What Is Subud?

Subud is an acronym derived from three Sanskrit words: Susila, Budhi & Dharma.

  • Susila – the true human nature of a person who lives according to God’s will.
  • Budhi – the divine power within man, which can guide him.
  • Dharma – surrendering to God’s power with sincerity, patience & trust, not hoping for anything in return but accepting whatever God gives.

Subud is a spiritual movement which had its origins in Indonesia in the 1920s and spread to the west in 1957.  Subud is not a religion, nor a sect of any religion, nor is it a teaching.  Subud members practise a form of worship known as the latihan.

What many Subud members report is that gradually over time, the latihan enables them to contact their real inner self, so that they become more truly who they were destined to be. They become more ‘alive’.

The latihan is a pragmatic experience that can be approached in the spirit of a scientific experiment. It can bring you proof of the reality of the spiritual life. It is a new way suited to this scientific and intellectual age, when people will only believe what they have really experienced for themselves.

It comes, like past revelations from God, at a moment of peril for humanity, when it seems the power of the technologies we have created has outstripped our capacity to control them. The latihan restores the balance between the spiritual and material. It provides a way of uniting the spiritual with everyday life, a path that is open to people of all religions, races and nationalities.

The Founder

 Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo, founder of Subud, and known to Subud members as 'Babak'

Founder of Subud – Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo, known to Subud members as ‘Babak’

Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo known to his members as Bapak was born 1901 in Java, Indonesia and died in 1987.  As a young man Muhammad Subuh who received a series of intense experiences that he believed gave him contact with a spiritual energy from a higher power.

By the 1930s, he believed that it was his task to transmit this energy – which he called latihan kejiwaan (Indonesian for “spiritual exercise”) – to others, but that he was not to seek people out but simply to wait for those who asked for it.  In 1956, Bapak he was invited to England by J. G. Bennett, where many Westerners joined Subud.

He was then asked to go to other countries such as the United States and Australia. In this way, Subud spread rapidly around the world.  When he died in 1987 he left many talks on tape, video and in print, which Subud uses to guide the organization he founded.

Subud Today

Subud today is active in over 84 countries of which 54 of these countries are members of the World Subud Association (WSA).

At present, there are 20 thousand members of Subud worldwide.


  •  Subud World Congress – This is a general meeting of the WSA member countries approximately every four years.
  • World Subud Council (WSC) Between congresses the WSC  is responsible for ensuring the on-going activities resolved by congress. The WSC includes the zonal representatives who are also the legal directors of the WSA, together with the chairperson.
  • International Subud Committee (ISC)This is the executive body, that moves from country to country between Congresses, carries out the day-to-day administration of Subud’s affairs. There are also branches of the organization to promote cultural, welfare, enterprise and youth activities. The structure of Subud within each country simply follows the legal form customary in that country. The international organization of Subud is funded by private donations from individuals, from members’ enterprises and from foundations as well as donations from member countries. National and local organizations are funded through members’ donations for the most part. There are no membership fees in Subud and all contributions are voluntary.
  • Subud Enterprise Services International (SESI)This is a function of the WSA Executive.  Its purpose is to bring together and focus the business enterprise resources available within the WSA and harness these resources to nurture and develop business enterprises from which part of the profits are allocated in support of our Association’s financing needs and humanitarian work.

It was hoped that these enterprises which would generate funds for Subud organisation, therefore become self-supporting, as well as, providing functional support to Subud activities. However, many of these enterprises failed and placed a financial burden not only on the organisation, but also on individual members.  The organisation of Subud appeared not to have the capability of making a success of these enterprises.

This had a profound impact on its members, but the Executive appears to do little to find a solution to its own problem, which no doubt has had a negative effect on this spiritual movement.


“Truly in Subud we have the proof that within the latihan kedjiwaan it is possible to unite the whole of mankind…. So it is essential that whatever we do in the outside world it must be an example to human beings who are not yet in Subud… whatever we do must be correct.

We must guard ourselves and not allow ourselves to do things, which are not correct. And if one amongst who is wrong, let us correct him let us help him to help himself because if we don’t do this then we are allowing Subud to be destroyed.”