Apologetics Research Resources on Religious Cults, Sects, Religions, Doctrines, Etc.

Aum Shinrikyo

Aum Supreme Truth; Aum Shinri Kyo; Aleph

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In This Entry

» Making Armageddon Happen
» What Is Aum Shinrikyo?
» A History of Violence
» How Aum Justified Violence
» Life Inside The Cult
» Ideological Totalism
» Violations and Violence
» Cult Apologists Defend Aum
» Aum Loses Legal Status
» Aum Now Aleph
» Changes And Promises
» Aum Under Surveillance
» Society Rejects Aum
» Aum-Related Crimes
» Aum Continues
» Aum: Terrorist Organization
» Rethinking The Lessons Of Tokyo

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About This Entry

This entry provides a brief look at Aum Shinrikyo. For indepth information we refer you to our collection of research resources.

About this page            Color Key
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Making Armageddon Happen

Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese religious movement currently operating under the name 'Aleph,' is best known for its March 20, 1995 terrorist attack on the Tokyo subway system.

On March 20, 1995, Aum Shinrikyo, a fanatical Japanese religious cult, released Sarin, a deadly nerve gas, on five subway trains during Tokyo's early-morning rush hour. A male cult member boarded each of the trains carrying two or three small plastic bags covered with newspapers and, at an agreed-upon time, removed the newspaper and punctured the bags with a sharpened umbrella tip. On the trains, in the stations where they stopped, at the station exits, people coughed, choked, experienced convulsions, and collapsed. Eleven were killed and up to five thousand injured.

Had Aum succeeded in producing a purer form of the gas, the deaths could have been in the thousands or hundreds of thousands. For sarin, produced originally by the Nazis, is among the most lethal of chemical weapons. Those releasing it on the trains understood themselves to be acting on behalf of their guru and his vast plan for human salvation.

Aum and its leader, Shoko Asahara, were possessed by visions of the end of the world that are probably as old as death itself. Asahara also held in common with many present-day Christian prophets of biblical world-ending events a belief that Armageddon would be connected to those most secular of "end-time" agents, nuclear warheads or chemical weapons of mass destruction.

But his cult went a step further. It undertook serious efforts to acquire and produce these weapons as part of a self assigned project of making Armageddon happen.
Source: Destroying the World to Save It, Robert Jay Lifton, Metropolitan Books, Hery Holt and Company, New York. 1999. Pages 3-4.

What is Aum Shinrikyo

Aum Shnrikyo is a religious sect founded by the 'Venerated Master,' Shoko Asahara (born Chizuo Matsumoto on March 2, 1955).

In 1984, the forerunner of Aum Shinrikyo, 'Aum Divine Wizard Association,' was established in Shibuya, Tokyo. Mr. Asahara is said to have attained final salvation in the Himalayas in 1986. In 1987, the samgha-system was introduced. In this, followers undergo religious training while living as a group. It was at this time that the headquarters of the group was transferred to Setagaya Ward, Tokyo.

In 1989, the sect was recognized by the City of Tokyo as a religious corporation, and in 1990, Mr. Asahara and a number of other top ranking officials of the sect announced their candidacies as Supreme Truth Party representatives for the House of Representatives. (None of them won.)

The group reveres Shiva as their chief god, and is involved in ancient yoga, primitive Buddhism and Mahayanist Buddhist teachings. The group's ultimate aim is to 'save all living things from transmigration.' The group is often referred to as a new Buddhist sect, but it also claims to be an original religion based on Hinduism and created by Mr. Asahara.

Mr. Asahara has prophesied that because of increasing evil the world is heading for a catastrophe at the end of the century. He says that in 1999 a nuclear war will erupt that will cause the end of the world. In order to prevent this, 30-thousand people must attain salvation, since only by spiritual awakening will holy energy be created to avert the coming crisis.

Based on the four main areas of doctrine, meditation, religious austerity, and initiation, there are three training systems called the yoga tantric course, siddhi course, and the bodha course. Through salvation and enlightenment ultimate happiness can be obtained. Followers aiming for salvation renounce the world and donate their personal wealth to the sect.

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About This Page:

• Subject: Aum Shinrikyo
• First posted: Sep. 1, 1996
• Last Updated: Mar. 12, 2005
• Editor: Anton and Janet Hein
• Copyright: Apologetics Index

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