Spiritual Groups and Communities: Subud, Bahai, and Soka Gakkai
Transforming Yourself – and The World
Thriving up as a spiritual being doesn’t mean just sitting around in a state of bliss and tuning everything out – though that’s a lot of fun too. We have to engage with the world and begin to bring our insights into action – and there are spiritual groups that can help us to do this. Subud, Bahai and Soka Gakkai are spiritual communities that are just as passionate about societal change and sustainability, as about transforming our inner selves. They also have strong messages about tapping into your own inner wisdom. By being part of a spiritual group you get to connect with like-minded people and get support on your journey.
The Deep Peace of Latihan, Engaged Buddhists and Baha’i Peace & Unity
In Subud, you prepare for up to three months to experience latihan, a state of deep peace and letting yourself be moved by your intuition and the spirit within you. In a latihan (‘spiritual training’), people meet with others – men and women separately – to practice for half an hour. In that time anything can happen, as people tune into and follow the unique guidance inside them – there are no teachings in Subud. This can manifest as inner sensations and insights, as well as physical movements and sounds – not unlike what can happen in a 5 Rhythms class (insert ‘Ecstatic Dance’ internal article link) or in a shaking session (insert ‘Shaking’ internal article link). In latihan, we tap into the power of the whole, and get closer to our true self. People with depression have found it a helpful practice as they are able to find the joy of their being underneath the depressed feelings and to see the workings of their minds more clearly and objectively.
If Buddhism interests you, check out Soka Gakkai – a Buddhist group who integrate their practice into their everyday lives. Both inner and outer revolution are key to the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) members – they are ‘engaged Buddhists’ who work towards the well-being of others with the central Buddhist value of compassion. Members describe a heart-based way of living and an increase in strength and courage that benefits them in all areas of life. As a SGI member you would chant a powerful mantra, ‘Nam-myoho-renge-kyo‘ twice a day, alone or with others, as well as studying the Lotus Sutra.
The Baha’i faith is one centred around peace and unity. As a Baha’i, your mission is to reflect as many of the divine qualities as possible. You learn to rise above your more ‘animal’ side – the ‘lower’ part of you that’s most worried about having a flashy car or lots of sex – and to act more and more from your higher aspect or spiritual side. As a Baha’i your practice could include daily meditation, saying prayers, observing holy days and reading the Baha’i texts. The Baha’i way of life is to see the Divine in all beings, and to have an open, unprejudiced mind. Reflecting on your actions and connecting with the essence of your divine self – love – helps you thrive. As a Baha’i you can draw on other wisdom traditions to complement your practice – but there are more rules than in Subud and SGI. You have to be monogamous and to abstain from alcohol and drugs, as well as fast 19 days a year, among other obligations.
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Subud Centres, SGI Organizations & Baha’i Community
To get started with Subud, check out this source or Google for a local group or Subud centre. If Soka Gakkai appeals to you, find out if there’s an SGI organization in your country. If so, you can go to an informal meeting at other members’ homes or at a Nichiren Centre. Try the North America Directory or the European Directory – other directories are available on the SGI website. There are also some starter resources here. To find out more about the Baha’i way of life, see here. ‘Baha’u’llah and the New Era’ is a good introductory book to try. Talk to local Baha’is and ask the questions – and find out about local activities so you can get familiar with the Baha’i community. There are also study circles. If you decide to become a Baha’i, you have to write to your local Baha’i institution and declare your belief in the sacred teachings of Baha Ullah, accepting that he is the most recent of God’s messengers – and commit to following the Baha’i practices.
Putting Lightbulb Moments into Action: Sustainability, Non-Violence and Universal Unity
Subud was founded by Muhammad Subuh, known as Pak Subuh, who did not call Subud a new teaching or religion. Instead, he encouraged Subud members to practice a religion of their choice. In Subud, it’s all about surrendering – letting go into – the latihan, a state of being which we all can find: sensing the ‘sound of silence’ that is all around us – but usually drowned out by technology, worries and busy-ness. By practising latihan we can access our own inner wisdom and reach more of our potential – through direct personal experience. Subud members try to put their latihan lightbulb moments into practice, through humanitarian, educational and other projects.
Soka Gakkai (meaning ‘Society for the Study of Value’) followers study the Lotus Sutra because it’s thought to be the fullest expression of the Buddha’s teachings: that every human has the Buddha nature inside – the pure lotus flower (enlightened mind) growing in a muddy pond (life’s challenges) – and that this can be developed through practice. Like Subud members, SGI members don’t just sit around in bliss: they take part in environmental clean-ups,discussions about peace and non-violence, and public education on human rights and sustainability.
The Baha’i faith sees all of humanity as one family, and has a huge emphasis on getting rid of prejudice – racial, national, or economic. Baha’i’s reckon that our society’s economic problems are linked to spiritual problems, and encourages us all to find truth for ourselves. There is one God in the Baha’i system of belief, and all major religions represent God making himself known through different messengers, from Abraham to Krishna to Jesus – and Baha Ullah, the founder of Baha’i. Harmonious family life and education are hugely important in creating a peaceful world, according to Baha’i’s.
Inspirations and Rebellions: The Origins of Subud, SGI & Baha’i
Pak Subuh had a dramatic experience in the 1920’s when he found himself wrapped in bright white light, and later felt inspired to make particular movements similar to his Muslim praying routine, where he felt guided by God. After 1000 days of this, and a lot of insights, Pak Subuh was able to ‘transmit’ this state of ‘latihan’ to others around him, and this was how Subud began to spread. Subud now has about 10,000 members worldwide. The seeds of the Soka Gakkai movement were sown in 1930’s Japan with the struggles against mind-control of the Japanese military government, but SGI was officially founded in 1975. Baha’i owes its origins to mid-19th-Century Iranian Mirza Husayn Ali, known as ‘Baha Ullah’, who followers see as the latest in the line of God’s Messengers. His son, Abdul-Baha, helped the Baha’i faith spread to other continents. The Baha’i community is unlike other religions and movements in that it has a unified network of councils and does not have any schisms. There are now over 5 million Bahais in the world.
How will this help you to transform your problems and pain?
If you’re ready to change the world as well as yourself, Subud, Soka Gakkai and Bahai offer ways to connect with your mission of transformation and experience more peace and joy in your life.
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