The latihan is the basis of Subud. Latihan is an Indonesian word meaning approximately training or exercise, and these words — or their equivalent in other languages — are sometimes used synonymously. But in English the word latihan is usually preferred, since its very unfamiliarity helps to dispel any confusion that this resembles or can be compared with some already familiar concept or experience.
The latihan cannot be taught or imitated, for it arises spontaneously from within after the contact with the Power of God has been received by transmission through a person in whom it is already established, and it is different for each individual according to his or her needs. It does not arise through any human action or volition, nor by the use of the heart and mind, but simply by the Will and Grace of God.
At the same time, the human will is free at any moment to intervene and stop the action of the latihan, which continues only as long as we willingly submit to it. Those who are authorised to transmit the contact –the “helpers” — do nothing to or for the person who receives it. They simply follow their own latihan together with the new member who has come to receive it, and of its own accord the same process then begins in him or her, and continues thereafter to work in them without the need for any use of thought and desire or any act of will beyond the initial consent.
All that is required, either at the time of first receiving the contact or on any subsequent occasions on which the latihan is followed, is an inner attitude of sincere submission of one’s own will to the Will of God.
The latihan is practised twice weekly in company with other members of one’s own sex, accompanied by one or more of the helpers, who are responsible for timing the half-hour period for which it generally lasts. After a few months’ experience, members are usually ready to add a further half-hour latihan alone, but they are strongly advised not to exceed this total of three latihans a week.
Experiences in the latihan vary enormously. It is different for everyone, and for each person at different times. In the beginning it usually takes the form of physical movement and sounds. This is the normal outer manifestation of the touch of the Power of God, similar to the manner in which a musical instrument will sound and vibrate when played by a human being. As time goes on the experiences often become more subtle and more refined.
The latihan is thus unadulterated worship of God through surrender to God’s Will, and its action is one of purification and inner growth. All of us have many impurities, both those inherited and those acquired through our own mistakes. There is much that needs to be put right in us, and this correcting is done in a way that we could not possibly do for ourselves.
No teaching, no imposed discipline and no imitation, but only the Power of God, can penetrate to the level within us at which this work must be done. Only God can know what is necessary for each of us. This is why there is no teaching in Subud by man to man; God alone is the teacher. This process of purification is a gradual one and goes according to the needs of each individual, his capacity to receive it, and his willingness to accept it.
The power that works in the latihan is infinitely strong, but it forces no-one against his will. In so far as we accept and submit our own will to the Will of God the process goes forward. It begins on the physical level and frequently results in an improvement in physical health, but its action can never be predicted. All that can be said is that each one receives what is truly right and necessary for oneself, so long as one truly surrenders and submits one’s own will with patience and sincerity.
The rate at which purification proceeds varies for each individual and cannot be hurried or assisted by any efforts on our part. All that we can do is to accept what we receive and to refrain from wrong behaviour that might undo the work that is being done within us.