Subuh, Muhammad (1901-1987)

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Subuh, Muhammad (1901-1987)

Indonesian mystic whose spiritual mission led to the formation of the movement known as Subud. Following some years of searching for spiritual guidance in Sufi and other movements, Subuh had an initiatory experience in 1925 on his twenty-fourth birthday when a sphere of light appeared in the night and seemed to enter his head, filling him with vibrating energy and light. Three years later this strange energy source stopped abruptly, and Subuh continued his everyday life as a government official and married man, while passing through the equivalent stage of the Western mystical "dark night of the soul." On his thirty-second birthday he had an enlightenment revealing his spiritual mission, and he devoted himself to his work.

The name Subud derives from an abbreviation of three words: susila (morality in line with divine will), budhi (enlightenment in man), and dharma (attitude of submission and sincerity toward God). Subuh's own name actually means "sunrise," but he is known to his followers as "Bapak," an affectionate Javanese term meaning "father" often applied to a spiritual teacher.

Prior to 1956 Subud was little known outside Indonesia, but after that it attracted European interest. When Subuh visited the Gurdjieff headquarters of Coombe Springs in Britain, its director, J. G. Bennett, and followers were won over by his emotional and spiritual vibrancy. During his lifetime, Gurdjieff had made mysterious allusions to a forthcoming Indonesian teacher, and Bennett led many Gurdjieffian students in accepting Subuh as that teacher.

By 1960 interest in the group died out and Subuh returned to Indonesia where he died in 1987.


Bennett, John G. Concerning Subud. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1959.

Muhammad-Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo. Susila Budhi Dharma. Subud Publications International, 1975.

Sumohadiwidjojo, Muhammad Subuh

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Sumohadiwidjojo, Muhammad Subuh (founder): see SUBUD.

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Muhammad Subuh

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