Subud Vision - Discussion
Sjahari Hollands - Do We Really Need a New Explanation of the Latihan?
Time to use our own words to describe what we experience and do. From Andrew Hall, December 12, 2007. Time 16:42
About your core points about the latihan:
I think one of the first core assumptions or statements needs to be that "the Subud latihan is a spiritual practice that is accessible to ordinary people, is normally practiced in a group setting (where practical) twice a week and the latihan requires the ordinary person to exercise patience, sincerity and surrender."
I think your point 4 "Although there are many exceptions, in general the Subud Latihan can only begin in a person after it is passed to them during the latihan itself – i.e. at the opening" in a way contradicts the previous points about the universality of the latihan and suggest instead "In Subud, we formalize the initiation of new members into the latihan through a simple ceremony called an "opening".
Point 5 "Something happens in the opening whereby the latihan somehow begins spontaneously within the person who is desiring it." I prefer something like "each person's subjective experience of the latihan varies widely, this can range from very subtle to very dramatic, and this experience can and often does change over time."
Points 6 & 7 - I think it is OK to say "the founder of Subud was a Javanese Muslim who believed that the latihan led to the wakening of the human jiwa or soul, and freed the jiwa from entanglement with the material and other forces in this plane of existence."
When you say "the soul is being awakened in an action mediated by a higher creative power", while Bapak might agree with this, I would prefer something more neutral, something like "Many Subud members do not share the culturally-specific language and explanation of the founder. It is important to recognize that the action of the latihan on the individual can occur on many levels, some of which we may not be fully or even partially conscious of. When we talk about the need to surrender, this implies surrender to something, some kind of higher power, whether you imagine this to be inside or outside of your normal self. When you open yourself to this higher power, changes can result in many areas of yourself and your life."
I hope these comments are helpful. I'm not sure how fully my suggestions accord with Bapak's explanations (or anybody else's). I am sorry that I feel the need to say this, but I don't really care what Bapak said.
Too often when I sit down with Subud brothers, the conversation is limited to and revolves around what Bapak said about something, and not on our own experiences.
I'm not sure if this is from lack of confidence or nostalgia for a time when Bapak was travelling and giving talks and people eagerly awaited his latest words. Subud people then didn't have to make sense of their own experiences, Bapak was telling them what was important!
I feel it is time to take responsibility for our latihan and use our own words to describe what we experience and do.
All the best, and welcome to Subudvision!!
From Philip Quackenbush, December 14, 2007. Time 20:45
> I think one of the first core assumptions or statements needs to be that "the Subud latihan is a spiritual practice that is accessible to ordinary people, is normally practiced in a group setting (where practical) twice a week and the latihan requires the ordinary person to exercise patience, sincerity and surrender."
It seems to be a core assumption, all right, but I'm still waiting for some scientific studies to be done on what the "latihan" is (which may not happen in my lifetime, given the reluctance of so many members to be subjected to such examination). The assumption that it's spiritual is that, and only that, based on acceptance of what the founder said, or the applicant assuming he or she is entering a "spiritual" organization. The attitude of surrender may actually be a function of evolutionary adaptation to the need to surrender to a leader of a pack for survival. I've found in my own "latihan" that there doesn't have to be surrender to anything, it's simply an internal attitude, like turning a light switch on (or perhaps off, in this case, turning off the dominance of the "mind and heart", or the chattering "monkey mind", as the Hindus would have it, and the ego-based emotions so that other neurological functions, ordinarily suppressed, can come to the fore).
> I think your point 4 "Although there are many exceptions, in general the Subud Latihan can only begin in a person after it is passed to them during the latihan itself – i.e. at the opening" in a way contradicts the previous points about the universality of the latihan and suggest instead "In Subud, we formalize the initiation of new members into the latihan through a simple ceremony called an "opening".
Agree. I recall a guy in San Francisco that was on the local membership rolls because he just walked into the "latihan" one night, liked it, and kept "doing" it for many years, but was never formally "opened" or put on the official rolls at the national level, as far as I know. It's just a ceremony. Again, what needs to be done is scientific testing of what happens during the "opening". IMO at this point, it's probably some sort of field induction phenomenon that usually (but not always, if the other(s) involved have a resonance field that is "strong" enough to override obstacles to its being "received") requires the surrender or obsequiousness of the person being "opened."
> I feel it is time to take responsibility for our latihan and use our own words to describe what we experience and do.
I'm in total agreement with that. Long past time.
From Andrew Hall, December 16, 2007. Time 15:22
If I were to say that prayer or meditation is a "spiritual practice", I wonder if this is confusing and too vague for some? I locate myself within a cultural context that is comfortable with the term spiritual practice but it is probably worthwhile to explore what the common assumptions might be around this term.
I guess my assumptions are that someone following a spiritual practice is asking "Is there anything more?" or "Am I missing something?" and perhaps is seeking union with an ideal through devotion (the yogic term is bakshi). I think the minimum requirement (another assumption) is that there has to be intent and stating your intent is a good idea. Not that stating your intent is the practice, but that stating your intent beforehand can guide your practice.
One of the things I notice about Bapak's teaching about prayer is that he says to state your intent before praying, then begin to pray.
For instance, suppose Subud members during the quiet time before latihan were to state their intent silently, maybe something like "I am preparing for latihan and wish to surrender and merge with the Power of the Universe and all Creation", I wonder if they would come to feel differently about their latihan?
Would trying this be what you call scientific? To me, science means being able to produce the same results when an experiment is repeated by someone else. I'm not sure that this type of rigour is possible in a spiritual practice. How do we define results? What we felt or thought we felt?
It does not mean a spiritual practice is not real. It is very real to me. And one of my cautions about Subudvision talk is that I sometimes would like people to acknowledge that the latihan is a real experience. I think it can be very profound if that is what we want and seek.
From sjahari hollands, December 17, 2007. Time 0:42
The Core Assumptions Project
I would like to suggest that whoever might be interested work together to try and come up with a set of core assumptions or principles which taken together will be both sufficient and comprehensive to characterize and define what the latihan is.
The core assumptions that I have proposed are below along with additional comments that have been posted by Andrew and Phillip so far.
This represents the very beginnings of a discussion that would have to be carried more widely and more completely to have any validity.
I would propose that we look at these Core Assumptions one at a time, refine them, and then have some kind of consensus procedure to accept them or not.
What I put here is only the very beginnings of a discussion. I apologize in advance if I have misrepresented Andrew’s views here.
1.The latihan is not found only in Subud, nevertheless it is found in Subud.? -there seems to be agreement on this so far?
2. The latihan can be experienced by anyone anywhere and has existed in the world for all time.? -it would seem that there are a variety of views on this. No consensus so far.
3. The latihan is accessible to anyone who desires it, predictably, and on a daily or weekly basis, and in the midst of ordinary life.? -Andrew suggests adding in the requirement that it be done in a group and twice a week. I disagree. This is a recommendation about how best to do the latihan, but not a core principle that defines the latihan.
4. Although there are many exceptions, in general, the Subud Latihan can only begin in a person after it is passed to them during the latihan itself - i.e. at the opening.? -Andrew seems not in favour of this as a core principle. . . .not sure.
5. Something happens in the opening whereby the latihan somehow begins spontaneously within the person who is desiring it.
-Andrew disagreed with the wording of this, stating he wanted it tied to the person’s experience of the latihan. In my view however we have a core assumption that something is happening regardless of the person’s ability to feel it or experience it.
6. In the Subud latihan, we close our eyes and move spontaneously and follow the impulses that arise in us. However, just because someone closes their eyes and follows the impulses arising in them, they are not necessarily doing the latihan. In other words, there is an additional element at work within the Subud latihan. ? -Seems to be no objections to this one.
7. Whatever is happening in the latihan, its field of activity is towards something we call the soul of a human being. We understand and believe that the soul is being awakened in an action mediated by a higher creative power which somehow results in the movements that are being made.
- This causes a lot of disagreement. Many people believe we should not use the word soul, or refer to God. But there has been no adequate alternative presented. In my view the core assumption at the very basis of Subud is that the latihan is an action mediated by the Higher Power (God, Allah, Jahweh. . . .whatever the name is) and acts on the soul of the human being (the part in us which is connected to the creator and which is eternal). ?I dont believe it is ethically correct for us to present Subud as anything else.
Andrew suggests that amongst the core assumptions there should be a reference to what Bapak believed as the founder of Subud. I disagree with this. In my view the latihan is not in the world because of Bapak. It would have come anyway. Bapak was simply the conduit. It could have been someone from another culture (in which case we would have an entirely different set of cultural issues to deal with). The core assumptions are simply those elements we take to be true. . . . And this is not dependent on who it was who originally proposed the idea. ?
From Merin Nielsen, December 17, 2007. Time 2:43
Some critical responses to the above, numbered accordingly:
3. It appears that the latihan is not to accessible to absolutely anyone who desires it, since many people, who have tried it, claim to have experienced nothing.
5. It seems odd to assert that the latihan is causing something to happen (inside a person) regardless of the person's ability to experience it. You may say that I'm experiencing 'sadness', for example, but if I were, then surely I'd know it.
6. There could even be several additional elements.
7. Without some reasonable explanation of "something we call the soul of a human being", this assumption not very meaningful. The phrase "higher power" is also obscure - just what makes some power 'higher' than another? Could there be more than one higher power, and if so, why would the top power be concerned with us? You say there has been no adequate alternative presented, but I would note that THIS alternative (the one you are presenting) has extremely weak claims to adequacy. For one thing, surely every part of reality would be connected to reality's creator. Moreover, I find it counter-intuitive to suppose that any part of a human being is really eternal. (That's billions, no, trillions of gazillions of years!!)
I'm very doubtful that a consensus on any clear-cut set of Core Assumptions is attainable. I think it's more realistic to accept an indefinite plurality of opinions.
From Bronte, December 17, 2007. Time 10:32
All this talk about what could be, might be, or should be said is a bit over the fence.
What matters is, "What do you say to others now?"
Unless someone writing here is a raw recruit to Subud, and really hasn't a clue about it, everyone must surely have had chances to explain Subd to someone, and probably many people, in their time.
So, What Did You Say On Those Occassions?
Tell us about them, please!
From Sahlan Diver, December 17, 2007. Time 10:45
Picking up on Merin's comment about a plurality of opinions, I have a problem with that. Imagine going to a car showroom to buy a make of car that you don't know anything about, then, when you ask the salesman the characteristics of the car he pulls out his order book and gives you the telephone number of all his customers to ring up to get their opinion. Sure, they will each have a different and valuable opinion, but you'd think there was something weird if the salesman couldn't also give you a basic description of the car . As Bronte asks, "what do we say now to new enquirers?" There is value in Sjahari's suggested project, I think.
From Merin Nielsen, December 17, 2007. Time 11:21
Each salesperson has their own way of describing a car, which will often depend on who is the potential buyer. A rev-head grease-ball will probably want to know about the likely performance and horsepower. A little old lady (forgive these stereotypes) will probably want to know about the safety features and warranty. A teenager will probably want to know about the sound system and fashion accessories. Likewise, a salesperson who is a rev-head will tend to be familiar with different features of the car than a salesperson who is a little old lady or one who is a teenager. They might well not even understand each others' terminology, even at its most basic. In fact, they would probably have quite different opinions about which features qualify as 'basic'.
BUT is there some underlying 'truth' about the car in each and every one of these respects, some truth that a well-informed individual of broad-background could unify? Perhaps - but then - would the grease loving rev-head or the cautious little old lady or the image-conscious teenager be able to recognise that this is so? On hearing one another's basic descriptions, they might well conclude that three different sorts of car are being discussed.
It might seem that I've taken this metaphor to ludicrous extremes, but the metaphor of selling cars is possibly extreme when applied to the topic at hand - how to objectively describe something that is deeply intimate, individual and private at heart, whose "inner picture" surely comprises a tapestry interwoven with the threads of one's cultural and very personal background and world-view.
From Sahlan Diver, December 17, 2007. Time 11:50
But at the car showroom the salesman will still be able to give you a manufacturer's leaflet describing the characteristics of the car, so what would our leaflet say about the characteristics (core assumptions?) regarding the latihan?
From Merin Nielsen, December 17, 2007. Time 12:28
At this point, I'm afraid, the metaphor fails, because various potential descriptions of the latihan are mutually alienating. It's as if the sales brochure were to devote, say, one page to the performance characteristics, another to the safety characteristics and another to the fashion characteristics. So far so good, but now we have to make the metaphor apply to this project of presenting some core description. Accordingly, we have to assume that any prospective buyer is allowed to see only one page of the brochure! Then depending on the type of person, were they to inspect one of the wrong pages, they would be put off, and go looking for another car.
Any standardised, core description of the latihan is bound to focus on some particular 'approach' to interpreting its primary characteristics. The metaphor fails because a manufacturer's brochure describing a car CAN easily maintain compatibility between its performance, safety and fashion specs; but a description of the latihan CANNOT readily maintain compatibility between, just for example, its many varieties of neuro-physiological interpretation, Abrahamic religious interpretation, neo-platonic animist interpretation, Mayan shamanistic interpretation, New-Age Rosicrucian interpretation, Aboriginal Dreamtime interpretation, Jungian psychological interpretation, Carribean voodoo interpretation, and Buddhist cosmological interpretation; to name but a few.
From Sahlan Diver, December 17, 2007. Time 12:58
Probably the reason we are having this conversation now is that, before Subud Vision, and before this issue was discussed on other web sites, we were mostly happy to give an explanation of the latihan that was based on Bapak's own terminology, which we now recognise was heavily influenced by his religious and cultural background. We want to move away from that, but isn't there a danger that we will go from one extreme to the other - i.e. from a fixed explanation to no explanation at all? We do need something sufficiently clear and sufficiently general purpose to refer to. If we are too vague, it might appear to outsiders that we are being deliberately evasive, that we are trying to hide something,
From Andrew Hall, December 17, 2007. Time 20:3
Good to see people adding their take on these issues.
First, to Bronte's request about how I explain Subud to non-members. I describe it as "a type of meditation that to an outside observer appears similar to spontaneous chi-kung, people with their eyes closed (or not), walking around (or not) vocalizing (or not), and making various physical movements (or not)."
I also say that the experience can be very different for each person. As I said in the posting at the top of this page "each person's subjective experience of the latihan varies widely, this can range from very subtle to very dramatic, and this experience can and often does change over time."
If the person wants to ask more questions, I mention the start of Subud with Bapak and how he explained the latihan. I usually say something like the statement I made in the top posting, "the founder of Subud was a Javanese Muslim who believed that the latihan led to the wakening of the human jiwa or soul, and freed the jiwa from entanglement with the material and other forces in this plane of existence."
I usually then hasten to add that Bapak's explanation is not shared by all Subud members, as there are Subud members from many different faiths, and some agnostics and athiests as well.
I would be very intersted to hear how others explain Subud to interested non-members.
Now, for Sjahari's wider discussion about the core assumptions we may share about the latihan.
I wonder if it is useful to distinguish between:
- the outer latihan as a spiritual exercise, and
- the inner latihan as an experience?
When I responded to Sjahari's point 4 - "Although there are many exceptions, in general the Subud Latihan can only begin in a person after it is passed to them during the latihan itself – i.e. at the opening", and I suggested we say "In Subud, we formalize the initiation of new members into the latihan through a simple ceremony called an "opening"; when I also suggested adding that the latihan experience can vary from individual to individual and can change over time; and when I suggested saying that Subud members normally practice the latihan in a group twice a week, I think I am talking about the outer latihan - how we do it, how we organize it, etc.
I was talking about the inner latihan when I suggested we say "the action of the latihan on the individual can occur on many levels, some of which we may not be fully or even partially conscious of. When we talk about the need to surrender, this implies surrender to something, some kind of higher power, whether you imagine this to be inside or outside of your normal self. When you open yourself to this higher power, changes can result in many areas of yourself and your life."
I prefer this statement to Sjahari's statement that the "the soul is being awakened in an action mediated by a higher creative power", because I feel that this language may raise a red flag for some and needs a qualification that this "higher power" is left to the imagination of the individual as to whether they imagine it to be inside or outside of their normal selves.
My concern is that we use plain language to describe the latihan and what happens, and not make culturally-specific claims. I personally feel that means using the word "soul" has to go, unless we add that some are comfortable with this concept but it is not necessary to believe in it. That is why I suggested the latihan can act on many levels within each person, and we may be only dimly aware of these levels. "Levels" to me seems more neutral than "soul."
I now have some comments about Merin's points:
- point 3 - I agree the latihan may not be suitable for everyone. That is up to the individual in each case. (I would urge them to exercise some patience and stay with it for a period before they decide that nothing is happening. Hearing about the various initial experiences of others may be helpful.) But I do think it is fair to say the latihan is accessible to ordinary people who are living in this world. That does not mean "everyone."
- point 5 - Is the latihan causing something to happen inside a person without the person being conscious of it? I would say yes. Otherwise, why do it or why do any spiritual practice? I am comfortable talking about the various levels that comprise the individual, some of which we may be only dimly aware of or have no awareness of.
- point 7 - The question of the action of a "higher power" on the "soul of a human being". As I have already said, I would prefer not to use a culturally-specific term like "soul" since it carries some baggage for people in my culture. Not that it is wrong, just that it may have religious connotations that turn some people off. About "higher power" I have similar misgivings since it can be seen as code for the G-- word. I did use it but tried to make it clear that this "higher power" can be inside yourself - "When we talk about the need to surrender, this implies surrender to something, some kind of higher power, whether you imagine this to be inside or outside of your normal self. " Perhaps more neutral language might be "surrender to a higher ideal."
Sjahari is very clear that he disagrees with this approach. In his posting above, he says "In my view the core assumption at the very basis of Subud is that the latihan is an action mediated by the Higher Power (God, Allah, Jahweh. . . .whatever the name is) and acts on the soul of the human being (the part in us which is connected to the creator and which is eternal). ?I dont believe it is ethically correct for us to present Subud as anything else."
That is very strong language and Sjahari, as well as many other Subud members are obviously very attached to this description. I do not wish to offend them but I am puzzled why he feels I am being unethical if I propose another description (for the reasons I gave).
I am engaging in this process in good faith and feel we all deserve respect.
Thank you for reading this very long post.
From Bronte, December 17, 2007. Time 21:25
"three different sorts of car are being discussed."
At least we seem to have established that this is a good description of the Subud that we all know.
From Merin Nielsen, December 17, 2007. Time 22:50
I'm relenting - the project is worth a try. But would several (or even many, if Subud spreads far enough) sets of Core Assumptions have to be assembled, each tailored to the general cultural background of its intended audience?
No. One of the Core Principles of Subud is that its doors are open to people of any faith. And this Principle can work only if our Core Assumptions about the latihan are conspicuously not attached to any faith whatsoever.
Hence I like David Week's proposed pamphlett 'Introducing the Latihan', which appears toward the end of his Subud Vision article "History and Myth". It makes no assumptions about what the latihan intrinsically is, apart from saying it can be beneficial to its practitioners.
I also like Andrew Hall's approach (above), in that it is somewhat similar to David's.
From Bronte, December 18, 2007. Time 0:52
Can you imagine how it would go down if Bapak were to have said that Subud opens th Chakras, and gives the practitioner an instant beginning to Self Realisation?
or if Jesus had said something similar in His teachings?
WE have something strange in Subud, because it looks like so many other esoteric spiritual practices that have been known to the world since forever. And some articles accesible from links to this site have much to say on that subject - see Sufism.
And Bapak did say the latihan is not something new, while at the same time calling it (at least in my presence) "Worship to God"
So there must be quite a few other basics that Bapak gave which which we neither can, nor should we try to, back out of.
If you can't stand the idea that Subud makes a contact between you and your souls, and in so doing makes a contact with the light and the love of God,then why not leave Subud? After all, most people do.
I am not seriously asking all the rest of the people to give up. There's growth to be had.
In the case of developing love, a LOT of growth. As in a recent example of a founding member dying (last weeek), the members in that group did NOTHING!.
Loving? I think not!
From sjahari hollands, December 18, 2007. Time 1:44
1. Explaining subud to people, vs a Definition of the Latihan
I feel that a discussion on different ways of explaining subud is perfectly valid , but it is a different topic than the one I am proposing and suggesting.
Many stay clear of words like “soul” “God” and “Higher Power” etc when they are explaining the latihan to people for fear that these terms are offensive to some people. On occasion, and depending on the person I would do the same. (On the other hand, I have also found that there are individuals for whom the use of these words is the best way for them to understand the concepts.)
What I am proposing at this juncture however is that as a community we try to identify the core principles or assumptions that we believe in and that define the latihan in a way that is both necessary and sufficient.
2. CLAIMS vs Core Assumptions
The core assumptions are not claims about the latihan. A claim is something different. A claim is more than simply a statement of belief. A claim is stronger than that. With a claim one is actually trying to convince another person of one’s position. With a claim we are stating that the principle IS true, and not just that we believe it to be true.
There are religions for instance which claim that there is a heaven to which their members will go after death, and that the people who are not members of the religion will not go there. The religion tries to get other’s to join them on the strength of this claim. In subud we have core beliefs and core assumptions but we do not make claims of this nature.
A core assumption is something different than a claim. A core assumption of the latihan is a principle which we ourselves accept to be true even though we have no objective evidence or proof of its validity. It is a basic tenant.
What I am interested in is trying to develop a set of the core assumptions of subud which are both necessary and sufficient to explain and define what the latihan is.
From Merin Nielsen, December 18, 2007. Time 2:40
A person may benefit from the latihan without believing in the human soul or God. Subud denies nobody this benefit. Just because a person doesn't believe in souls or God, why should they deny themselves the benefit of practising the latihan? And believers possess no monopoly on love.
>> What I am interested in is trying to develop a set of the core assumptions of subud which are both necessary and sufficient to explain and define what the latihan is.
So this definition of the latihan would contain only assumptions that are indeed 'necessary'. In that case, why would we hesitate from using it to explain Subud?
>> With a claim we are stating that the principle IS true, and not just that we believe it to be true.
Is there a difference? I never say something is true unless I believe it to be true, and my believing something to be true implies my willingness to say it is true.
>> A core assumption of the latihan is a principle which we ourselves accept to be true even though we have no objective evidence or proof of its validity.
In that case, the applicable evidence must be subjective, based on our individual inner experiences. (I certainly won't embrace any core assumption just because somebody else does.) But in referring to 'we ourselves', do you mean as a group or as individuals?
If you mean as a group, then there seems to be an extraordinary implicit assumption - that we all interpret the latihan in the same way.
If you mean as individuals, then surely we're facing a plurality of different views, since an experience of any kind, including latihan, automatically gets interpreted by the person who has it, and people's interpretations are inevitably based on their own distinct natures and backgrounds.
I'd recommend an account of the latihan that focuses on its place in the world - its potential benefit in people's lives - with no assumptions about the nature of its origin or dynamics.
Discussion continued on this page