The Christian Religion
One of the blessings I have received after many years of latihan is a clear understanding of my own religion. The problem with getting close to the Christian religion is that its universal truths are expressed in symbolic form. The majority of Christians and non-Christians do not realise this. I am sure there are elements of historical truth in the Bible, but the very existence of Moses or Abraham or Jesus could not be proved without a time machine, and even then the testimony of the time traveller would be open to doubt by habitual sceptics. Trying to hype oneself up to believe in particular Biblical statements as historically true (which is what most Christians think they are supposed to do) is a weird mental exercise and nothing to do with real religion which comes from God, as Bapak has told us many times.
The teachings of religion are spiritual teachings. They are teachings about our inner nature, our inner processes, our inner possibilities. Statements about the Lord Jesus, for instance, are symbolic statements about the true human soul within us, our true self. Every Sunday I state that I believe that Jesus was “born of the Virgin Mary”. For me this acknowleges that the true human soul is awakened in a state of purity engendered by the power of God, the Holy Spirit. Our lives are a long struggle in which the scribes and Pharisees within us oppose the teaching and healing undertaken by the Messiah within us.
On our own journey to the holy city, we eventually reach the possibility of submitting so completely to the Will of God that crucifixion can take place within us, a state in which all human hope, all human longing, is abandoned – “crucified, dead and buried” as it says in the creed – the dark night of the soul. The outcome of this death is resurrection into a new state of being. The true self is no longer caught up in the machinations of the powers of this world but is “seated at the right hand of God”. All of this is an ongoing process within us. As we come closer to God, the sorting out and separating process (separating the wheat from the chaff, as Jesus put it) is less and less impeded by our instinctive reluctance really to let go. It is expressed as the Second Coming, when Christ “will come again in glory to judge both the quick and the dead.” In other words, what is alive in us and in accordance with the Will of God is separated from what is dead within us and opposed to the Will of God.
A stumbling block for many people is Christ’s words, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” I understand this to mean that no-one can find their way to God by efforts of the self-will but only through allowing the perfect human soul to take over one’s life in abandonment to the divine will. Christ, the perfect human soul, is “one with the Father.” This ‘God the Father’ is beyond words, beyond thought, beyond imagination, and any statement or formulation about ‘him’ is a construct of the human imagination, a ‘graven image’.
I could go on and on, but I will close by quoting the prayer at the beginning of the communion service. For me it expresses the true aim of the Christian religion, identical to my hope in Subud:
“Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known and from whom no secrets are hid, cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy holy spirit that we may perfectly love thee and worthily magnify thy holy name, through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Most Christians would probably not understand what I have written above. However, through the ages there have been Christians who have seen their religion in these terms, including my favourite Christian writers – Meister Eckhart, St John of the Cross, St Theresa of Avila, and the anonymous English author of ‘The Cloud of Unknowing’.
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The Receiving Latihan
The whole process, function and inner purpose of the quiet latihan or the receiving latihan, is unique. It may occur towards the end of the purification latihan or may be a separate spiritual event.
Sudarto mentioned that the most valuable and most potent latihan, in his opinion, the ‘true’ latihan, begins when the movement and vocalization has become completely quiet. The nafsu are not active. Our inner feeling becomes filled with the Power of God. It is in this state of Grace that the Soul expands and enlivens in union with the Creator. This is known as the ‘Fruit of the Latihan.’ A door upstairs begins to open.
Sudarto said that this is when we move forward in our life, by progressing in our spiritual training. This is beyond the necessary throwing off of the purification latihan. Never was the physical purification latihan ever minimized. In fact, it was indicated that only when the purification had progressed in a certain fashion could the inner growth of the soul begin.
However, once when Sudarto spoke of the quiet latihan, he said with a twinkle, “Go into the closet (wardrobe) and do a latihan without movement. Go deep inside yourself.” Then he laughed heartily. I appreciated Sudarto’s encouragement in the Receiving Latihan. Because of his advice I never do ‘repeats.’ Each latihan is totally different, one from the other.
Adji would say, “Just sit and receive. It is better than television. Spend your evening that way. Spend moments in the day, spend your free time receiving. Don’t think. Just surrender. Do the inner receiving latihan.”
The quiet inner latihan of course is not meditation. There is no focusing of the mind, or concentration on breathing, the third eye, or the like.
Sudarto said, “Your soul grows in this state of receiving. Your inner feeling also expands outward, surrounding your inner self, your soul. Your inner awareness gets larger and larger. You can begin to feel the world as a globe. In latihan, you might experience that you are off balance, like you are standing on a large ball. You are actually standing on the world. This experience means you are reaching the outer limits of the material realm.”
The essence of the receiving latihan is that we can go deeper and deeper into the ‘receiving’ which is beyond our heart and mind. We can experience the expansion of our inner-feeling which in turn allows the soul to grow. All this is done with our Partner, our dear friend, the Creator.
From THE INNER MANSION by Stephen Latif Allen (pages 137-139)
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Doing Latihan With Sister Lucia
One can find the best and worst in any world religion.
I am not a Catholic, but I do not know of any other denomination in which you can find Subud tucked away in a corner here and there—no one knows how many places. I only know that some Catholic monks in California and Ireland have asked Subud helpers to come to their monasteries and open them, and to come back and do latihan with them from time to time. It might have spread, or not.
I am not advanced like those who have broad daylight spiritual experiences, other than several miraculous escapes from death. I have the occasional mystical experience, but always when least expected, and usually when I am half awake.
One I treasure was with Lucia Santos, the youngest of the three shepherds who, in 1917 were the subjects of a series of appearances of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, near Fatima, Portugal.
They were beaten and berated for making up a story until the day the public was invited to see a great miracle that was promised by Mary to take place on that day, so that people would believe. A spectacular astronomical and meteorological experience was witnessed by a huge throng of perhaps 70 thousand people, including journalists, atheists and freethinkers. One can Google "Lucia Santos" or "Fatima" or "Miracle of the Sun".
In a 2005 experience I found myself spiritually present in the convent cell of Lucia Santos, witnessing her worship. It would be more accurate to describe it as doing latihan, as this woman, fully dressed as a nun and well enough to stand and raise her arms upward - or have them raised by the latihan - tilt her head back just a bit, and just stand and receive. In fact, it felt as if my latihan and her worship were one and the same.
Lucia did not have the dark visage of the little shepherd that one sees in the photos of the period, nor was her cell the gloomy place some might suppose a convent cell to be.
On the contrary, the whole experience - Lucia, the place, and the feeling - were all light and bright.
Two weeks later it was announced to the world that Lucia Santos had died.
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Prayer from the Inner
I was in Morocco and found that I began to have a stabbing pain in my belly if I did not observe the call to prayer. This stab would even wake me up just prior to the early call, so I would comply with a simple prayer to myself remembering God. One day, as we were walking through a small village, the call came and I had a very strong pain. I saw women at the prayer wall doing their prayers and when they finished, I approached and, since I did not speak their language, used gestures to ask if I could pray at the wall.
They reluctantly nodded and motioned me to the wall. As I stood in front of it ready to pray, they rushed over, laid down a rug and wrapped my head. I froze as I did not know the Salat and suddenly realized that I might be doing a great dishonor to them to use their prayer wall. I called to God for help not knowing what to do.
I suddenly went into a spontaneous latihan which moved me up and down as in the Salat, but must have been different because after it ended a few minutes later, the women ran up to me and began to kiss me begging me with their broken English to show them my prayer. Since there was a language barrier and I had only been in Subud for about six months, all I could do was say surrender to God and wait.
They then pulled me behind a wall and taught me the Salat, again begging me to teach them my prayer. With the excitement that they had, I can only assume that they did receive the latihan.
When I lose faith or sight of God in my daily life, I truly ask for forgiveness as I have been shown these miracles many times and yet I can still lose faith.
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The Lord’s Prayer
The meaning of prayers can come slowly by frequent practise - together with life experiences, fasting and good works - or it may suddenly come out of the blue in answer to some question that has arisen out of a difficult and unpleasant situation The latter was to happen to me some eleven years ago at a Subud meeting of several hundred people in Holland.
Bapak’s widow was ill with cancer and I had taken on the responsibility of raising funds for her treatment. I went to several wealthy friends and asked for a donation on a monthly basis to pay for treatment. All of them willingly gave, with the exception of the wealthiest, who, although he had been very generous with his wealth in the past, on this occasion said to me, “She has plenty of money herself for her own treatment”. This shocked me somewhat as the above statement did not seem to correlate with her mode of life and also, I felt, did not accord with the respect that was due to Bapak’s widow.
I awoke the next morning feeling very sad and confused and said to myself “What should I do?”
A state of quiet gradually arose in my inner feeling and I began to say the Lord’s Prayer, something I had not done for many years, being quite satisfied with the saying of the Fatihah. Actually it was not quite like that: the words of the prayer arose spontaneously in my self without my willing it. The prayer repeated itself three times and each time it had deeper meaning and significance as each word followed the other with utter inner truth and rationality.
At the end, the confusion and sadness had utterly left me, to be replaced by joy and a feeling of compassion for my fellow human beings, forgiveness for my self and for my wealthy friend, which I was later able to relate to him.
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Music from the Inner
I've always loved to sing and play the guitar. Nowadays, after having done the latihan for more than 40 years, I occasionally find that when I am in a quiet state and just 'doodle' a bit on the guitar and hum along, that this can sometimes come from a different place in myself: a place which feels cleaner, finer and more alive. I particularly find this after a day of fasting. My wife has noticed the difference compared to what I normally play, and loves it.
I used to be fascinated by stories of musicians in the past who could heal people from illness and depression by playing music. Bapak mentioned the healing quality of music too, and his gambang tape is an example of this. He once asked a Subud musician if had ever healed someone with his music, like Bapak had. I also remember a Swedish Subud singer who sang so beautifully that it touched peoples inner and people came to her and asked where this came from. She then told them about the latihan.
Some time ago I had a dream in which I attended a concert by Subud members. Bapak seemed to be the master of ceremonies and he sat in the middle of the front row. He pointed at a young child, who then stood up and sang with the most incredible, pure and beautiful voice. The melody seemed to come straight from the soul and felt like worshipping God. It felt so alive and refreshing that it lifted all of us up, spiritually and physically, as if we had done a really good latihan. Bapak then looked at me and nodded, as if to say, 'That's how it should be done.' Still a long way to go though!
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