Early one morning in 1978, I was awoken by a sensation which shook my whole body, and which I initially assumed to be an earthquake. As I opened my eyes I saw that first light was breaking through the night. My whole body was still shaking with the trembling of the earth and house, when I suddenly noticed in the low light that there was no movement to the curtains or to anything else in the room. As I raised my head and looked down over my torso and legs I saw that my body remained stationary on the bed, which also was not moving. For an instant I was confused, then I realised that the shaking I felt was coming from within my own self. The vibrating was growing stronger by the second, forcing me to drop my head back on to the pillow. It now felt as though a rope about three inches in diameter was being pulled rapidly through me from my head down through my body and out through my feet. In the same way that a rope being pulled through the hands feels rough, I felt this force coursing strongly (as if being shaken roughly) at great pace through my being. As this force increased in intensity it ‘washed away’ the apprehension or fear I initially felt, so that my heart became peaceful and my mind likewise, clear and untroubled.
The movement of this powerful force or vibration was so strong through me that I was powerless to move. Moreover I had no inclination to move, feeling naturally surrendered to what I was experiencing. In other words, the latihan itself brought with it a profound inner quietness and surrender so that my mind remained lightly at ease, content to accept and observe what was happening to me. Then I noticed a light above me a long way off which was slowly coming toward me (or was I approaching it?). As I drew closer to this light my sense of surrender grew stronger, and I wondered, “Am I dying? Is what I am experiencing the process of death?”
I had no sooner thought this than the answer arose in my mind: “No, you are not dying because you have not yet done the work you were born to do, and because you have not made any provision for your wife and children.” It greatly surprised me that, in response to my wondering, thoughts that were not my own should come so clearly and with such quiet authority into my mind.
Meanwhile, the light and I were drawing still closer, so that the light seemed to be growing stronger and bigger, like a sun, and my sense of peacefulness became tinged with a sweetness which kept growing, then grew to delight, and continued to spread and grow to the point of ecstasy. It did not stop there but kept growing, until the ecstasy reached a point where it became painful and yet still continued to grow. The sun-like light was drawing even closer, and the pain had become so intense that I was now gasping and struggling to surrender to this experience. Suddenly, through the midst of this unbearable agony, I heard my own voice gasping out the words, “Oh God, Please. No.”
Immediately the experience changed. It did not stop, but merely subsided, as when one removes one’s foot from the accelerator. The intensity ceased and gradually, easily, I came back down as the light withdrew, until I was simply aware of myself lying on the bed. But I still felt very calm, with a peacefulness that is not ordinary. I lay there for some time, too enraptured to move and too captivated to want to, just accepting the wonder and blissful condition that then enveloped me.
But I was also aware of other feelings. As my presence in this world reasserted itself so, too, did the normal desires and regrets of the heart. I felt disappointed in myself, for I ‘knew’ that this experience was in the nature of a gift or blessing. Had I somehow let myself down, or failed a test of some kind? Why had I begged for it to stop? What would I have experienced if I could have gone through that pain? How was it that a person like me should have such an experience?
For someone who avoided religious discussions, who dared only listen whenever theology or God were discussed because I felt too uninformed, I no longer felt any need to even consider such issues. Somehow I knew! In that state where my thinking and feeling had receded into the background as attendant servants to my being, the real me - this newly discovered being - had known automatically of God and His power. As I rose through sweet delight to ecstasy, I knew with what I can only term ‘original certainty of knowing’ that it was because I was being lifted to a higher plane or state. And when the experience became painful, I also knew with the same clarity of understanding that it was because I was too far from being prepared for existence at that place or level. That is, I needed to grow and become purified in order to traverse that realm in comfort.
There was also the thought that came, unbidden, into my mind in response to wondering if I was dying. Both the comments in that thought were not what I previously thought of as religious or spiritual dictates: that we have to work in the world, and that issues of providing for one's family go beyond death. I don’t think I ever really thought about that before. I had just assumed that the
spiritual life, as with a monk or a yogi, was naturally related to withdrawing
from the world, and that worldly concerns have no connection with anything
I lay there with a mixture of feelings.
Thankfulness for the experience, for the knowledge and certainty of a greater
life of which this one now seemed only an echo. But also a troubling sense of
failure - the feeling that I had let myself down because I was not able to let
the experience run to its own fulfilment.
- - - - -
Visiting Bapak’s grave at Suka Mulia has always been a special
event. It’s the most peaceful and serene place that I know. It feels like being
at home, more than anywhere else in this world. Like many other Subud members I have had some significant personal experiences there, that I better keep to myself. But I’d like to share this one;
I was staying overnight in Suka Mulia with two Subud brothers,
one of them, an Indonesian who was very close to Ibu. It was an extra special
occasion as we were allowed to spend the night in Ibu’s little house on the
property. After arrival we had done our prayers at Bapak’s grave, one by one.
The atmosphere was rather intense and all of us went through some personal
“stuff”. I remember sitting together in the dark outside, no one speaking much, feeling very quiet inside. We decided to retire early, planning to do another prayer before returning to Jakarta early in the morning.
Somehow I couldn’t sleep and decided to get up and go back to Bapak’s grave by myself. I put on my long white cardigan because it was fresh outside now, and started walking towards the gate some five hundred meters away
where the stairs are leading up to the graves of Bapak and his family. It was
much darker than I had expected and I carefully sought my way, following the
twists of the path leading me through the area with exotic trees and plants and
unknown sounds from birds and insects that I couldn’t identify.
Suddenly I saw a black figure on the side of the path I was following. Its shape was similar to a human being, but taller. Was this one of those dark spirits trying to get close to a sacred source? I had heard about the
many lost souls wandering around here. For a moment it hit me and I considered turning around, back to the cottage. But then I told myself that with my long white outfit I would certainly be stronger and purer then this black, dark figure hanging around in the bushes. This idea gave me courage and the next moment the black shadow had vanished.
On I went, with what seemed a very long walk towards reaching my
goal; being close to Bapak and surrendering myself to the Almighty. Feeling cold and not completely sure why I was doing this, I just continued the way ahead. It was a wonderful moment when I finally opened the glass door, leaving my slippers outside, kneeling down at the foot of this sacred place where Bapak’s remains were resting. At that very moment, when I started my prayer of surrender, I heard a beautiful choir of voices all around. It was like hundreds of angels had come with me and started their own prayers together with me. My soul felt lifted and experienced sheer joy. The music seemed to come from all directions! When I looked up I realized that the 4 a.m.dawn prayer had started and was echoing from beyond the mountains and valleys all around Suka Mulia. For a moment I had felt at one with the heavens and the earth, and I was thanking Bapak and the Almighty for all my blessings.
- - - - -
At last, there it is--the fabled island of Sri Lanka--stretching out its lush green carpet of welcome below. Long before, I had read an essay written in the early decades of the last century by a seeker after truth who had come upon a statue of the Buddha, just outside the capital city of Colombo: an image so remarkable that it had triggered a transformation of his world view. I fantasized that one day I too would stand in the presence of this mystery. Prior to my leaving Honolulu, I had asked several Sri Lankan friends who had been born in Colombo if they had heard of a Buddha with sapphire eyes. Not one
My short flight from Madras to Colombo was made even shorter by a lively conversation with a charming young Singhalese woman. As the plane touched down, I asked if she knew of that particular Buddha. “No,” she answered, shaking her dark curls. “But if there were such a statue, the sapphire eyes would have been stolen long ago.”
Upon reaching our hotel, a few blocks seaward of the main road outside Colombo proper, we were greeted with distressing news. “We are very sorry but a tour group arrived earlier and we have no room for you.” Unconcernedly, the desk clerk picked up his phone. After a brief conversation, he informed us that he had arranged
a place for us at a hotel a little further down the beach. As it turned
out, if it had not been for this, I would never have found the Buddha with the
sapphire eyes. Close by it is a large old Victorian edifice on a beach of
its own, built at the turn of the 19th century and until recently the only hotel
in this area. This, then, has to be where the writer of the essay stayed
so long ago. My hopes rise.
Our taxi ride next day dead-ends in a temple compound. The cab enters the open gate and parks under a tree. On our left is a long rectangular one-story structure with columns. We follow others up its wide steps onto a verandah, then pass through an anti-room into an inner sanctum, Above us, a huge face looms, commanding all our attention. Painted a garish yellow, its lovely features are outlined in black. Dark, compelling eyes gaze solemnly back at
us. Unquestionably, we are in the presence of a masterful piece of
art. But is it the Buddha I am looking for? I am not sure. We
leave shortly and return to our hotel.
My sleep that night is fitful. A large painted face with a glimmer of a smile and penetrating eyes haunts my dreams. At last the sun rises, and I set out alone once more for that temple.
It is deserted in these early morning hours. I climb the wide steps and am startled by the figure of a young monk on the verandah. Wrapped in a one-shouldered saffron robe, he is absorbed in lighting a votary lamp on a small altar. As before, I enter the open door to the sanctuary. Almost immediately, he follows me in and closes the door behind us. Now the only light comes from a second door, perhaps 60 feet away at the image’s feet and from the
faint glow of a coconut oil lamp the monk has placed between the huge face and myself. In the near gloom, I become aware that the monk is indicating a
place for me to stand. Then there is only the sound of bare feel retreating down the hall as he disappears into the shadows.
Eyes, unmistakably sapphire, gleam out at me and I realize I am standing before a profound enigma. My senses lose their grip as the blue eyes gaze at me, penetrating my being. Now there is only awareness of a vibrant reality that dissolves the illusory world I have called home.
All that I have heard, all that I have studied and thought I understood about Buddhism melts away in this moment of direct perception. I feel the stardust of which my body is composed split apart into shimmering particles. The persona crumbles, self-preoccupation dissipates. Vicissitudes of daily living lose their meaning as consciousness focuses upon a crystalline center where one is all that is.
The message of the Enlightened One beams forth from that
mystifying visage with its gentle smile and unfathomable eyes. Peace,
detachment and joy enfold me. One seems impervious to karma as the world’s hard shell shatters and all that remains is a suffusing bliss. A blissful
void out of which a voice seems to speak these words: ”Remember, only
- - - - -
“So this is the latihan”
My wife used to do latihan in a different Subud group than mine
because the latihan times of that group were more convenient for her. One
evening we went together and did latihan in her group. After latihan, I was
talking with some men when my attention was drawn to A, a brother whom I hardly knew who and who was fairly new in Subud. I started to feel this push from inside which I recognise when my inner wants me to do something. I seemed to be getting the message to approach this brother and to suggest doing some testing with him. I felt very uncomfortable with this because we hardly knew each other, and also I wasn’t a helper in this group. So I decided to ignore this feeling, I wanted to go home anyway.
The inner push then just became stronger and seemed to be
accompanied with a real feeling of urgency to the point that I couldn’t resist
it anymore and I decided to approach him. I started chatting to this new member and after a while I asked him how he experienced the latihan. He replied that so far he didn’t think he had felt or experienced anything and he sounded disappointed. I then asked him if he felt like doing some testing and he immediately responded very positively. I went to ask two group helpers to join in, apologizing to them first for intruding like this in their group, but they
were fine with it.
After a short latihan together I suggested to start with some
body awareness testing. We only got as far as the first question, asking ‘Please
receive the latihan in your chest,’ when suddenly this enormously powerful
latihan came over us. I felt like a channel, my normal self having disappeared,
and all that was left was this large pipe, or funnel, through which this
tremendously powerful latihan kept pouring, filling me with God’s Grace. This was one of the strongest latihans that I’ve ever had. (When later we shared with each other, it appeared that the other helpers had had the same
Something wonderful started to happen at the same time. A, who
had never moved in the latihan, started to move, and after a while he started to
sing as well. You could see he was radiant with the latihan. The whole
atmosphere in the latihan room seemed to be filled with God’s Power and
afterwards we were all full of joy and gratitude towards our Creator.
There was no need to ask any other test questions and when we
had finished A. came up to us and embraced, us one by one, whilst tears poured from his eyes. “So this is the latihan,’ he kept saying in awe.
Later that week A’s wife, who had been opened around the same
time as him, told one of the male helpers how grateful she was about what had
happened to her husband. She also said that A. had recently prayed and had said to God: ‘God, I’ve been opened for a year now this month and I haven’t felt anything. Please let me feel the latihan. If I don’t feel it before the end of
this month, I will leave Subud.’ Our test session had taken place before the end of the month.
- - - - -
I was staying up late in Ramadan during one of the Nights
of Power. I had been feeling rather unsettled and unhappy that day, for no
particular reason. It was after midnight and I was sitting quietly, trying to
feel the latihan, when suddenly I heard a voice in me say 'You're not happy.'
Well, I knew that. Then, the voice said: 'The reason why you're not happy is
because you're not close to Bapak.'
Ah, now, this struck a chord. I had stepped down as a helper a
few months before, after having been very active for nearly 20 years in two
large Subud groups. Testing with my fellow helpers had confirmed that it was
right for me to have a break for a while. Although I was sure that I was doing
the right thing, I had noticed that after stepping down, Bapak had started to
feel far away. (This was several years after Bapak had died.)
The receiving continued and my inner voice said: 'The way to be
close to Bapak is when you work for Bapak and help Bapak with the growth of Subud'. Wow! I was deeply touched and thought, 'Who am I to receive such an important message?'
A bit later that night I really felt the need to listen to a talk and I put one on that I'd recently borrowed from the group library. It was a talk that I had never heard before. After 20 minutes or so Sharif started to translate and I was totally baffled. He said 'Bapak knows that our brother X
(an Indonesian member) used to be not very close to Bapak. Bapak has noticed that since he came back from the hajj that he now feels closer to Bapak. If you want to be close to Bapak, you should work for Bapak and help Bapak with the growth of Subud...' The message was clear!
Not long after Ramadan I had a dream. In the dream, I saw
Muchtar Martins pushing a huge boulder up a hill. Then I heard a voice saying, 'You can do this, you should help him.' 'Yes', I thought, 'I really should.' The next scene showed me walking next to Muchtar pushing a boulder up the hill as well. My boulder was smaller than his though. I could feel the heaviness of the burden but it was the right weight for me, not too heavy and not too light.
I had the feeling at the time that both of these experiences referred to the future. Right then, it seemed right for me to have my break from
Subud work, particularly since I was going through a lot of changes in my outer life.
These messages seemed to tell me that, at the right time, it would be good for me to become active again in the future. Perhaps they were warnings too, telling me not to withdraw from Subud work forever, which, I have
to admit, was a feeling that I'd had several times, particularly when times were
difficult and I felt that I only wanted to do latihan and didn't have the space
to have anything else to do with the Brotherhood.
After nearly five years I was asked to become active as a group
helper again. I didn't feel at all right about this because I was too
preoccupied with my outer life. I agreed to test about it and to my surprise it
appeared to be really good for me and for the group. So I became group helper
again and about a year later I became National Helper.
From the moment I became active again I experienced a blessing
and my latihan deepened. Strangely enough, that's when my outer life started to become more stable and happier too and most of the problems that I had been facing, gradually disappeared. I now feel incredibly grateful for being
given the opportunity to work for Bapak again. I find that being one of Bapak’s helpers, despite the inevitable challenges and difficulties this comes with, is a real blessing and an opportunity to grow.
- - - - -
Sometimes towards the end of a Subud congress or gathering I
pray and ask God if there is anybody that I need to forgive or who needs to
forgive me, and whom I need to improve my relationship with. I ask to be guided in this before I go home.
Once, after one of those prayers, the day before the end of a
congress, I had arranged some testing for myself. I desperately needed to test
something which was very important to me. I had carefully hand-picked one
national and one international helper for this precious test session. Just
before the arranged time I was sitting quietly in the latihan room. I was early
on purpose in order to prepare myself as much as possible and to be in a quiet
After a while, the two hand-picked helpers came in, but to my
shock and horror they had decided to invite a third helper. This brother I
didn't like and trust at all and was probably the last person that I wanted
to be there! My peace and quiet were completely gone and instead I found myself full of anger and disappointment. I immediately thought about cancelling the whole thing, but then I remembered my prayer.
For a moment I was angry with God for playing this trick on me,
but then I realised that I had asked for it myself, and indeed, if there was one
person whom I needed to improve my relationship with then it was surely this
brother. So I decided to go ahead with it and see what would come.
I was hardly able to receive the answers to the first test questions because I was still too upset. After a while things started to ease, particularly when I saw that this brother was really trying his best to help me. By the end of the test session all the negative feelings had completely disappeared and we warmly and lovingly embraced each other before we left.
Since then, he has become one of my dearest Subud brothers. We
get on really well nowadays and often have long and interesting conversations
with each other. Needless to say, this 'important' test session was in fact all
about learning to open my heart to a brother. Thank you, God.
- - - - -