Subuh, Muhammad (1901–1987)
Indonesian mystic whose spiritual mission led to the formation
of the movement known as Subud. Following some years
of searching for spiritual guidance in Sufi and other movements,
Subuh had an initiatory experience in 1925 on his twenty-fourth
birthday when a sphere of light appeared in the night
and seemed to enter his head, filling him with vibrating energy
and light. Three years later this strange energy source stopped
abruptly, and Subuh continued his everyday life as a government
official and married man, while passing through the
equivalent stage of the Western mystical ‘‘dark night of the
soul.’’ On his thirty-second birthday he had an enlightenment
revealing his spiritual mission, and he devoted himself to his
The name Subud derives from an abbreviation of three
words susila (morality in line with divine will), budhi (enlightenment
in man), and dharma (attitude of submission and sincerity
toward God). Subuh’s own name actually means ‘‘sunrise,’’ but
he is known to his followers as ‘‘Bapak,’’ an affectionate Javanese
term meaning ‘‘father’’ often applied to a spiritual teacher.
Prior to 1956 Subud was little known outside Indonesia, but
after that it attracted European interest. When Subuh visited
the Gurdjieff headquarters of Coombe Springs in Britain, its
director, J. G. Bennett, and followers were won over by his
emotional and spiritual vibrancy. During his lifetime, Gurdjieff
had made mysterious allusions to a forthcoming Indonesian
teacher, and Bennett led many Gurdjieffian students in accepting
Subuh as that teacher.
By 1960 interest in the group died out and Subuh returned
to Indonesia where he died in 1987.
Bennett, John G. Concerning Subud. New Hyde Park, N.Y.
University Books, 1959.
Muhammad-Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo. Susila Budhi Dharma.
Subud Publications International, 1975.

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