ENTERPRISE…Leonard van Hien outlines a vision


Leonard van Hien continues his critique of aspects of the Subud organization and presents a vision to rejuvenate enterprises in Subud… 

I haven’t attended World Subud Council Meetings for a very long time. In fact not since the one held at Escorial near Madrid which was chaired by the late Varindra Vittachi. We stayed in a convent. I recall some of the nuns slipping secretly into an upstairs gallery in order to listen to Ibu Rahayu’s talk, probably not understanding very much yet enthralled by her voice and her aura.

An overall impression is that the greatest success stories in Subud these days occur at local level especially the efforts to establish group premises where members can do latihan.

Meanwhile the WSA appears to be frittering away Subud’s international reserves. It might be better to treat those reserves as endowments considering that they were derived mainly from the proceeds of sale of Bank Susila Bakti and PT S Widjojo.

Since then, contributions to WSA from enterprises have dwindled to almost nothing. I don’t see this as an unwelcome development in the short term, if it encourages members of the World Subud Council to reform WSA from within. WSA has been running chronic deficits ever since the Christchurch world congress. WSA honorariums need to be thoroughly reviewed.

Not enough is being done on high priority matters that WSA was asked to address. Too much time and effort is being spent on things that WSA was not asked to do or that are low priority. At the current rate of burn there seems to be a real prospect that WSA will have depleted its own limited financial reserves by the time of the next world congress.

Included among various potential solutions to this inconvenient state of affairs are to:

  • cut WSA spending
  • boost WSA’s income through fundraising
  • call on the Muhammad Subuh Foundation to subsidize WSA

I am in favor of an independent mid-term performance review of the WSA Executive to evaluate its progress on world congress resolutions (such as those related to Archives, improved governance, international centers, consolidated financial reporting and so forth). Perhaps such a review will conclude that the WSA Executive team needs to be changed or strengthened.

Some things are going better than others. One arm of WSA that comes across as being both task-oriented and cost-conscious is Subud Enterprise Services International (“SESI”). SESI has recently set up a website www.subudenterprise.com and has taken an initiative in exploring the establishment of an enterprise to support Subud endeavors in Kalimantan. We have yet to see how that develops. At least one can see a bona fide effort to get something moving.

SESI’s role is mainly to provide a supporting environment for Subud enterprises, rather than to set up enterprises itself. It can do this by developing a network of experts. That is easier said than done. SESI has this important task on its agenda.

In the forty years since Bapak Subuh set up Bank Susila Bakti and PT S Widjojo in 1971, much has changed in the world and in Subud. To state some of the most obvious changes: Bapak is no longer with us, the bank and the building have been sold, only one widely held enterprise remains (Kalimantan Gold Corporation, a speculative work in progress in which non-Subud interests might soon take control), whilst the worldwide membership of Subud has at best remained static or more likely it has shrunk.

There are several, albeit not enough, enterprises owned and successfully run by Subud members. Stand outs are the businesses founded and run by Isaac Goff and Marcus Hoff-Berg. Maarten Giel’s and Samuel Simonsson’s businesses were success stories in times gone by, as was Connelly Temple. These are the ones that usually come to my mind although there must be others flying under the international radar that make significant contributions quietly and locally rather than internationally. I can think of at least a couple of examples here in Indonesia.

Mainly what are needed to get enterprises going are encouragement, inspiration and motivation.

When Bapak set up the Subud Bank, so many countries still imposed exchange controls. These days the movement of financial capital across frontiers is much easier. However, banking regulations everywhere have become more rigorous and rightly so. Occasionally initiatives emerge to find a path back to a Subud World Bank. In 1971 there was a specific and pressing need for such a bank. The construction of the S Widjojo Center would have been so much harder to accomplish had the bank not been set up. Bapak’s vision was, of course, much broader than that. However, the regulatory environment and the small capital that could be mustered at that time placed some very real constraints on the scope of its activities. Things have not gotten any easier in that respect.

Given that the worldwide membership of Subud is probably no more than 15,000, of which relatively few are business minded and that the only real shared experience is the latihan kejiwaan, two threshold questions that SESI will probably have to address are:

  • what is it that Subud business-minded members actually wish to do together at this point in time?
  • does that require a Subud Bank?

What sort of bank is needed? Should one begin with development banking? Or micro credits? Is community banking the preferred direction in developed economies? Is virtual unlicensed banking a step too far? Clearly different countries and communities have their own needs.

Is there sufficient unity of purpose within Subud to justify setting up one “world” bank?

Two types of Subud member of whom I am particularly wary are those who are prone to “bashing” the establishment and amateurs who come up with half-thought-through ideas and then expect professionals to do the heavy lifting.

I have been privileged and fortunate over many years, as must others in Subud, in having met so many people from different walks of life – businessmen, politicians, religious leaders, academics, artists and musicians, diplomats, bureaucrats, technocrats, environmentalists – who, with only very rare exceptions, have an as caring, socially conscious and intelligent an approach to their work as anyone I have ever listened to in Subud in these fields.

For example, I was astonished to discover, when I met him, that the immediate past world chairman of one of the largest global banks was concurrently an ordained priest and had written a book “Serving God, Serving Mammon”.

If Subud is to make a positive influence, we will have to learn to work with not against the establishment and vested interests, whatever their shortcomings may be. Too often one senses that the problem is not “with them” but more likely “with us”. What is it that we in Subud can offer that isn’t already available in the marketplace?

There are some outstanding experts in Subud. For various reasons most of them will not come forward unless encouraged and approached personally.

Part of the motivation will have to come from the World Subud Association. Its Executive needs to provide a better example on governance and needs to improve the manner in which Subud’s international affairs are currently being run. Helpers can play an important leadership role.

More needs to be done to motivate talented members to come forward and to register themselves with SESI.


LvH   Pamulang, Indonesia, 27 September 2011



” I was delighted to read your article dated 5th September 2011 in Subud Voice.  I very much agree with your second to last paragraph. This is certainly my view.”

” I also agree with you with regard to small inexperienced investors – and would add that having investments of this kind is a nightmare to manage, and if priced realistically, is exceedingly expensive. ”

” Incidentally, when the bank was established, Bapak said that the senior persons involved – directors and so on – should receive a lower than average remuneration, while the lowest paid workers should receive more than the average.”

“Thank you for your article.  I read it on the SESI website.  It is good to have a clear-eyed, well-informed ‘watcher’ like you around.”