Subud is an international spiritual movement that began in Indonesia in the 1940s and came to the United States in 1959. Its core practice is the latihan kejiwaan, or "spiritual exercise/practice," which is considered to be an awakening of the inner self, a receiving of guidance from God, an acquired awareness of the variety of forces and motivations at work in our actions, and a gradual purification of the negative tendencies of the self.
The association consists of about five thousand members in seventy countries, with groups active in such diverse cultural and linguistic locales as Asia, Africa, western and eastern Europe, North and South America, and the Middle East. Members are not asked to give up their religion, nor must they have one. Its founder, an Indonesian civil servant, Bapak Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo, described the latihan (which he began to receive spontaneously during the 1930s) as the history of the "inner content" of what the sages and prophets of God had transmitted to human beings in previous eras. Bapak saw his role as a continuation of that transmission in the contemporary era. "Subud" is an acronym for "Susila Budhi Dharma," terms that signify the qualities engendered in the latihan: character and conduct that is "truly human" and surrendered to the will of God. Bapak was acquainted with but not initiated in sufi (mystical Islamic) groups in Indonesia. He distanced himself from the title of shaykh, or teacher; his writings speak of the present need of human beings to experience for themselves the "inner reality of things" (self, religion, relationships, sacred scripture). Subud came to the West particularly through the efforts of John Bennett, the major transmitter of Gurdjieff's and Ouspensky's teachings, whose Concerning Subud describes his brief but influential involvement in the early days of Subud in England and America.
Local groups across the globe meet once or twice a week, "latihaning" for thirty minutes, men and women in separate spaces. The practice is a nonstructured "ritual of surrender." Members are asked to sit quietly for a few minutes to clear their mind and heart from the influence of their self-willed thoughts and desires. Members then stand and are asked to simply receive the power of God with patience, submission, and sincerity. Individuals receive and interpret their own particular spontaneous movements, sounds, and feelings, which Bapak described as arising from their deepest self, which is "open" to the contact with the "great life force."
Structure and Activities
While the core activity of Subud is the latihan, the Subud organization defines itself as responsible for bringing the fruits of the practice into everyday life and for raising the quality of life for all beings on the planet. To this end, the organization has a social welfare "wing," Susila Dharma International (with nongovernmental-organization consultative status to the UN), which, with its explicitly noninterventionist, nonmissionary, and noncolonialist approach to development, has numerous projects across the globe, including Congo, Cuba, Columbia, India, and Indonesia.
Lyle, Robert. Subud. 1995.
Sumohadiwidjojo, Muhammad Subuh. Bapak's Talks:The Complete Recorded Talks of Bapak Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo in English Translation. Vol. 1 (Bapak's talks of June 1957 to June 1958). 1996.
Sumohadiwidjojo, Muhammad Subuh. Susila BudhiDharma. 1991.
Webb, Gisela. "Subud." In America's Alternative Religions, edited by Timothy Miller, pp. 267–273. 1994.