In 1925, a 24 year old Indonesian – now known around the world simply as Bapak – was out walking one night when a brilliant ball of light descended from the sky and entered his body. The light initiated a powerful action within his being which he was later to describe as“ . . . the vibration that exists within all things, the basis or the beginning of the whole universe”

Every night for the next three years, Bapak underwent an infinite variety of inner and outer experiences, as an extraordinary process of spiritual transformation and realisation unfolded within him. Eight years later, after a spiritual ascension that took him ‘through all the heavens,’ he was told that it was his mission to transmit this contact to all who asked for it.

So began the spread of the movement that came to be known as Subud, an acronym for Susila, Budhi, Dharma, which can be summarised to mean ‘right living from within according to the Will of God.’

In 1957, Bapak was invited to the U.K. where he took up residence at the Surrey home of John Bennett. His visit happened to coincide with an international Gurdjieff seminar, where this direct encounter with the Divine Power met with an enthusiastic response that led to scores of overseas visitors returning home to spread the Contact. As a result, the inner awakening that Bapak brought found its way to Europe, the Americas and Australia.

By now, receiving the Contact was known as the Opening and its subsequent practice as the latihan – an Indonesian word that simply means ‘exercise.’

Bapak described the latihan as the spiritual reality that lies at the heart of all the great religions: the inner truth for which seekers in every age have yearned. It has come at a time, he often said, when mankind in general finds it difficult to sustain a simple faith in God based purely upon the teaching and advice contained in the holy books.

He often reminded people that the latihan is a gift beyond price, a timely intervention from On High that has come about in our era because the increasingly powerful influence of the material life force now seriously threatens the peace and very survival of the world.

It is in effect a panacea for the ills of the world, enabling us to change aspects of ourselves that cannot be changed in the normal course of events: a repair that can only be carried out by the Power of Almighty God.

Inevitably, Bapak’s talks testify to the spiritual stature of the man himself, although he never held himself out to be anything other than an ordinary man. It was this humility and down-to-earth quality that so characterised Bapak.

Subud is unconfined by dogma and is free of hierarchical interpretation or authority, its effectiveness undiminished by space and time, its endurance unaffected by Bapak’s passing in 1987.

All we can bring to the latihan, advised Bapak, is an attitude of patience, sincerity and surrender to the Will of God. Only God Himself can do the rest, which is nothing less than the initiation of a uniquely personal process of purification and spiritual development, as the Inner Self is brought to life and grows to assume its rightful place.  “You will become you from head to toe,” Bapak said. “You will be complete.”

At any one group latihan, different people might be laughing, crying, jumping, dancing, praying, chanting, singing, kneeling, or indeed being absolutely still and quiet. If this sounds bizarre, so must in their time have seemed the behaviour of King David ‘dancing before the Lord with all his might’ (2 Samuel) and the Pentecostal fervour of the first disciples (Acts), together with the spontaneous movements of the early Quakers. As Bapak said, “It may seem strange, but it’s real.”

In truth, this contact with the Great Life Force is not new, Bapak told us. It is the source of all the religions and of Life itself, the birthright of every human being. “This latihan” said Bapak, “is exactly the same as was received by all the prophets and the messengers of God in the past.”

Bapak’s words are validated by the fact that Subud groups include members from every major Faith, all doing latihan together without any of the deep divisions that might be expected in such gatherings. Nowhere is this affirmation of the intrinsic oneness of the human race more in evidence than at a Subud world congress. At these get-togethers, people of all creeds and colours and from all walks of life find themselves united – enveloped and guided by the great grace of the latihan.

Such a spontaneous fusion of rich and poor, of Muslim, Jew, Christian, Buddhist and Hindu, as well as of those who would profess no particular religion, demonstrates that a direct unifying contact with the Divine source is now available to all people everywhere, so that – as Bapak put it – “we will not discriminate against one another, but, on the contrary, we will respect each other, help each other and love each other.”

Article by Emmanuel Elliott

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