The Founder of Subud
"There is something like a light within the inner self that can guide people to act in accordance with the path for their life.” *
Bapak Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo
Bapak Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo was born in central Java, Indonesia in 1901. He died in 1987 on the morning after his 86th birthday. He is referred to affectionately by Subud members as ‘Bapak’, an Indonesian term of respect meaning ‘father’ or ‘sir’.
Bapak, a practising Muslim, grew up performing the daily Islamic prayers and observing the annual fast of Ramadan. In his youth as an avid spiritual seeker, he tried many spiritual methods, such as practising a particular form of fasting known as prihatin, in which he would cut down on various pleasures, most commonly food and sleep. Subuh would also regularly practise dhikr, an Islamic form of prayer that acknowledges the greatness of Allah through rhythmic, repetitious chanting.
In addition, Bapak sought advice from a number of teachers, including a Sufi Sheik. He was also trained in Pencak Silat, an Indonesian martial art, and occasionally practised samadhi (meditation). Despite the sincerity of his efforts, he was frustrated by these methods and he found little satisfaction in the advice of the various teachers he visited, since most of them said they had nothing to teach him and that he would eventually find his own way. As a result, Bapak stopped seeking guidance from spiritual teachers and instead concentrated on work and study.
As the eldest son, Bapak became responsible for the welfare of the family after his father’s death. He married in his mid-twenties, had children and worked as a bookkeeper while training to be an accountant.
In 1924 Bapak had a life-changing experience as he was out walking late one night. He described this experience as seeing a ball of light in the sky that appeared as large and bright as the midday sun, and which illuminated the surrounding countryside. This light was witnessed by others and was reported in the local press of the day. He described how he saw this ball of light fall towards him and felt it enter the top of his head, the physical reverberations of which were so strong he thought he was having a heart attack.
Bapak has shared this story many times, but was always careful to stress that we need not believe his account of events and, on the contrary, we are free to consider it an allegory. Whatever happened to him that night, he was from then on a changed man, and subsequently Bapak Subuh awakened to his capacity to connect with and follow his own inner guidance, which initially took the form of physical movements. As his experience deepened his understanding grew wider and he received indications of future events, which came to pass, such as his many travels around the world.
After some time Bapak's friends began to notice significant changes in him and they expressed a wish to share his received technique for inner development. Thus in 1933 he began to pass the gift of the latihan on to others. He did this simply by surrendering to Almighty God in the presence of those who wished to feel the subtle, transformational energy of the latihan that we still receive and follow in Subud today. If you are interested in following the latihan in Subud, please read the section 'The Latihan' that explains more about the process.
* Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo, from the book Susila Budhi Dharma.