Frequently Asked Questions about Subud


For more information, please write to: info at subud dot org


What does the word Subud mean?
Subud is an abbreviation of SUSILA BUDHI DHARMA. Southeast Asian Sanskrit meanings vary from those of classical Sanskrit. In Subud, SUSILA denotes the nature of a man or woman in whom are to be found truly human qualities that should be possessed according to the Will of God. BUDHI means that there resides within mankind a superior power which can and will guide us when we are able to be aware of and follow such guidance. DHARMA signifies the submission of mankind before the infinite greatness of Almighty God. In simple terms, this means that a person with a good character or a sincere desire to have a good character can receive a contact with Divine Grace which can then be followed voluntarily.

What actually is Subud?
Subud is an association of men and women who worship God through a spiritual training called (in Indonesian) "latihan", or more formally, latihan kejiwaan. Membership is open to and is comprised of people from all the various religions, countries, cultures and philosophies that comprise mankind.

What's the latihan?
The latihan is the spiritual practice around which and for which the Subud Association exists. It is a form of pure worship in which one comes into direct, personal contact with the Grace and Power of God. During the latihan, one follows whatever arises spontaneously from within while enveloped in and protected by this manifestation of divine grace. For each person it is an individual experience and, like many spiritual experiences, cannot adequately be described in words. Furthermore, it may deepen, expand and change over time.

Where does Subud originate from?
The founder of Subud was an Indonesian from Central Java named Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo. Bapak (as he is known among Subud members) spontaneously received a powerful experience of Divine Grace in the summer of 1925 when he was 24 years old. As Pak Subuh himself put it: "Subud is not foreign. It did not 'originate' in the East and it did not 'come' to the West... it comes from the Spirit of God, which is nowhere a stranger."

Where does Bapak live today?
Bapak died in Indonesia in 1987, at the age of 86.

What is the meaning or purpose of 'the latihan'?
The purpose of the latihan is the worship of the One Almighty God, by surrendering to the awakening guidance of what is generally called the Holy Spirit. As a result of this experience, there arises the possibility of receiving a nobility which God alone can give to mankind.

Can anyone join Subud?
Under normal circumstances, as long as one is at least 17 years of age and has informed oneself about Subud during a 3 month waiting period, anyone can join Subud.

I like my religion -- is Subud compatible with this?
In general, yes. All kinds of people join Subud. Some follow a religion and others do not. Since the essence of Subud is the worship of Almighty God, and since there is no teaching, there is no need for a conflict to arise with one's own religion. On the contrary, Subud members often find that they acquire a deeper understanding of their own religion and a greater respect for that of others. Pak Subuh encouraged everyone to continue to follow and practice their chosen religion. On the other hand, there are certain so-called religions that seek to separate their followers from anything but their own self-serving "ONE TRUE WAY". Individuals who require the security of authority and a circumscribed dogma may be unable to accept that a boundless grace is readily available elsewhere.

How often does one do or follow the latihan?
For the first few years after the initial opening, members are encouraged to receive the latihan for about one-half hour twice a week, with a group of members if at all possible. Later on this can be increased to three times a week.

Is the latihan done in a group or alone?
The latihan may be received with others or alone. Whenever possible, it is recommended to go twice a week to a group latihan, then after some time if a member can feel the spontaneous beginning and ending of the latihan, he or she may wish to add one more latihan per week at home.

Do men and women do latihan together?

Does it cost anything to join?
It costs nothing to experience the Subud latihan. However, since normal expenses exist -- such as the rental or purchase of facilities, communications, etc. -- members are asked to make voluntarily charitable contributions to their local group. These are usually tax-deductible.

Are there any leaders in Subud?
No, the only leader in Subud is the One Almighty God. But within the association there are two different and complementary ways of serving the membership: a body of helpers at the local, regional, national and international levels, who take on the responsibilities of looking after the membership, attending group latihan, giving explanations about Subud to new applicants and attending the opening of new members; and a body of committee members, also at the local, regional, national and international levels who look after the organizational needs of the Subud Association.

What does the organization consist of?
There are some 385 Subud groups in various communities throughout the world. Local committees take care of arranging for facilities in which to do latihan. In most countries there are national organizations which sponsor annual congresses for members so that they have the opportunity to socialize, worship together, and arrange the association's business affairs. All the national organizations are members of the World Subud Association (WSA) for which they select the directors and officers. The WSA sponsors an international congress every four years. In 2005 this congress took place in Innsbruck, Austria. Prior congresses have been held in Colombia, Australia, England, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Japan and the U.S.A.

Do Subud members have to change their name?
No. Changing one's name is a personal matter, and in Subud everyone is free to follow their own wisdom. If someone does wish to change their name and would like advice and guidance from someone with the capacity for discernment in this area, this may be possible. But all Subud members are free to do whatever they feel is best for their life.

Is Subud connected to any political organization?

Does Subud have any rules regarding child rearing?
No. Subud does not have any rules that extend to an individual's private life and family. If someone receives grace from the Almighty and is diligent in following the latihan, there is then the possibility of receiving guidance on any issue in human life.

Are there any requirements regarding sexual activity or orientation?
Subud has no teaching and no requirements regarding celibacy or personal relations. If we take Pak Subuh as an example, he was, of course, married with children and considered marriage to be an obligation for mankind in general in order that humanity might continue to inhabit the earth. But obviously there are individual differences and always have been. If you were to query Subud members on the subject of sexual orientation, you would probably find a typical bell-curve of opinion. Subud members are free to believe and behave as they see fit. The hope is that by receiving divine grace, the right way to live will be found by each individual, in accordance with their own nature and capacity.

Does Subud perform community charity work?
Yes, there is a charitable arm of subud, Susila Dharma. http://www.susiladharma.org

Does Subud request a tithe?
The latihan is free. Naturally, there are expenses for hall rentals etc. that always need to be met, but there is no 'tithe' as such. Donations are needed and welcome but are voluntary. Gifts from the Almighty are free. The worldly stuff we have to pay for.

Does Subud require any changes to lifestyle e.g. food rules, clothing etc?
No. Subud is essentially an experience of Divine Grace. What one chooses to do and how one lives are personal issues. Generally, if someone is diligent in doing the latihan, he or she will eventually receive guidance on personal matters. That being said, most Subud members do not eat pork products, drink little or no alcohol, and may lean towards modesty in dress, but this sort of thing is a matter of personal choice, age, religion, culture, etc.

How are men and women regarded differently in Subud?
Subud doesn't have any teaching, so people regard one another as they see fit. Different people will have different opinions and ideas, and indeed these may change over time. Men and women do latihan separately for several reasons, but not because there is any teaching in this regard. Subud is a learning, not a teaching.

How can I find out more?
If you have read the various articles published on this website and are still curious, it would be best to get in touch with a helper in your area through the contacts page, or you can write to:

email: WSA at subud.org