A Story Told by Icksan
Bapak’s first son, Harijadi, was a doctor. When he was twenty-three, he said: ‘Bapak, I want to die.’ Bapak said: ‘Not yet.’ A year later Bapak said: ‘Now you are ready.’ Harijadi went to his room, next door to Bapak’s. Suddenly Harijadi called: ‘Bapak’. Bapak went and took Harijadi in his arms. He was
The funeral was the next day, and Bapak’s grandson was there. He said to me: ‘Icksan, isn’t he beautiful?’ I was not long in Subud then, and I thought he meant the corpse. I said: ‘Yes, he looks very beautiful.’
‘Not that!’ said the grandson with scorn. ‘We’re going to bury that. I mean
Harijadi was there with us. Bapak’s grandson, only seven years old, saw him. You also will see him, all of you, when you are ready, when you need him. He is Bapak’s Helper…He comes with the knife for the operation.”
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Sometime in the mid-90s, during latihan, a man who I did not see (nor did I try to see him – I was just standing and surrendering) opened my shirt, placing two fingers at the sternum, and immediately made an incision from sternum towards the navel. In one deft movement the other hand was inserted up into the chest area, moving organs delicately and decisively aside as the hand with the knife closely followed the hand clearing its way, the blade resting against two forefingers of the hand holding it - to prevent unwanted damage, or so it seemed.
This happened so quickly that the incision was made and the hand inserted before I realised what was actually happening. That is, I only realised I was being operated upon after the operation had begun. But the skill and 'authority' of the hands was such I only felt to surrender deeper as they performed their task. The hand that cleared the way went deep within me, almost to the backbone it seemed, when the blade very precisely and carefully cut away some part near the back of the chest cavity ('behind the heart'?). The actual cutting away was done so delicately and carefully it took more than half the whole operation. Don't know to what extent one can physically feel internal organs being moved aside, etc, but I certainly could!
During the operation I felt I was blessed, deeply surrendered. The removed piece was extracted, then the other hand was run down the line of the incision closing it up, and the operation was over. Afterwards, my body showed no trace of it.
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It is difficult to get to Medjugore from Budapest without a car. To save money I decided to travel with an organised pilgrimage tour, on the understanding that once in Medjugorje I would leave the group and go my own way. I thought a day long bus trip could not be that bad, but it turned out to be a big trial, although in retrospect this seems inevitable. The other pilgrims were mostly elderly ladies from the countryside and only four other men, one of whom was a hyperactive priest. An official pilgrimage cannot go without one, I suppose, but – unfortunately – this one was armed with a microphone. The man just could not abide silence. He made the whole company sing endless Church anthems - imagine with what rattling voices - or read out to us edifying stuff with fierce political or nationalistic undertones. Surviving ten hours on a bus with all this going on proved very difficult, and I felt a mounting resentment, while at the same time growing increasingly ashamed of it. After all, I reflected, the Blessed Virgin Mary likes those elderly ladies no less than me and my pilgrimage would not be worth "more" than theirs. This may all seem pretty obvious with hindsight, but at the time it was a real learning.
One of the first things I did upon arrival was to check in at the Tourist Information desk to see if any of the visionaries was giving a talk. No talk alas, I was told, but there was to be an apparition. The lady behind the counter said it in the matter of fact way only possible in Medjugorje. The apparition was due to happen to Ivan Dragicevic - the eldest of the visionaries - and his prayer group. This group has apparently existed ever since the earliest days of Medjugorje in the 80s and has its own appointments with the Blessed Virgin. One of those was to be on the day I arrived.
The apparition was to take place on the Podbrdo (the Apparition Hill where Our Lady initially appeared to six children and where she has appeared many, many times ever since) and it was to happen relatively late in the evening. Climbing up the Podbrdo under the oncoming night was in itself an experience. The atmosphere was distinctly biblical: imagine climbing a rocky
hill together with a thousand people, silent under the stars and in search of
When in the darkness I arrived at the statue of Our Lady marking the place of the first apparition, the visionary and his group were already there praying. The whole invisible multitude was reciting the rosary until somebody told everyone to kneel down, right there on the rocks. Then the prayer fell silent. She had come.
Kneeling and praying on the sharp rocks my mind went frantic with its usual questions: Will I be able to see anything? Does Subud make me more receptive to miracles? - the sort of thinking that I found quite impossible to cut off - whereas suddenly, when the praying stopped, what I felt inside me was a deep and unexpected silence. It was as if somebody had pushed down the bottom and the thoughts and concerns had just fallen into the opening void. The silence grew and grew, went deeper and deeper. Then at last - from some unfathomable depth there came bubbles - bubbles of joy coming up like
gas in fizzy water. They felt big, the size of ice cubes really. At that very
moment, the visionary announced that the Lady was gone, whereupon the crowd
prayed another round of Aves and Our Father's before beginning the
difficult climb back down. Walking back, I carried inside me a complete
assurance difficult to put into words: this was it; it was worth it, now I
Last, but not least: on the way home the whole pilgrimage bus was strangely quiet - the ladies were all very sweet (they must have been tired too), and even the over-zealous priest seemed unaccountably mellow.
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Memories of Indonesia
I went to Indonesia shortly before Christmas 2000 in order to work for the
Kalimantan congress (which later became the Bali congress) with child and youth programs. I had been opened about six months before that.
After some quite dreadful experiences in Palangka Raya in connection with the Dayak revolt, (recorded in the last edition of this newsletter) I got to
Jakarta and eventually to Wisma Subud. Here the preparations for congress were in full flower, and, still quite shocked from my experiences , I was happy to be in a safe place. Beneath me in a building connected to the old guesthouse lived an old man who was the last of Bapak´s helpers. He had had a stroke and could not talk. I always thought he was such a sweet man and took to embracing him whenever I met him on a tour when he was wheeled about by his family members. He somehow reminded me of my Dad who spent 24 years in a wheel chair after unsucessful brain surgery until he died in 1991. Once the old man said to me, loud and clear, "I love you." Another time he said, "Go to congress, go to a little hill and play your flute." Which I did. I played a lot of music at that congress.
Once, I went to visit him while he was bedridden, and he gestured towards the second floor of the guesthouse and shook his head violently, saying," No, no." I didn’t know what he meant, although the next time I visited him he did the same thing, gesturing towards the guesthouse and shaking his head. It wasn’t until a few years later – when I was assaulted and badly injured by a non-Subud man who also lived in the compound - that I found out the hard way what he was trying to convey with his gestures. Since then I have learned to listen better and to trust my intuition more. Thanks to the latihan, I have learnt to develop my inner vision more.
One day, I was playing a Bach sonata on the flute in my room upstairs, my cat lying in a chair beside me. It liked the flute. All of a sudden, the cat put its paw up and touched the flute so that I could not play. I looked at it and started playing again, but once again the cat stopped me playing. Why is it doing that? I wondered. I went downstairs to see if the old man was all right. I was met at the entrance by his grandchildren who told me that he had just died, and I realised that he had died at exactly that moment that my cat was giving me a sign to stop playing the flute.
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Death . . . or Birth?
My husband had been ill with cancer for quite some time. He wanted to be at home for the last part of his journey in life, so for the last few months I was helped by nurses by day and by night. These very kind and compassionate ladies would show me what I needed to know and because of their kindness (especially the night nurses) they cheered me up.
One day a nurse, someone I hadn't seen before, came in and explained to me that everyone else was away on holiday. She then went about her business of checking my husband while I was in the kitchen preparing food for my children. Before long she came to me and said, "It's time".
I went to the bedroom and sat beside the bed and the nurse (I think her name was Helen) stood in the doorway and began to speak to my husband as though he was giving birth.
I looked at her and thought No, no. You have it wrong. He is dying. “Go slow,” she said. “Don't panic.” I think she even began to count him back from eleven – ten, nine, etc. How can this be? This is not a birth. Then my husband passed away, and she said, "That was a very good death," and after some time she was gone.
All of a sudden, there was a huge commotion on the roof and I ran outside and saw that the roof was covered in birds. I could not see a single tile on the roof for birds, some of which I had never seen before. I ran back inside and, after sitting beside my husband, thought This is the reality of Life, One day I too will die. After 27 years I am still trying to come to terms with that.
Since my husband's passing, I have been witness to two more deaths and with each it seems that maybe one’s passing can be seen as a Birth after all.
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“There are always signs”
I happened to read several stories on your website (see pages 3 and 4) about the connection between teeth falling out and death and was reminded of an incident in Wisma Subud, while I lived there.
One of Bapak's helpers in the secretariat told us that one day he, his wife and son were driving in their car when the son told them he had dreamed that one of his teeth had fallen out. Pak Rusli's wife exclaimed, "Oh, maybe that is me," even though she was only in her 40's and apparently not ill. Only a few days later we learned that she had been rushed to the hospital with a serious liver disfunction and had died.
Several of us went to Pak Rusli's home to offer our sympathy and while he sat with us he told us that the morning before she died she had taken her wedding ring off and placed it on the sink in the bathroom. Rusli had found it there and asked her why she had taken it off, since she had never removed it since he had placed it there on their wedding day. She was surprised to see that she had done so and had no memory of doing it.
“So you see,” Rusli concluded, while looking at us very seriously, "There are always signs.”
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I remember two years ago dreaming that three teeth fell out, one after another. Shortly after that three dear Subud brothers died, one after another.
On another occasion, I had dreamed that a tooth had fallen out and woke up feeling disturbed. While shaving I thought, 'I wonder who it is?' The first person I thought of was H, a Subud friend who hadn't been that well lately. I then somehow knew it was him which made me feel really sad. He was only in his early thirties, three years younger than me. We'd been on holiday together earlier that year.
That evening H rang me and he told me that he had been diagnosed that very day with terminal cancer of the bowls. About eight months later this dear brother passed away. I and other helpers did latihan with him once a week while he laid in his bed during the last months of his life. These latihans were always really strong and glorious. We all felt blessed and grateful to take part in it. There was never any sadness and all of us, including H, felt radiant peaceful and happy. One day he said with a big smile 'You guys seem to be queuing up to do latihan with me!'
H had asked myself and five other men to carry his coffin after he'd passed away. I felt honoured by this. At one point, while carrying the coffin to the grave, I became overwhelmed with sadness. I don't know whether I
imagined this or whether this was real, but I really thought that I felt H's
presence next to me and that I heard his voice say, in his usual jovial manner,
'Don't be silly! I am in a much better place than you all are; you are the ones
to be pitied!' This had the effect on me that the sadness went and I felt a lot
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Consolation from an Angel
It was the day after my father´s passing. Through my latihan, over a period of half a year, I had gone through a process of preparation for this event: I had seen that it was God´s will for my father to die, I had been trained to keep my emotions out of this process of preparing for death, I had gone through my own mourning and so I was able to experience the day of his passing and the weeks to follow in a state of quiet bliss and gratefulness for being able to be a witness to this process of a beloved one crossing over.
On this day, my mother, my sisters and I had decided to have lunch together in my father´s favourite Italian restaurant. It is a tiny place with only a few tables and is always packed during lunch time. And that is how it was on this day. Almost every seat was taken and there was only one table left, with a few vacant seats. The waiter guided us to this table, where a man was having his lunch, asking him if we could take the remaining seats. He agreed and so we sat down and ordered a glass of champagne, just like my father would have done. The champagne was served and we were talking, when suddenly the man turned towards us, asking: "Excuse me, if you don´t mind my asking: what is it that you are celebrating? Is one of your daughters pregnant?" and my mother replied "No, no, it is not that." So he said: "Well, what is it then that you are celebrating?" "Are you sure, you really want to know?" asked my mother and he said "Yes, I sure would like to know!"
So then my mother turned towards him and said: "The father of my
daughters has just died," and while the man was saying "Oh, I am very sorry!" he took my mother´s head and very gently pulled her against his chest and held her in his arms close to his heart for a while. When he released her again, very
gently, he turned to my older sister and chatted with her about how it is being a lawyer, as it turned out that he was a lawyer himself. Then he turned towards
my younger sister and as I was sitting in the middle, our eyes met and I
understood in my inner feeling that he was silently conveying the words to me
"And you have the latiihan. You do not need my consolation," and without
speaking a word continued to turn to my sister. He talked to her for a few
minutes about Dubai, where she was living at that moment and where he had also worked. Soon after he paid and left the restaurant.
One or two weeks later my mother had the wish to track him down and to talk to him a little bit, as this had been such a special moment for her. She managed to find him and called him up in his law office, reminding him of where they had met and on what occasion. Apparently the phone call was very short, as the man had almost no recollection of this incident.
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