Essay on Aum Shinrikyo s lesson to Japan

Submitted By Alvine-Amelia
Words: 5231
Pages: 21

On the morning of March 20, 1995, the notorious cult Aum Shinrikyo (now called Aleph) released sarin, a deadly nerve gas in five trains of Tokyo's subway system. According to the world Health Organization "Sarin is 26 times more deadly than cyanide gas. Just a pinprick-sized drop will kill a human being" (World Health organization). That sarin attack by Aum Shinrikyo killed thirteen people, harmed fifty-four and affected many more. In reality, what Aum really succeeded in doing was destroying the mindset and the safety of an entire nation. Aum Shinrikyo or Aum Supreme Truth was founded in 1986 by Shoko Asahara (His given name was Chizou Matsumoto) a man who believed that only devout followers of Asahara (or guru) would be saved from the upcoming Armageddon (Frentiu). The cult originated with a syncretic mix of Buddhist, Christian and Hindu teachings and followed a pacifistic ideology adopted from its three religions. But as the cult, developed, the cult radicalized and developed many anti-sematic views (Aleph). Asahara began to recruit young members from all segments of society. He attracted many members, but his closest and most cherished were young and had high levels of education and wealth (Aum). In addition to its demographic growth, Aum also grew wealthy. By the time they partook in the sarin attack, Aum Shinrikyo had assets estimated at one billion dollars. There were many causes to Aum Shinrikyo's sarin attack in 1995 but the main cause of this attack was the Japanese government's lenient attitude towards religion and public safety; this was accompanied by the cult's ambitious economic pursuits and their fastidious recruitment of wealthy adolescents. Analyzing Aum Shinrikyo's actions might help other dangerous religious organizations on the rise; like the Chinese cult Eastern Lightning.
Dating back to the Tokugawa regime, during the Meiji government, the Japanese government was very strict when it came to state religion. It was not until long after WWII that the government opened up to other religious organizations. Under the revised Public Security Preservation Law of 1941, the state could (and did) destroy any religious group preaching anything that varied from emperor worship (Sumimoto). Following WWII, the Allied powers help sever the ties between the church and state; displacing Shinto as the state religion and assuring religious freedom to all. From this time on, Japan became extremely lenient or blind to religious groups; and often gave them tax breaks and defacto immunity. Under the umbrella of Japanese law, Aum was able to exploit the laws regarding their religious freedom and was left untouched by the authorities. The government even turned a blind eye to Aum when they violated multiple aspects of their constitution. The way Aum functioned was harsh. Asahara adopted a practice from Zen Buddhism that focused on draining bad karma from practitioners. According to the practice, expelling bad karma from the body sometimes required physical force. Many members often wanted to opt out of Asahara's cleansing rituals and the cult itself; but when they tried to leave, they were either detained or killed. Article 20 of the Japanese constitution states "No person shall be compelled to take part in any religious acts, celebration, rite or practice"(Japanese constitution Article 20). A law Aum chose to disregard because they knew how to bypass the authorities. Which is ironic because the entire reason the government turned a blind eye to Aum was because they wanted to ensure religious equality. However, the greater disservice done to the Japanese's people was the ambiguous nature of their laws. Although the deadly nerve gas sarin is illegal in many countries, before April of 1995, the manufacturing of any deadly gas was legal in Japan. In fact, the Japanese government was aware of some toxin being released in the air (Olson). Many people reported foul smells, brown steam, animal deaths