The following article was printed in the European Journal for the Dances of Universal Peace, issue 26 Spring/Summer 2003

Subud - a spiritual path involving sound and movement

The peace dances have roots in Sufism, but they have grown above any single spiritual way. Wouldn't it be nice to have a series of articles in this journal from peace dancers about their religion or the spiritual path they're on? - Ralph

I'd like to introduce Subud to you - a rather new spiritual path, which involves sound and movement. My guess is that quite a few peace dancers would love and benefit from Subud and our spiritual practice, called 'latihan', if only they knew about it. Especially for the freedom loving spirits, who may have their very own spirituality; or for Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Quakers, Unitarians etc., who could do with some more depth or direct experience with the Divine, or who may want to deepen the contact with God by joining Subud.

What is Subud?

Subud means to follow the will of God / Allah / the Creator / the creative life force with the help of the Divine Power that works both within us and without. It is a way to renew contact with the Power of God, an individual experience, which arises from within. Subud can be described as the reality behind all religions or the life within a life. 'Subud' is a contraction of the Sanskrit-derived words Susila (The behaviour and character of a person following the will of Almighty God), Budhi (The essence of the Divine Power within man) and Dharma (Complete submission, trust and sincerity towards Almighty God).

Subud is not a religion but a spiritual practice for all. People are encouraged to stay in their current religion when joining Subud.

The Latihan, spiritual practice in Subud

Latihan means 'spiritual exercise / training' in the Indonesian language. Emptying our minds, we surrender and receive the spirit of God. It's a practice, which allows us to follow God's will in thought, word and action.

"The necessity to put aside your heart [emotions] and mind [thinking] during the Latihan is so that our inner feeling can immediately come into contact with the inner, and at last movements of life will appear which are not caused by our wanting." (Bapak)

So we do not do anything, but allow everything to happen. Usually sounds and movements arise from within. One benefit of allowing God to work with us is a process of healing, balancing and transformation. A name that supports your spiritual development may be given to you if you wish.

Bapak, the founder of Subud, and the organisation

Muhammad Subuh Sumohadiwidjojo (born 22 June 1901, died 23 June 1987), also called 'Bapak' (which means 'respected father' in Indonesian), came from Java in Indonesia. He unexpectedly received a series of spiritual experiences - "the contact" in 1924. Later he was able to pass his receiving on to anyone who asked for it.

Subud has democratic structures on local, regional, national and international levels. The International Subud Council moves its country every four years to avoid attachment with power, a nation or a culture. Subud Britain is a registered Charity.

There are several wings within Subud: social welfare (Susila Dharma International), culture (SICA), health (SIHA), Subud Publications International (SPI), youth (SYA) and enterprises (SES). Susila Dharma is in consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council [ECOSOC] and the International Children's Fund [UNICEF]

Subud has spread to about 80 countries, including most European countries. In Britain there are 60 Subud groups, in Germany 12. See or It is free to join Subud for everyone from the age of 17. The Latihan may cause major changes in your self and your life. It is therefore usual to have a preparation time for up to three months before you join Subud. We call the first Latihan your "opening".

There is no membership fee - members are expected to give voluntary contributions for overheads

The Dances of Universal Peace and Subud

Differences: The latihan is only for members - peace dances are instantly open to everyone. Subud focuses only on God and accepts no human teachers or gurus; the transmission comes through the whole group. In the DUP teachers play an important role in attunement and are via their mentors and Samuel Lewis connected with the lineage of the Sufi background of the peace dances. There is no contact between individual members during Subud latihan. The DUP involve plenty of opportunity of contact between individuals.

Both spiritual practices are rather new, involve sound and movement, have a strong multi-faith aspect: and reflect many ways to worship God. The own experience, the chance to have a mystic experience is central in both. Both respect the individual freedom to leave their organisation at any time.

I started introducing the peace dances to Subud at last year's Big International Gathering and to mention DUP events in the member's Bulletin. Subud as a modern mystic way gives me spiritual depth; the Dances of Universal Peace give me joy, contact and community experience - both practices compliment each other perfectly. Would other peace dancing Subud members in Europe please contact me to exchange experiences?

Ralph Nimmann, Cambridge, England, 0044 1223 510 442 e-mail

About the Author

Born in Berlin, Ralph is a supervised teacher of the DUP, since 1997 based in Cambridge. He leads dances in England and Riga. His specialities are chanting, Taizé harmony chanting, rounds and harmony peace dances. His groups are led with a good sense of humour, joy laughter and depth He is also the DUP outreach contact and part of the working group organising this year's international "Sacred Arts Camp".

Ralph likes to build bridges of understanding and has developed the Cambridge based Rainbow Network ( He is currently also chairing the Cambridge Inter-Faith Group, Subud Cambridge and regularly attends a Quaker meeting. Last year he was baptised and married Russian Orthodox.

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Articles about Subud by Ralph Nimmann: [links updated 2018]

Other articles by Ralph | More about Subud: | top of page
"My Personal Introduction to a Spiritual Path": (14 pages)

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