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The Latihan: an inner awakening

“When you come to zero, when you come to the nothingness, at that moment there is a vibration.” *
Bapak Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo

The term latihan kejiwaan is an Indonesian term meaning ‘spiritual training’ or ‘spiritual exercise’.

The founder of Subud, Bapak Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwijojo (Bapak), explained that the latihan is a method of worshipping God that is open to all mankind and whose source is the power of God*.

The practice of the latihan involves the individual voluntarily surrendering to the power of God. This is achieved by the individual quietening themselves by releasing themselves from their thoughts and desires while making an inner intention to surrender to the power of God, which is the source of and within the latihan. Once in such a quiet state, the individual may feel spontaneous vibrations or movements that derive from divine grace. The individual then willingly follows those movements to experience a worship free of thought and desire.

Bapak explained that the movements and vibrations represented the awakening of the inner self or soul of the individual by way of the action of the latihan. Following this awakening, individuals start to become aware of their true selves and their connection with the divine grace, humanity and life in the universe. Over time, individuals may find that this enables them to live their worldly lives more in accordance with their true inner nature and in a way that benefits themself, their families and their community.

Since the latihan is unique to each individual and is guidance by the will of God for that individual, no two peoples’ latihans are the same and there are thus no teachings, rules or requirements in Subud regarding what any individual should receive or how they should move in the latihan.  This is a matter solely between the individual and the power of God which is the active force guiding the latihan.

Beginning and following the latihan is a completely voluntary act and should only be commenced following a conscious and sincere decision by the individual without any pressure from others. Individuals remain inwardly calm and conscious during the latihan and may choose to stop their exercise at any time.

It is acknowledged that the latihan may be difficult to understand or believe in simply by reading or listening to the accounts of those who follow it. The reality of the latihan can only be felt and its significance understood once it has been experienced by the individual.

Practising the latihan

In Subud, people meet to practise the latihan in a local venues, men and women separately, with each latihan lasting approximately 30 minutes. There is usually a preparation period of up to three months before a person comes to their first latihan, the latter being known as the ‘opening’, in which the contact with divine grace is spontaneously passed to them. Many people find this applicant period useful, as it is a time of subtle change, creating an inner readiness for the experience of the latihan.

Meaning of the word latihan

The word latihan, short for latihan kejiwaan [Indonesian], translates literally as spiritual training. Since the experience of the latihan is unique for each person, people in Subud often have different ways of describing their own experience of the process and the impact it has on their individual lives.


What people say about the latihan

Since the experience of the latihan is unique for each person, people in Subud often have different ways of describing their own experience of the process and the impact it has on their lives.

Here are a few typical comments from people who practise the latihan in Subud, which serves to illustrate the differences in personal experience:

The latihan is the core of my life. It has led me by the hand and shown me who I really am.

Being someone with a well-trained critical mind, the latihan has helped me to know the forces behind my thoughts and emotions and has enabled me to live in greater harmony with this tough world we live in.

The latihan itself has been an incredible journey encompassing every experience in life - a very powerful feeling of space, depth and joy.

For me, what sets the latihan apart from any other spiritual practice is that it's not about trying to leave a part of you behind in order to feel some kind of 'out-of-this-world' enlightenment. The beauty and intricacy of the experiences I've had during latihan come about because something (which I like to call 'God') is making every part of me - mind, body, heart and soul - come alive. In other words, I'm being trained to become my truest, fullest self, for both this world and whatever comes after.

The latihan helps me get closer to my true self, as it fine-tunes my intuition.

Over the years the latihan has become an invaluable life tool - the regular practice of tuning into my inner awareness provides an essential balance to my thinking, feeling and being. To sense inwardly, as well as outwardly, the dynamics of relationships, of my work, and my sense of self. The latihan broadens my awareness and deepens my understanding of the stuff of life.

After doing the latihan since July 1966, I have no doubts about it. I’ve learned to accept my faults, learned to laugh, have a clean calm feeling inside and my heart has been opened.

I hoped the latihan would enable me to become more 'spiritual' and wise. Oddly enough it did something different. I slowly became more practical, and also more connected with my body and emotions. I now see this as a sort of foundation level, which had been missing on my journey towards wholeness.

It's like learning to dance a new dance with life. I used to live in a narrow field enclosed by walls and knock my head on the walls thinking: that's it, that's what life is about. Latihan has reopened a sense of discovery and unexplored possibilities in me. I now have discovered a door, and behind it a peaceful lake and some fields of joy. It's not all sorted for sure - there are always new walls! But I have scope for action rather then just knocking my head on the next wall... and I know there are beautiful spots on the way.

It frees you up to live – and shine your colours in the world!

My practice of the latihan has been like having access to my own personal doorway to a world where the mystery of my deepest self lies, connected to God, to other people and other beings. I make the effort to go and open the door twice a week and get something different at every visit – sometimes nothing more useful that a little peace of mind, and at other times a pure feeling of grace or contrition or awe. I try to live up to the knowledge I have gained of who my deepest self is and can be like in my regular life, and am amazed that the door has never ever been shut when I reached for it.

When I attended my first latihan, at a time of depression, I was frightened that I was going to be taken over by something out of my control. Instead I experienced a sense of joy that I recognised as being my own true self. It was truly an unexpected gift and I went home happy for the first time in months. That was 34 years ago. When things are difficult and I feel doubts, I still remember that experience as a touchstone.

* Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo, recorded on 17 January 1981 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Reference 81 JKT 2
** The founder 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 through their own latihan and to refer to that One source of the latihan by whatever name or reference they felt comfortable with (e.g. the great life force, universal life force, the divine, God, Allah, Yahweh, Ishvara, Brahman, Waheguru, the Tao).