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Shoko Asahara

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Shoko Asahara

Born Chizuo Matsumoto

March 2, 1955 (age 62)

Yatsushiro, Kumamoto, Japan

Occupation Religious leader, founder of Aum Shinrikyo

Criminal charge Murder, terrorism

Criminal penalty Death by hanging

Criminal status Incarcerated, awaiting execution

Spouse(s) Tomoko

Children 1215[1]

Shoko Asahara ( Asahara Shk, born March 2, 1955 as Chizuo Matsumoto (

Matsumoto Chizuo)) is the founder of the Japanese doomsday cult group Aum
Shinrikyo. Asahara was convicted for being the mastermind behind the 1995 sarin gas
attack on the Tokyo subway and several other crimes, for which he was sentenced to
death in 2004. In June 2012, his execution was postponed due to further arrests of Aum
Shinrikyo members.[2]


1Early years
2Aum Shinrikyo
3Tokyo subway gas attack, and arrest
4Accusations and trial
5See also
6Further reading
8External links

Early years[edit]
Asahara was born into a large, poor family of tatami mat makers in Japan's Kumamoto
Prefecture.[3] Afflicted at birth with infantile glaucoma, he lost all sight in his left eye and
went partially blind in his right eye at a young age, and was thus enrolled in a school for the
blind.[3]Asahara graduated in 1977 and turned to the study of acupuncture and traditional
Chinese medicine, which were common careers for the blind in Japan.[4] He married the
following year and eventually fathered 12 children, the oldest of whom was born in
1978.[5] However, Asahara's fourth daughter insists that he has 15 children.[1] In 2015, two of
his daughters apologized to victims of the sarin gas attacks.[6][7][8]
In 1981, Asahara was convicted of practicing pharmacy without a license and selling
unregulated drugs, for which he was fined 200,000 (US$1838.36).[9]
Asahara's interest in religion reportedly started at this time. Having been recently married,
he worked to support his large and growing family.[10] He dedicated his free time to the
study of various religious concepts, starting with Chinese astrology and Taoism.[11] Later,
Asahara practiced western esotericism, yoga, meditation, esoteric Buddhism, and esoteric

Aum Shinrikyo[edit]
In 1987, Shoko Asahara officially changed his name from Chizuo Matsumoto and applied
for government registration of the group Aum Shinrikyo. The authorities were initially
reluctant, but eventually granted it legal recognition as a religious organization after an
appeal in 1989. After this, a monastic order was established, and many lay followers joined.
Shoko Asahara gained credibility by appearing on TV and on magazine covers. He
gradually attained a following of believers and began being invited to lecture at universities.
Asahara has also written many religious books, the best known being Beyond Life and
Death, Mahayana Sutra, and Initiation. There also exists an anime that portrays Asahara
and his cult in a protagonistic light.
The doctrine of Aum Shinrikyo is based on the Vajrayana scriptures, the Bible, and other
texts. In 1992 Asahara published a foundational book,[clarification needed] and declared himself
"Christ",[12] Japan's only fully enlightened master, and identified with the "Lamb of
God".[13] His purported mission was to take others' sins upon himself, and he claimed he
could transfer spiritual power to his followers.[14] He also saw dark conspiracies everywhere,
promulgated by the Jews, the Freemasons, the Dutch,[not in citation given] the British Royal Family,
and rival Japanese religions.[15] He outlined a doomsday prophecy, which included a third
World War, and described a final conflict culminating in a nuclear "Armageddon", borrowing
the term from the Book of Revelation 16:16.[16][page needed]
Asahara often preached the necessity of Armageddon for "human relief". He eventually
declared, "Put tantra Vajrayana into practice in accordance with the doctrines
of Mahamudra," and he led a series of terrorist attacks using a secret organization hidden
from ordinary believers.[17] Aum Shinrikyo's violence against large numbers of nonspecific
people is cited by those who have studied Vajrayana and Mahamudra as proof that
Asahara did not understand them.[citation needed] Some people, including lawyers and journalists,
saw through the religious fanaticism of Aum Shinrikyo. They continued speaking out about
the danger of Aum Shinrikyo in spite of the danger to their own lives, but received little
There were believers among the Japanese police force that had been secretly updating
Aum Shinrikyo with details concerning investigations. The media not only helped increase
the number of Aum believers, but in one case mistakenly helped Aum Shinrikyo commit an
act of homicide (the Sakamoto family murder). In addition, several well-known
religious scholars and philosophers praised Aum Shinrikyo as an authentic religion;[18] some
scholars even insisted that Tokyo subway sarin attack was not Aum's crime.[clarification needed] As
a result, many crimes perpetrated by the cult were not properly investigated.