Historical Subud Enterprises

PT S.WIDJOJO – A Brief History — Rashad Pollard

Bapak talked a great deal about the need to engage in charitable activities from the earliest days of Subud. In order to implement these activities it was agreed, for example, at the first Subud World Congress, held in London in 1959, that ….”.Our International Committee was responsible for establishing charitable activities such as schools and hospitals, raising the funding for them, and administering their foundation ‘until such time as they became self-supporting’.


Subsequently Bapak expanded this remit and stressed the need to establish enterprises to support this work in many of his talks, and in his autobiography. Here are just a few extracts:

Bapak’s Autobiography – Page 67: “Ever since the second International Congress in New York, I have explained the purpose and necessity for all of you Subud brothers and sisters to carry out enterprises in Subud. It is vital to concern ourselves with this because it has an extremely important connection with our aspirations to carry out social work, for example to build schools, orphanages, handicapped children’s homes, old people’s homes, hospitals, and so on.”

Bapak in Cape Town, 1972: “The enterprises that Bapak suggests to you are enterprises of all the Subud members. They are not the enterprises of individuals, because it is no longer appropriate for us to pursue profit just for ourselves alone but, so far as possible, we should do something together, with other partners, other members, so that eventually we also share in harvesting and tasting the fruits of what we do together.“

Bapak in Washington DC 1972: “As to the enterprises that Bapak proposes, these are not enterprises to be run on your own, so that, for instance, A runs an enterprise on his own, B runs an enterprise on his own, C runs an enterprise on his own and so does D. You should not do it that way. You need to run enterprises jointly and to build up substantial concerns. That means enterprises that really are enterprises, like a P.T., a Perusahaan Terbatas ( Limited Company ).”

In order to strengthen this Bapak proposed establishing Subud International Services (SIS) at the 1963 World Congress and, later in 1972, a Subud Technical Specialists register. These became the first steps in the creation of Subud Enterprise Services (SES). In this way we would have a forum to bring together Subud experts who could implement these large scale enterprise projects.

Bapak also suggested, at the 1971 World Congress that we should establish a Subud World Bank to help support the development of these enterprises. Subsequently, in the early 1970s Bapak proposed that we build an office building in Jakarta as a working example of what Bapak had meant by the “corporate” or “collective” limited company structure that we could employ to establish these large-scale enterprises.

The initial funding to start the S.Widjojo building project in Jakarta came from the Subud World Bank (BSB), in the form of a pre-purchase of space for the Bank in the eventual building. This money, $550,000, was used to purchase the land. Initial construction funds came from loans from BSB and investments from Bapak, his family and other members.

When I joined the Company in 1976 as marketing manager (having worked part time for a few years), the basement and the frame for the first three floors had been completed but work was proceeding extremely slowly owing to a lack of funds. At that time Bapak met the staff at S.Widjojo and talked about the purpose of the project and the attitude we needed to have in facing these uncertainties and delays. This talk is attached to this report.

Seeing these delays, the World Subud Council, at a meeting in England1976, pledged to support the project. At the end of 1976 Saodah Matsuda from Japan, who was the Asian/ Australian zone counselor, met Bapak, with Sharif. Bapak suggested that we should establish a target for future investments from the worldwide membership. $6 million was agreed, or just less than half the total funds then estimated to complete the building. WSA and ISC then set up a worldwide fundraising network. It was understood that the building could be completed by 1978 if the funds came in quickly enough.

This resulted in a slow but steady flow of investments, and as funds came in so construction slowly proceeded.

The building was finally completed at the end of 1980 with the last tenants moving in early in 1981.

At that time the membership had invested $5,929,418 (since 1976) from the target of $6 million. This was a considerable achievement. The total investments from Bapak, his family and the membership, since the start of the project, was about $7.7 million. The balance of the funds came from loans from BSB, the sale of company assets (mostly land held by Bapak and his family), and other bank loans secured by lease contracts. The building itself had been built within original estimates. We managed to find tenants to occupy the whole building as space was completed. Rental income had come out higher than anticipated. However, the total cost of the project had increased by more than $2 million owing to the delay in completion.

Subud investors received a share of the total rental income (rather than corporate profits) and the income from 4,446 square meters of rented space (out of 10,000 square meters of total space) began to be sent back to investors in 1981. This totaled about $800,000 a year of which 25% or $200,000 was contributed to ISC and SBIF.

At this point Bapak suggested that we sell the building and build a hotel.

A great deal of effort was made to meet this objective but it was quickly found out that it was far more profitable for investors in Indonesia to build a new building rather than buy a fully leased one, and no market seemed to exist to accomplish this sale. The Four Seasons Hotel Group from Canada came in to support the hotel development. They introduced us to a Singapore Group that was willing to invest in it.

 S.Widjojo went ahead and purchased an excellent site for the project for about $8 million through a bank loan. However the Singapore investors happened to arrive in Jakarta in the middle of a serious riot aimed at Chinese businesses. They therefore pulled out of the project. I left S.Widjojo in 1984.


Im absolutely convinced

Subsequently I understand that S.Widjojo could not meet its obligations on the debt that it had (to BSB and other banks, including the hotel land loan). This issue was putting significant stress on BSB. A decision was made to either sell the S.Widjojo building along with the hotel land or to sell BSB. In the end a good offer was received to purchase both BSB and the hotel land. In this way, BSB was sold and S.Widjojo retained. However the company had to stop sending rental income to its Subud investors as it could not otherwise repay the debts that it still had.

Subsequently S.Widjojo decided to develop a second office building on additional land that it would purchase behind the original building. The details of this transaction are not clear to me but I understand that the company borrowed about $8 million from a domestic bank to procure the land needed for this new office project. However, the development proceeded slowly and, as a result, the company fell behind in its repayments of this loan and the bank threatened to foreclose on the company. Several Subud members came to the rescue, renegotiated the loan agreement and repaid it, and saved the company. However, at the same time, Indonesia (along with the rest of Asia) went through difficult economic times and office rents fell dramatically. These new investors therefore decided to sell the building. A majority of the shareholders agreed, and this sale was completed in 2008.

This, then, is a brief history of the rise and demise of S.Widjojo (and BSB), and I hope that it is a fair and accurate one.

We can say that with the demise of our World Bank and S.Widjojo, along with Anugraha and the lack of expected progress with the Kalimantan mining venture, there has been significant discussion about what our attitude should be towards these failures. Should we abandon all pretexts at being able to accomplish the tasks that Bapak urged us to undertake? Should we accept that we are just not yet ready and capable to meet this challenge but might try again sometime in the future? Or should we seek other approaches altogether?

I do not have any answers to these questions because it is not up to my own opinion but to the opinion of our collective Association. However, it does suggest that we do need to come to a clear and unified conclusion about what we have learned, or not learned, from our experiences so far. We could start by coming to some form of mutual understanding and agreement about the importance and meaning behind Bapak’s urging us to do these things and for what purpose. If we can reach some clarity of understanding about this meaning and purpose then our collective Subud Association, and its Wing organizations, can proceed to develop clearer policies and guidelines to put that agreed purpose into practice in appropriate ways.

ANNEX Attached — June 2009


Im absolutely convinced

AS you all know, I’ve been for many years involved in an interplay between relating and dealing with Subud members all over the world in terms of fund-raising, and dealing with Bapak on the same question. That is, I’ve seen enterprises grow under Bapak’s guidance in Jakarta and also have been involved in raising funds from Subud members all over the world. And some very clear impressions have crystallized in me from this experience which I would like to share with you.

I’m convinced, I’m utterly convinced from my experience in Subud doing this work that money is not a material thing that you can count and is limited by a number attached to a bank account or something like that. I’m absolutely convinced that money is a state of mind.

Whether we are rich or poor — and I’m talking about rich or poor in this world, not about wealth in heaven — does not depend on the current state of our bank account but on our attitude to our money and to what is going on around us in the world.

What I am trying to say is something like this (actually, it’s something I once heard from Bapak but I’m paraphrasing it): when Henry Ford was banging about in his garage trying to make a prototype Model T Ford and was completely unknown and had no money, he was already a very wealthy man because of what he was doing, because of his attitude and because of the inspiration that he had, even though he had nothing in the bank.

This relates to what Bapak has always told us, that the human will is a tool given to us for changing the world. In other words, God did not create us in this world to be passive and just accept things as they are, but He gave us a will which is a reflection of Himself. In other words, that with our human will we are like God in that we have authority over the lower forces — that is, within the limits of this world — for changing things to what we want, for changing a situation.

Similarly, Bapak once said when someone asked him “Where should I go to live?’ : ‘Well, actually, your right place to live is in Australia. But in reality it doesn’t matter where you live, because if I send you to the right place and you just sit on your behind and don’t do anything, then it will become the wrong place and you will never get anywhere. But if you are in the wrong place and you decide that you are going to make it into the right place, then it will be the right place wherever it is.’

So this comes back to what I believe is the key to fund-raising for enterprises — the key is the attitude of the members, which means – the attitude of each one of us. That is the key to raising $74 million, or $75 million, or $750 million or $7 billion. Actually, we can raise whatever we want — it’s just a matter of decision, of understanding why we are doing it and then deciding that that is what we want todo.

When we were having the meeting last night, or the night before, Rashad Pollard, who has been dealing with a lot of correspondence with our investors in S. Widjojo, related a number of stories which, actually, are very vivid in my own mind, too: letters we received from people, people who had no money at all — I’m talking now about the kind of people who earn a wage every month and then spend it on staying alive — people who wrote to us and said :

‘Look, early on in the §. Widjojo Project I decided that I wanted to invest $1,000 (or whatever it was) but I didn’t have the money. So I prayed to God to show me the way that I could invest $1,000 in S. Widjojo. And a week later I got $1,000 in the post because I won a lottery or my uncle died (or any of the myriad things that happen to us every day). And when I sent the money to S. Widjojo I then got more money from other sources.’

This kind of letter in exactly these terms — Lm not exaggerating; maybe I’m not conveying it with the-melodrama that was hat money is a state of mind conveyed at the beginning — we had not once but (I don’t know) ten times we had this kind of story.

Of course, not many people write these sort of things down, so for every ten who wrote to us there must have been a hundred more who experienced it without conveying it.

So — this is what I’m trying to say : the attitude is the key.

Do we really understand what Bapak means by enterprises?

If we do, then I think we will have no problem in achieving what Bapak sees as the future development of Subud in this world.

Now, that comes back to this point that Lienhard has just read out. It is the responsibility of the Councillors (Organisasi and Kejiwaan), the Helpers, the Committees of every level, from the group up, to convey this reality to the members, that enterprise is the shariat of Subud, enterprise is the outer observance. If you were to compare Subud with a religion, then enterprise is our religious observance. It is putting into practice in this world what we have received in the latihan.

Now, this carries a converse message, I believe. And that is that, conversely, those who are doing Subud enterprises — and I am talking now about the big enterprises and not the people who are doing one-man enterprises, but the kind of enterprises that go out to the brotherhood for support, whether locally or internationally — it puts a responsibility on the people doing this to put, in fact, the Subud ideals into practice. In other words, that they in their work should do the uttermost of what they are capable.

This brings me back to a conversation I had at the beginning of this Congress with Hardwin Tibbs about the International Bank. He said : ‘We all have this big problem of the conflict between doing enterprises in a Subud way and being professional.’

By a Subud way he meant that we set ourselves deadlines and we don’t keep them; we don’t want to create a bad feeling, so we don’t tick each other off if we don’t meet our commitments; that we are too easy on each other, we don’t demand performance from each other, so that things tend to slide; people don’t keep their promises, and so on.

My answer to him was : my belief is that the ultimate professional is Almighty God. So if we are trying to express our receiving, our guidance of God in our everyday life through doing enterprises, then we should be more professional than other people. Because we owe it to God. We are doing it for God, not for our own self-promotion.

So, I believe that conversely with a growing awareness of what supporting enterprises means among the membership, those working in enterprises must try to do better. And by trying to do better I mean also being more accountable to the members who invest, packaging their investments better, more in line with members’ needs — in other words, adjusting. People need all kinds of opportunities for investment. Investment is there to make us wealthier, not to make us poorer. But the type of investment people need is different — some people have a lot of money and want to risk it on something that can return a big profit. Some people need income every day to live on. We have to package our investment better, more professionally. Financial supervision of projects should be better and information flow to investors should be better and more comprehensible to the man in the street, the layment who are not financial experts and so on.

All that is the other side of the coin to the growing awareness of enterprises among those who are doing enterprises in parallel with those who are only supporting them by investments and so on.

That is all I can say at the moment…