“If you want to express Susila Budhi Dharma or Subud with one word, it is unity or being one.” *
Bapak Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo
Subud is an international association of people who share a spiritual experience known as the latihan. The movement, founded by Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo, originated in Java, Indonesia in the mid-1930s and remained an informal association until 1947 when it was agreed to use the name Subud.
Subud is open to all, and those who choose to follow the latihan within Subud come with a variety of beliefs, some from particular spiritual or religious traditions. People from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds, nationalities and cultures practise the latihan together in over 70 different countries.
The word Subud is an acronym of susila, budhi and dharma, three words with Sanskrit roots – susila, budh and dharma – which in Subud are understood to mean: humane behaviour or right living; the inner force or power within all human beings; and surrender to the highest power (great life force, universal life force, the divine, God, Allah, Yahweh, Ishvara, Brahman, Waheguru, the Tao). Combined, these three words represent the aligning of our outer actions (susila) with our inner realisations (budhi) through surrender to the highest universal power (dharma).
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.
The essence of Subud
No matter what a person's faith, or otherwise, the essence of Subud - the expression of humanity and the awakening of the capacity within every human being to connect to and follow the highest universal power - can be found at the core of all religious and philosophical traditions. As such, it is possible to practise the latihan within Subud while maintaining an active connection with a traditional faith or practice.
Within the beliefs and principles of the established religious and philosophic traditions of the Dharmic, Abrahamic and Taoic faiths, we can see that each one points to the same essential truths, as well as the way in which these foundational teachings connect with the meaning of Subud.
Looking at the original Sanskrit roots and their meanings we can see the connections with both Hindu and Buddhist principles:
Sila means virtue, good conduct, morality or ethical behaviour, and in Buddhism represents intentional action. Budh means to know or to wake. In Buddhism, bodhi means enlightenment or awakening to the inner wisdom accessible to all, and the title Buddha simply refers to one who is awakened. Dharma has a wider range of meanings. For example, in Hinduism it is defined as duty or the natural order of the universe, whereas in Buddhism it refers to the teachings of the Buddha.
Although the connections to the principles of the Abrahamic faiths cannot be traced directly through the roots of the Sanskrit words used in Subud, we can still see similarities in belief and concept:
Sharia, the way or path, in Islam refers to sacred law that guides people in morality, something that is considered an expression of divine will. The Holy Spirit in Christianity is considered the bridge to God that exists within every human being, taking the form of the voice of inner guidance through the breath of God. The Christian concept of logos represents the foundational creative impulse of the universe in the form of the Word, which is understood to originate with God as well as being equivalent to God.
The Taoic traditions also share similar concepts in their traditions and philosophies:
The word te represents integrity and wholeness in Taoism, and is expressed as morality or sound character in Confucianism. The concept of qi represents the flow of energy, or life force, within all living beings. The fundamental principle of Tao is understood as the flow of the universe that is the guiding force behind the natural order.
* Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo, recorded on 29 June 1984 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Reference: 84 JKT 4