Subud, Membership in
1. Question to the Universal House of JusticeDear Bahá'í Friends,
It has been brought to my attention that the Universal House of Justice has advised the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States that a person may not be allowed to be a member of both the Bahá'í Faith and the spiritual brotherhood and sisterhood of Subud. I am writing to humbly ask you to give this matter additional consideration. This decision affects many people, and will likely affect many more in the future.
Although Bahá'u'lláh clearly stated that a Bahá'í cannot be a member of more than one spiritual organization, it must be noted that this tenet was established at a time in which the organization of Subud did not exist. Subud did not exist at all during Bahá'u'lláh's lifetime, and Subud also did not exist during the lifetime of `Abdu'l-Bahá. From 1925 until 1957, Subud was in an embryonic state in Indonesia, largely unheard of in the rest of the world. It was not until 1957 that Subud came from Indonesia to England, and from there spread to many other parts of the world.
The nature of Subud is such that it is intended to be a companion to whatever religion a person might have. The spiritual exercise in Subud, referred to as the "latihan kejiwaan" or "latihan", is not a teaching which is studied, but it is a receiving of Grace from God. This guidance and grace is given to a person by God in accordance with that person's individual nature and in accordance with whatever religion that person chooses. The latihan is just simply a gift which makes it easier for a human being to follow fully the Will of God and the teachings of all of God's Messengers.
From the Subud perspective, the choice of one's own religion is entirely up to each individual. So it is therefore a matter of free choice for a Subud member to be in the Bahá'í Faith or to be in any of the other religions which have arisen by the Grace of God. At this time, most members of Subud have cultural ties or personal commitments to the traditional religions of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and so on, though some members of Subud have not chosen a particular religion for the time being, as they continue to search and grow spiritually. It is very likely that some of the people in the world who are members of Subud could very much prefer to choose the Bahá'í Faith to have as their own religion.
One of the major problems in the choice of a religion nowadays is the existence of many sects, so that a person is really just choosing a particular interpretation of the teachings given by each of the Manifestations. As a Christian, I am continually confronted, for example, by the realization that I am not only following the teachings of Jesus Christ, but also an interpretation by Martin Luther, or George Fox, or John Calvin. Each of these Christian interpretations is incomplete. So I myself must grow to encompass a fullness of understanding on my own, of what it truly is to be a Christian.
On the other hand, the teachings of the Bahá'í Faith are fully complete. The teachings of Bahá'u'lláh were interpreted only by `Abdu'l-Bahá, and his interpretations are completely at one with the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh. Likewise, Shoghi Effendi kept to the line established before him, as he developed the foundations and structure of the Bahá'í Faith. So there is only one Bahá'í Faith and one interpretation. This feeling of unity is only one of the many reasons a person might be attracted to the Bahá'í Faith. Some of the people in the world who might wish to become Bahá'ís could very possibly be members of Subud.
It is also very possible that a member of the Bahá'í Faith might wish to join Subud in order to participate in the worship of God through the latihan kejiwaan. In the latihan, a person can worship God alongside of people of all the various religions, in simple surrender to God, and that is a wonderful experience.
I am enclosing several books for you to read, if you wish, which can help to make clear the relationship between Subud and religion. Please do inform me of your official stance regarding membership in Subud for Bahá'ís.
I hope that you will have peace and joy and many blessings as you study this matter. Thank you very much for your time and attention.
Autobiography: Bapak Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo
2. Response from the Universal House of JusticeDepartment of the Secretariat
29 June 1995
Your letter of 5 November 1994 to the Universal House of Justice with its enclosure of books on Subud has been received, and we have been asked to reply to your request for a clarification of the Bahá'í position on Subud. We very much regret the delay.
You are probably aware that the point round which the Bahá'í teachings revolve is unity. This is expressed essentially in the belief that all the revealed religions, such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, have come from the same Divine Source, but progressively at different times. Each exerts major spiritual, moral, and social influence for a particular time, a dispensation. The essential understanding of Bahá'ís concerning their own Faith is that its Founder, Bahá'u'lláh, is the latest Divine Messenger or Manifestation from God, Who has established a dispensation for a duration of at least one thousand years, after which a new Manifestation will come.
Your letter states that "the nature of Subud is such that it is intended to be a companion to whatever religion a person might have", and you refer to "the spiritual exercise in Subud" as "a receiving of grace from God". This would seem to imply that Subud provides a channel of divine grace without which every religion, including the Bahá'í Faith, is incomplete. This is a belief that is incompatible with the Bahá'í teachings concerning the nature and purpose of the Manifestations of God and the completeness and perfect suitability of each Revelation for the age for which it is sent.
From the Bahá'í point of view, the concept of Subud places it in the category of a religious organization, and for this reason membership in Subud is incompatible with membership in the Bahá'í community. Such membership would put a Bahá'í in the untenable position of subscribing to two different religious communities at one and the same time, involving him in an inherent conflict. However, as Bahá'u'lláh has exhorted His followers to consort with people of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship, the Bahá'ís have no difficulty in associating with people of various groups without having to become affiliated with different religious organizations. Hence, the Bahá'ís harbor no resentment towards Subud.
Your effort to supply the House of Justice with accurate information about Subud is deeply appreciated. It will pray that the work in which you are engaged, that of fostering greater love and understanding between people, may increase the possibilities of peace on earth and thus draw upon you the confirmations of the Almighty.
For Department of the Secretariat
cc: International Teaching Centre