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A cult established in 1987 by Shoko Asahara, the Aum aimed to take over Japan, then the world. Aum is a sanskrit word meaning "powers of destruction and creation in the universe," and Shinrikyo means "teaching of the supreme truth".
Approved as a religious entity in 1989 under Japanese law, the group ran candidates in a Japanese parliamentary election in 1990. Over time the cult began to emphasize the imminence of the end of the world and stated that the United States would initiate Armageddon by starting World War III with Japan. Following the Tokyo subway attack (see below), the Japanese Government revoked its recognition of the Aum as a religious organization in October 1995, but in 1997 a government panel decided not to invoke the Anti-Subversive Law against the group, which would have outlawed the cult. In 2000, Fumihiro Joyu[?] took control of the Aum following his three-year jail sentence for perjury. Joyu was previously the group's spokesman and Russia Branch leader. Under Joyu's leadership the Aum changed its name to Aleph and claims to have rejected the violent and apocalyptic teachings of its founder.
On March 20, 1995, Aum members simultaneously released the chemical nerve agent sarin on several Tokyo subway trains, killing 12 persons and injuring up to 6,000. (Recent studies put the number of persons who suffered actual physical injuries closer to 1,300, with the rest suffering from some form of psychological trauma.) The group was responsible for other mysterious chemical accidents in Japan in 1994. Its efforts to conduct attacks using biological agents have been unsuccessful. Japanese police arrested Asahara in May 1995, and he remained on trial, facing 17 counts of murder at the end of 2000. Since 1997 the cult continued to recruit new members, engage in commercial enterprise, and acquire property, although the cult scaled back these activities significantly in 2000 in response to public outcry. The cult maintains an Internet homepage.
Aum members were responsible for the abduction, murder and disappearance of a lawyer, his wife and their infant daughter.
Aum also sold quack medicines and subjected people to dangerous treatments in their clinics, resulting in deaths. It also required members to pay large sums of money for special books and videos. Renunciates had to sign over all of their possessions to Aum.
The Aum's current membership is estimated at 1,500 to 2,000 persons. At the time of the Tokyo subway attack, the group claimed to have 9,000 members in Japan and up to 40,000 worldwide.
The Aum's principal membership is located only in Japan, but a residual branch comprising an unknown number of followers has surfaced in Russia.
Asahara preached a mixture of pseudoscience, Nostradamus, esoteric Buddhism and millennarian Christianity, claiming that modern Japanese society was corrupt, nuclear holocaust was imminent and that Aum would save and/or recreate the world through magic powers and science.
An important part of Aum's doctrine was the controversial Buddhist idea of poa, that under certain circumstances murder could spiritually elevate both the victim and the killer. This belief was a key rationalization for the numerous murders committed by Aum members, of people inside and outside the organization.
See also: Terrorist organisations in Asia
1. Terrorist Group Profiles, Dudley Knox Library, Naval Postgraduate School
Unification Church is Korean cult founded and led by Sun Myung Moon who, claiming that Jesus failed, has declared himself the title "Messiah." Co-founder of Aum Hayakawa Kiyohide was sent by Unification Church. He brought methods of mind control and millions of dollers and at least 12 Unification Church members to Aum.