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The Origin of Subud

One night in 1924 a young Javanese man, Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo, had an unusual experience in the city of Semarang.

Out walking, he saw a bright ball of light like the sun which came down and entered his head, causing his whole body to shake. He felt a sharp pain in his chest and thought he was going to have a heart attack. He went home and lay on his bed and prepared to die. Instead, he began to pray, not from his own will, but as if moved by a power beyond himself.

This was followed by a thousand nights of unusual experiences bringing proof of a spiritual reality and presaging events that were to happen in the future.

During the day, Muhammad Subuh continued his normal life. He was married, had children, and worked as a bookkeeper for the city of Semarang.

Then in 1933, he learned, as a result of further experiences, that what he had received was a contact with "The Great Life Force", a manifestation of the Power of God, and that he could pass this contact on to anyone else who wanted it. They, in turn, could pass it on to anyone else, without any diminution in the power or quality of the experience.

The experience was called the latihan kejiwaan, an Indonesian term which means literally "spiritual exercise".

He gave up his employment and devoted himself full-time to the spread of the latihan. A few followers began to gather around him.

After the Second World War, he moved to Jogjakarta, where following the Indonesian revolution, he officially established the spiritual movement called Subud to serve as vehicle for the spread of the latihan.

In the 1950's, he moved to Jakarta where he met Husein Rofé, an English journalist and linguist who had come to Java in search of a spiritual teacher. Rofé joined Subud and was instrumental in spreading it outside Indonesia when he traveled on to Hong Kong and Japan. Later he went to Cyprus and England at the invitation of some followers of the Russian sage, Gurdjieff. Gurdjieff had died in 1949 leaving many followers looking for a teacher to complete his work.

Muhammad Subuh himself came to England in 1957, staying at Coombe Springs on the outskirts of London, where John Godolphin Bennett, a scientist and mathematician, had set up the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man to further the work of George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff.

Subud spread rapidly, initially within the ready-made network of the Gurdjieff movement, but soon to the public at large. Thousands of people were opened and the movement received considerable publicity when the film star, Eva Bartok, was cured of a stomach tumour after doing the latihan.

Subud spread quickly around the world, first in Europe and then to countries like the United States and Australia. Muhammad Subuh made the first of more than twenty world journeys. Tens of thousands of people were opened and Subud spread to more than seventy countries.

Muhammad Subuh, familiarly known by Subud members as "Bapak" - a common term of respect and affection for older men in Indonesia - lived in Cilandak, a suburb of Jakarta, with his family and continued to make frequent world journeys to nurture the growth of Subud until his death in 1987.



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