THE GROWTH OF SUBUD
Has there been an increase in doubts that Subud will not be growing as imagined during the first heady dates of its growth in the early 1960s? That was a time when not hundreds but thousands flocked to be opened. Now the ‘openings’ appear to have come down to a trickle. Maybe these members who doubt the growth of Subud are to be found in many Subud Groups and they base their fears on the fact that the membership is being pared down? Or maybe these are just the fears of Western members who like to predict the future in order to feel safe.
By chance, I came across the very first edition of Varindra Vittachi’s ‘A Reporter in Subud’. It was published in 1960 under Varindra’s birth name of Tarzie Vittachi. ‘A Reporter in Subud’ is one of the finest books for new members to read as it gives frank reports on the early days in Subud. Private explanations are given by Bapak to the many questions posed by the ever curious Tarzie (Varindra). In fact, these are questions that Subud members might have, but often don’t verbalise.
I have heard whispered so many times, such sentences as ‘Is Subud disappearing?’, ‘Look around, the membership seems to be dwindling!’, ‘How long will Subud last if this trend continues?’. Often these doubts are sprinkled about, especially at large get-togethers of members, without answers or solutions. Is this just a sharing of a negative vista of the future or is there a reality to such fears?
So, it was pleasing to discover that there are solutions and the words come straight from Bapak, not surprisingly, even as far back as 1960. One particular statement made by Bapak according to a conversation reported in that edition, caught my eye. Being asked about other religions and Subud, Bapak gives an insight into the qualities of members of Subud.
He tells the then Tarzie (Varindra) that ‘Subud is for discriminating or critical people who will be able to judge the truth of what they receive, without blindly accepting anything merely because Bapak or any of the helpers say it is. When such people receive and progress spiritually, then they will be able to help others who are not as fortunate as they are.’
Although Bapak’s comment covers Subud members’ rush to help others through the Subud welfare wing, I wonder if the growth of Subud in all its aspects, whether in relation to population numbers or the spreading of its members’ talents, may lie in how we follow out Latihan. Can it be the fact that we, the Subud membership, are not growing as individuals because we are still tied to our material life and have not wholeheartedly followed the ‘reality’ of our Latihan? Can it be that unless we take leaps forward in following our own growth, the growth of Subud could continue to show little progress.
That quote of Bapak’s gave me a lot to think about. When I first joined Subud, the welfare wing of Subud was in its infant stages, yet I was puzzled that members were helping people outside Subud when there were so many cases of unemployment and neediness within the membership. I could see many members were in an unhappy state. Some people called it ‘purification’. Things appear better these days. But is this because those members who feel ‘helpless’ have left Subud rather than soldiering on, causing the Subud population to dwindle. If we are not being ‘discriminatory critical people who will be able to judge the truth of what we receive’ then I wonder if we should look at how good we are at following our Latihan to the extent of inspiring others to be opened. Can changing our attitudes and awareness of how we follow our Latihan experience, be the only way to see the Subud population grow?