Subud Vision - Discussion
Sjahari Hollands - Do We Really Need a New Explanation of the Latihan?
Discussion continued from this page
From Merin Nielsen, December 18, 2007. Time 3:52
P.S. In that last line, I was referring to its immediate 'inner' origin. The latihan's social and historical origins, I think, are well worth consideration. And referring to its benefit in people's lives, I simply mean the fact that many people claim the latihan to have been of significant, evident, personal benefit; not any theoretical or doctrinal account of an afterlife or whatever.
From sjahari hollands, December 18, 2007. Time 5:55
Merin: “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.”
Reply: Going back to the car analogy... If we state our car gets 50 miles to the gallon, this is a claim. It can be substantiated. We believe the car gets this gas mileage and we know it is true because we can measure it. This is a claim.
However, belief in the idea that in the latihan there is something separate from, over and above the ordinary feeling one would get by moving freely in a room with eyes closed is NOT something that can be demonstrated in any objective way. This is a core assumption about the latihan which is part of our collective belief system. We do not claim it to be true because we cannot prove it to be true. Nevertheless, we believe it as a core assumption.
Merin: “But in referring to 'we ourselves', do you mean as a group or as individuals?”
I mean as a group.
Merin: “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.”
Reply: I am suggesting an exercise in which we identify and propose a set of core assumptions upon which the Subud experience is based. This is not an interpretation of the latihan. It is a list of the essential ingredients.
Merin: “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.”
Reply: I find it difficult to understand accounts that attempt to do the above without saying what the latihan is, and where and how it acts, and on what part of the human experience it is acting. Indeed you are in a way asking for an even greater act of faith than what Bapak asks of us. You can take it or leave his interpretation, but at least Bapak tells us what the latihan is, and puts its benefit into a context and explains exactly where and how the latihan exerts its benefit.
What you seem to be suggesting is for us to say “the latihan has a benefit because we say so. Don't ask us what the latihan is. We can't agree on that. Don't ask us how it works because we don't know, and won't say even if we did. Don't ask us where it exerts its influence. We don't know the answer to that. Don't ask us any of that. Just believe us. It's true because we say it is true.”
Some people will accept this. I wouldn't. I prefer to have a context.
From Bronte, December 18, 2007. Time 6:0
I am going to be obnoxious again.
A dog, once neutered, is no longer anything more than a living ornament.
Also, as to "love" in Subud,given my predilection for not finding any, there is a similar saying from a very respected souce about "Not having love" and "sounding brass"
Please, let us not emasculate Subud, for fear of offending those who would rather we "followed" their path of belief and practice.
Many, many a belief and practice today is looking more and more empty, inhuman, unloving and heartless. By heartless I refer both to the people who so viciously treat those they disapprove of (see today's news), and the systems of belief themselves, in that they have killed off the essential meaning and value.
And the newspaper is the first place to look for examples of both things I mean.
Just how much do you want to remove from the explanations of Subud? There's not much there at the start, really, just "Do your latihan and it will change things in you." and "The latihan is an inner training of the individual, which starts beyond the level of the normal concious mind and usually reaches into most or all of your life".
I won't "rest my case" at that, but it is so much bigger than that. As millions of words about it already tell the world, if anyone out there is interested.
I notice that the moment I start telling someone about "tuning in to the inner self" I get a response saying "I do that"- so ends of mention of Subud. In one case I mentioned the spontaneous movements, and got told "Oh, I have experinced Shaktipat", again, almost, end of conversation about Subud, except she wanted to know what I was talking about,because I won't name this organisation I have learnt to be scared of. Or I mention it to a practitioner of one of the more famous brands of Yoga and get "Oh, in Subud my friend never received any spiritual training, but now that he is dead he is being taught things about the spirit." And so on.
Perhaps the funniest was being too enthusiastic about Subud, while staying with friend in Los Angeles after the Amanecer congress, and quietly being taken to one side and having it pointed out that "my wife is an atheist". Well, a few people here might have been able to continue the dialogue with her. But at least I was ill, so they were able to avoid me the next three days and go on a trip to Disneyland without me, while I recovered alone, in their house, before coming on home.
Peace (although that does not seem to be what Subud is about.)
From Merin Nielsen, December 18, 2007. Time 7:3
There's a handy alternative to asserting that the latihan is truly like this or like that. It's simply to say that we (as a group) have come across this thing that has been of benefit to us (as individuals). And you (the listener) are more than welcome to try it, or not, as you wish.
All of the evidence in support of the above statement rests upon the subjective (inner, personal) experiences of a bunch of individuals, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. There is a major problem, however, with trying to translate that into some kind of objective story.
Of course, none the less, there is plenty more that I (or any other Subud member) can proceed to tell anyone else about my (or our) personal experiences and interpretations of the latihan. But I would be rather astonished to find that any other Subud member's description corresponds closely to mine!
>> ... just "Do your latihan and it will change things in you." and "The latihan is an inner training of the individual, which starts beyond the level of the normal concious mind and usually reaches into most or all of your life".
Actually, for an 'official' definition of the latihan, I reckon that's a pretty good point at which to stop!
Very best wishes,
From David Week, December 18, 2007. Time 9:5
Promoting the latihan with assumptions or theories for which there is no proof is the exact opposite of what Pak Subuh advised--in very strong language--many, many times. For instance:
"And this is in line with what we need to always observe in Subud, that we may not just talk about things, we have to show proof. We have to do something that is real, something that people can see, and not stay in the realm of propaganda or nice words or nice stories." 81 WOS 1
"That is why Bapak never allows you to make propaganda for Subud. Propaganda is useless if it is not backed up by reality, if you cannot show what Subud can do." 81 NYC 5
The latihan comes out of the tradition of Javanese mysticism. Mysticism is also known in the West at "the Way of Unknowing". Thus, in militating against mental constructs and theories, Pak Subuh sits well within the mystical tradition, which appears to have had no problem maintaining itself for several millenia without fixed "explanations" or doctrine. For instance, in the United States today, the most widely read and influential mystical author is Jalaluddin Rumi, who writes not in terms of assumptions, but in the poetry of love.
So why, on the other hand, did Pak Subuh offer so many "explanations"? He said so clearly himself: "Regarding the explanations Bapak is always giving you, it is not God who wants you to understand these things. No. It is your hearts, your thinking and your desires that still need explanations. Without them your imagination, your mind and your passions will increasingly roam around. You will wonder, 'Is it true what has been said about this and that?' 'Is what people say about these things really so?' 'Is it true that heaven is like this or like that?' Bapak gives you explanations so that your heart, mind and desires become tamed and pliable - no longer roaming hither and thither." 59 CSP 9
In other words: to pander to the incessant chattering of the monkey mind. To this end, no one "explanation" will suffice. Some explanations will work for some people, others will work for others. But to take these "explanations" as truth is to make a fundamental error. In the Buddhist metaphor, it is to mistake the finger pointing at the moon, for the moon itself. There are, and ever will be, many such fingers. Each person will have a finger that works for them. To insist on this finger or that finger seems to me to fall into a very old trap, that of religious fundamentalism, which is to assume that what works for me, must be made to work for everyone else. Or, to put it another way:
"Every person will find the right way towards God for himself, and what may be the right way for one may be completely wrong for another. Therefore you must not suppose that you have to follow or become like Muhammad Subuh. You must become your own self and you must develop your inner self if you want to find the way to God. You must not follow or imitate anyone else, because you must find your own way to God. Usually, if there is a teacher, he teaches his followers to do exactly the same as he does in order to reach what he has reached. But this is really wrong, because not only between a teacher and his followers but even between two brothers of the same parents there is already a big difference; not only in outward appearances but also in their character and in their whole being. So surely you can understand now that what is the right way for a certain teacher to find God is not necessarily the right way for his pupils." Bapak speaks to applicants, Singapore, 1960
From Sahlan Diver, December 18, 2007. Time 10:29
David uses the words "Promoting the latihan with assumptions or theories for which there is no proof ...."
The word "promoting" seems inappropriate for the typical situation where a latihan practitioner is asked the question "What is the latihan?", and is not strongly out to convince the questioner either of the veracity of the latihan or the validity of some particular religious viewpoint. They are merely responding to a request for information. What do they then say? Or, more to the point, if the enquirer asks "do you have a leaflet I can take away and read?", what does the leaflet say?
From Merin Nielsen, December 18, 2007. Time 11:15
I guess there must be something objectionable about David's proposed leaflet 'Introducing the Latihan', mentioned above. But what?
From Sahlan Diver, December 18, 2007. Time 12:4
In reply to Merin,
David wrote that leaflet when under pressure to complete several articles and a mass of editing work close to our deadline last June. In that context it is an excellent attempt, but I think it does have flaws.
The leaflet gets better as it goes on, but the first three paragraphs too closely ally Subud to religion. From reports I have heard from Stefan and others, who have had experience of these things, mention religion and one is immediately in danger of turning many people off. I agree with David of the advantage of putting forward the historical and cultural context, but it needs to be done in a way that doesn't imply one would be signing up to a new religion or religious philosophy.
Also, in general, (I am not now referring to David's leaflet) I think one has to be careful about comparing or associating the practise of the latihan with mystical practises. Although it might be true that many Subud members are predisposed to be sympathetic to mysticism, it may also be that by emphasising the mystical we are turning away just as many potential new members as by emphasising God.
I don't believe, nor have I heard anyone strongly claim, that a belief in this or that religious philosophy or mystical idea is an essential aid to one's latihan. The latihan progresses independent of one's beliefs, as far as we know. This must be kept in mind when considering our dealings with enquirers. Just as it would be wrong to deny the latihan to people on the basis of presumptive moral judgements ( hypothetical example: we don't open gays ), it also seems wrong to me to deny or make it difficult for people to be opened on the basis of presumptive judgements about their spiritual philosophy: examples : "you have to believe in God", "it helps to be interested in the mystical".
Coincidentally I notice that what I say in the paragraph above seems to be concurred with by a reply that David has just posted on another author's page: http://www.subudvision.org/hb/Ahb7.shtml(the piece titled: From David Week, December 18, 2007. Time 11:33).
From Merin Nielsen, December 18, 2007. Time 13:8
I disagree that the first three paragraphs ally Subud to religion. The proposed leaflet points out that practises such as meditation and yoga, which once were associated with particular religious frameworks (from which they apparently emerged), are no longer necessarily associated with such frameworks. The leaflet thereby suggests that the latihan can similarly be seen as a beneficial practice which is not associated with any particular religious framework. Thus, it's the dis-connection with religion that is being underscored.
The proposed leaflet uses the term "mystical", as well as "different consciousness" and "different state of being" (from which life can be seen differently) and "inner life". Each of these occurs just once, and all four are pretty vague, but I agree that the leaflet could be improved. It's not a bad start, though, is it?
From sjahari hollands, December 18, 2007. Time 15:7
I agree with everything that David Week says in his note.
I agree that Bapak gave his explanations in order to quieten the minds of the members and in particular to satisfy the minds of the more analytical ones at the time.
What I find immensely interesting is how well his explanation actually accomplishes this objective .
I personally have no problem at all with Bapak's explanation of the latihan.
As I said in my article, I find it to be complete and comprehensive, and so far I have found no other explanation that does as well.
And as I said in my article, it would be best for us to deepen our knowledge and understanding of what the latihan is.
It will be out of this deep personal understanding that we will find a way to explain it in a variety of settings, and to a variety of people from a broad background of culture and religion.
From Andrew Hall, December 18, 2007. Time 20:18
Hello to all,
I disagree with Sjahari that a statement that a car gets 50 miles per gallon is a "claim". It may initially be a claim but it is empirically verifiable and then is no longer a claim. It is demonstrably true under certain conditions.
Can we make similar statements about the latihan, using terms like "Higher Power" and soul, that are empirically verifiable to an outside observer. I don't think so. These are, in the end, words that people understand in different ways, and may or may not be comfortable using.
When a Javanese spiritual teacher like Bapak uses words like jiwa that a translator feels best translates into English as "soul", are we missing the cultural connotations that go with the word "jiwa." I don't know but I sure wonder. What about Bapak's instruction to use patience, sincerity and surrender? I come from a religious and cultural background where "surrender" has certain connotations and I wonder how much I am missing from Bapak's understanding of this word.
Sjahari says that he has "no problem at all with Bapak's explanation of the latihan... (that it is) complete and comprehensive, and so far (he has) found no other explanation that does as well" and then goes on to say "it would be best for us to deepen our knowledge and understanding of what the latihan is". I wonder about this last point. Our understanding and knowledge can only go so far. While it is the genius of humankind to seek understanding, I think we need to appreciate that all human language and our own intellects are puny and terribly limited compared to the the immensity and mystery of Creation.
As for his point, that Bapak's explanations of the latihan's context is the best there is, I do not agree with making Bapak the authority about how the latihan works. His explanations are very culturally specific. As the founder of Subud I think it can be very worthwhile to understand and appreciate what Bapak has said, but for me it is not the last word. David Week quotes Bapak in an earlier post that we each must find our own way to God and not depend on a teacher. I personally find this statement by Bapak inspiring. Other things that he has said (that I have read or heard in talks) either completely escape me or I find offensive. (for an example, go to the Article index and read my article on "Reading Bapak's Talks". Paste the following link into your browser address line - http://www.subudvision.org/ah/Reading%20Bapak%20Talks.htm )
Each of us, depending on our cultural background and personal experience has a different take on Truth. None of us has the last word, including Bapak. All of our different views may be useful and worthwhile in helping others reach their own understanding of the Truth. Obviously, some will be more helpful than others.
If you want a poetic analogy (please, let's forget the cars) let's say that Truth is a multi-faceted diamond. Each of our different explanations can illuminate or point to a different facet of Truth. The more we learn from or are open to different explanations, the more we may approach the Truth, that which we hunger and thirst for.
I think this is as definitive as we can hope for.
And how do we know the Truth? I personally think I feel my truth resonate within me when I hear it or see it. There is something in me that comes alive and responds to things that I find inspiring. That is how I tell.
I now want to respond to Bronte's statements that this discussion is emasulating Subud, that it is backing out of the basics that Bapak gave us, that Subud makes a contact between a person and their soul "and in so doing makes a contact with the light and love of God" and "if you can't stand the idea .. then why not leave Subud?"
I personally find the latihan a rewarding practice and I have warm, fulfilling connections with some of my Subud brothers and sisters. But there are some things in Subud I wonder about and wish were diferent, just as you do with your example of an older member dying and members in that person's group doing nothing. I find this very sad.
So, what do we do? Keep reading Bapak's talks while our eyes tell us that somethings are amiss and not working? I have heard some Subud members say that the problem is that people are not really doing what Bapak instructed. I prefer to try and imagine how we could do things better and differently. As I remember David Week saying in one of his articles - "We're not in high school anymore."
From Sjahari Hollands, December 19, 2007. Time 0:17
Sjahari's Responses to Andrew:
Andrew: "I disagree with Sjahari that a statement that a car gets 50 miles per gallon is a "claim". It may initially be a claim but it is empirically verifiable and then is no longer a claim. It is demonstrably true under certain conditions."
Sjahari: the dictionary definition states that a claim is an assertion that something is the case without giving evidence for it. Thus the gas mileage statement is a claim until such time that the evidence is provided.
Andrew: " Can we make similar statements about the latihan, using terms like "Higher Power" and soul, that are empirically verifiable to an outside observer. I don't think so. These are, in the end, words that people understand in different ways, and may or may not be comfortable using."
Sjahari: This is exactly the point I am making. In Subud we make no claims. Bapak did nt make claims. As David pointed out, Bapak repeatedly said we have to find and provide the evidence. He asked us to take his talks as if they were fairy tales until such time that we could know from our own experience that they were true.
We do however have beliefs. We do have core assumptions. There are things we accept to be true without necessarily having evidence. One of those is the assumption that the latihan comes from God and acts on the soul of a human being. (All it takes is to go through the Subud literature since the 1950’s to find that this is a core assumption. Not only in Bapak, but in many people who have spoken and written about Subud and the latihan.)
Some people may not like that this core assumption is there. And some may want to get rid of it all together. But how can anyone deny that this is a core belief and core assumption in subud? How many people go through the 3 month period talking to helpers without hearing about God and the soul? And it is in the opening statement.
Andrew: "As for his (Sjahari's) point, that Bapak's explanations of the latihan's context is the best there is, I do not agree with making Bapak the authority about how the latihan works."
Sjahari: You have put words in my mouth. I am not making Bapak an authority. (How could someone be an authority who asks us to take what he says as if it were a fairy tale?)
What I have simply stated is that I have found no other explanation that is better and more complete than the one Bapak supplied. I have certainly so far found noone who can explain to me how the latihan works.
I have asked. Repeatedly.
I will ask you too ---- can you explain how the latihan works? Can you tell me what it is and how it acts upon us? Can you explain the experience that many of us have had of this vibration that seems to move us without our conscsious will?
I would be seriously interested in hearing such an explanation. But so far, I have not heard even a serious attempt at it. (apart from Bapak's of course)
"If you want a poetic analogy (please, let's forget the cars) let's say that Truth is a multi-faceted diamond. Each of our different explanations can illuminate or point to a different facet of Truth. The more we learn from or are open to different explanations, the more we may approach the Truth, that which we hunger and thirst for. I think this is as definitive as we can hope for.
And how do we know the Truth? I personally think I feel my truth resonate within me when I hear it or see it. There is something in me that comes alive and responds to things that I find inspiring. That is how I tell."
I totally agree with this. The thing is that it doesnt relate to the content of my article or to the point I am making. I am not searching for the “Truth” and not searching for some definition or characterization of the truth. .
I am simply looking for an explanation of what the latihan is and how and where it works. I am personally happy with the one I have been given by Bapak, but am asking if there are any alternatives. There dont seem to be.
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