What is Subud?

“If you want to express Susila Budhi Dharma or Subud with one word, it is unity or being one.”

Bapak Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo, recorded talk on 29 June 1984 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Reference: 84 JKT 4


Subud is an international association of people who follow the latihan kejiwaan, an Indonesian term translating literally as ‘spiritual training’ or ‘spiritual exercise’. The practice of the latihan was explained by Subud’s founder to be a worship of Almighty God, available to all mankind, irrespective of their backgrounds or existing beliefs and which can be practised in conjunction with such existing beliefs. The latihan is discussed further on the page specifically relating to the latihan.

The movement, founded by Bapak Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo (affectionately referred to by Subud members as ‘Bapak’, an Indonesian word meaning ‘father’ or ‘sir’), originated in Java, Indonesia in the mid-1930s and remained an informal association until 1947 when it was agreed to use the name Subud.

The word Subud is an acronym of susila, budhi and dharma, three words with Sanskrit roots – susila, budhi and dharma – which mean:

Susila: the behaviour of a good human being according to God’s will.

Budhi: the Power of Life that is within a human being.

Dharma: surrender, acceptance and submission towards Almighty God.

The basis and aim of Subud is for members to embrace the qualities of susila, budhi and dharma such that they may worship and live in accordance with the will of God for the individual member.

In addition to the Sanskrit-derived definition, the founder described the word Subud as having its own meaning: originating from the source and returning to the source.

Bapak explained that members could find the reality of what this means for them as individuals through their own latihan. As explained elsewhere on this website, the latihan is an experience unique to the individual in which they can feel and learn for themselves the way of worship and the way of life. Bapak often referred to the latihan as “receiving”. Therefore any guidance or teaching is given to the individual by the Power of God directly in their own latihan, it cannot be taught by Bapak or another human being.

A gift for all humanity

The latihan is a gift for all humanity from Almighty God, who is the origin of all life and to whom all life is connected and will ultimately return. Bapak explained that the power of God does not discriminate between faiths or religions and that all human beings are equal before the power of the One who is Almighty.

Consequently, Subud is open to all mankind irrespective of whether they have an existing faith or none at all. It is possible to practise the latihan within Subud while maintaining an active connection with traditional faith or religious practice.

Those who choose to follow the latihan within Subud come with a variety of beliefs, some from specific spiritual or religious traditions. People from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds, nationalities and cultures practise the latihan together in over 70 different countries.

Bapak always made it very clear that the choice to join Subud must be an informed and voluntary one made by each individual. Neither Bapak or Subud members apply pressure or unsolicited encouragement on anyone to join. Furthermore people are always free to discontinue their association with Subud at any time should they so choose, as a sincere willingness to follow it is of paramount importance.

Bapak explained that the source of the latihan is the One Almighty God and referred to the source in those terms. However, he left it to individual members to verify that for themselves in their own latihan and to refer to that One source of the latihan by whatever name or reference they felt comfortable with.

Next: The Latihan