that Buddhism is a spiritual dead-end is something I find hard to swallow. Let me say very plainly - these statements by Bapak are based on a complete ignorance of what Buddhism is. More to the point, to think he has the ability to judge a major world religion that has inspired millions is the height of conceit.

Regarding the helpers, I also find the record mixed. But instead of changing the name to "janitor", I think the challenge for the Subud membership is to institute a process to review the performance of helpers and to dismiss a helper who is found wanting. Most of the complaints on the Yahoo discussion groups that deal with Subud are about helper behavior and I would argue that Bapak's greatest mistake was in setting up the helper system.

More that that, just making any change from what Bapak originally set up is the challenge for Subud, for that would mean taking responsibility, for moving beyond what Bapak said, for being empowered to make decisions, to argue and listen to each other. It would mean admitting that mistakes were made and may be made again, but we are determined to try again and not let it prevent us from taking action.

I appreciate the opportunity your article has given to express my own thoughts and feelings.

Andrew Hall

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