A Transcendent Night at a Talk With Bapak , by Michael Cooke

Jun 21, 2024 | 10 comments

Above: Bapak in Germany, 1972. Photo courtesy Daniela Moneta, WSA Archivist

The occasion was a one night only talk from Bapak given in New York on May 9th, 1972, an evening before Bapak was to leave for Brazil to continue Bapak’s travel tour at that time.

A rarified night.

The event was downtown on New York’s lower east side. It was not by any means a regular venue for a Bapak talk. And of that the somewhat incongruous setting contributed to the event being all the more striking.

It took place in a former church at the corner of a block. The former church was situated at a diagonal with two classic heavy wooden church doors serving as the entrance to the sanctuary.

When you entered the church, what you beheld was a half moon shape setup that warmly welcomed and embraced the visitor. The physical authenticity of the church was a given, not only demonstrated by the architecture of the church’s classic pillars and arches, but of the feeling of the place. You could sense its history, which relievedly was free of any heaviness.

The “stage”, as it were, was raised two steps up, where the former lectern, pulpit, and altar would’ve been. The riser of the stage was bare but for one larger easy chair and another chair next to it. There was also a table with preset refreshments situated in front of the chairs with two standing microphones placed on either side of the table next to the chairs. Where traditional wooden benches would’ve been anchored, wooden fold-up chairs now took their place. The seats were spread about the church arbitrarily in uneven rows.

It was dark inside. There were no house lights overhead. The only dominant light source emanated from fill lights that blanketed and bounced a grey-bluish glow from the floor of the stage into the auditorium. The sole primary light source was one large beam fixed from above the proscenium, illuminating primarily the downstage area, near the lip of the stage where stood the two chairs, table and microphones.

As per usual when Bapak would give a talk, the talk was to begin at 8:00 PM. – Some minutes before 8:00 Bapak and party arrived. All in attendance stood up and went ultra quiet as Bapak and entourage entered. Bapak sat on the larger easy chair with Sharif taking the other chair. Then the attendees sat down again. And all murmurs of conversation went respectfully mute quiet.

Bapak's 14th World Journey at a talk given in New York City, 28 June 1981.

Bapak’s 14th World Journey at a talk given in New York City, 28 June 1981.

With Bapak’s arrival the atmosphere now became even more potent with quiet as we sat waiting in anticipation for Bapak to speak.

Minutes passed while we continued our soundless wait. Bapak and Sharif maintaining unwavering quiet and silence. The steady light above shown upon Bapak and Sharif like a portrait still-life timelessly suspended within a new world, like an endless stream of constant calm devoid of any ripple or whisper from anyone.

This subtlety of quiet and submission continued far beyond a good many past moments Subud members have experienced with Bapak just before Bapak would commence a talk.

The persistent silence was unrelenting: with every Subud member maintaining absolute stillness and quietude. Any expectation anyone might have had that Bapak would soon begin his talk might well have been interpreted as illusionary fantasy since Bapak uttered not a word to us at all. Growing deeper and deeper, the quiet passed into a ten minute time frame that became fifteen heading towards twenty minutes of perfect silence. The quiet and waiting were at the same time both blissful and excruciating.

Then by the unheard ticking of an invisible virtual clock which now went well past twenty minutes’ time, the aura shifted. Bapak, imperceptibly, ever so slightly, began to stir. The ocular witness of this happening is impossible to describe. An elusive sense of Bapak’s breathing in and out was indicated as the power of contact grew fuller, deeper. Bapak’s eyelids began to give way to a surrendered half-close. This sustained for quite some time before a motion began to happen. Bapak incrementally began to lean to the right armrest of the chair. And of that, Bapak slowly began to list. Bapak by degrees little by little eased more and more to the side. So much so that Bapak’s torso went so far to Bapak’s right side as to land leaning ever so slightly over the armrest of the chair. Holding this position for something like a lifetime, finally Bapak’s eyelids began to bit by bit widen and fully open. Then, whenever it took place, gradually and diligently Bapak slowly returned his torso from his right-leaning-list back into an upright lean and straightened into the center of the chair completely vertical. Additionally more time was was given to deep quiet. Then, eventually, at Bapak’s calling, Bapak slowly leaned forward towards the microphone and touched the microphone adjusting it, in Bapak’s inimitable way, and said words we just may’ve heard quite an appreciative number of times, “Saudara-Saudara Sekalian…” And Bapak talked to us.

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10 Comments

  1. Perfectly, delicately, related.

    Reply
  2. Dear Michael: I so appreciated your article above. Reading it brought me into the experience of that evening in an amazing way. Thank you so much for sharing this magical experience with me and us.

    Yours, Marilyn Schirk

    Reply
  3. Oh yes, this brings back the precious times when we could experience Bapak there in front of us, and the deep quiet which prepared us for the talk. Many thanks!
    I pray that we can find this always and not let ourselves be rushed before hearing a talk or before Latihan.

    Reply
  4. Thank you Michael, Amazing how you were able to convey that deep quiet with your words.

    Reply
  5. Thank you Michael, Amazing how you were able to convey that deep quiet with your words.

    Reply
    • Though I never experienced such a long prelude in a talk by Bapak, usually in Santa Monica, the extent of your detail just put me right there with him. Thank you so much!

      Reply
  6. Thank you Michael. I needed to read this this morning. You brought me right to the place I needed to be to start my day.

    Reply
  7. Beautiful. Thanks Michael. Reminded me of a small and strange thought I had once when starting to read one of his talks. I paused and thought back as it was when he would be sitting in front of us just as you describe. The hush the quiet waiting for the moment.
    My thought, being small like its thinker, was of all the talks I was fortunate to attend as well as times I was in his presence I never once saw Bapak yawn or make any gesture of fatigue. I keep that in mind when I sometimes find things overwhelming.

    Reply
  8. Nicely done Michael Cooke. Luminous details expertly relayed.

    Reply
  9. Yes!

    Reply

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