Aum Shinrikyo, the dreadful Japanese cult, is accused of being the mastermind behind chemical attacks and kidnappings. Dr. Johannes Aagaard offers a portrait:
In the world of religion, there is a phenomenon which deserves greater attention, only it doesn't attract it: the issue of Satanism. Literally Satan means "the opposite" and Satanism is the opposite of ... well, of what? One must be able to answer this question. Otherwise one cannot describe Satanism. Satan in Christianity is the blaspheming of God though the worship of animals, people, power and money. In Islam, Satan is the temptation of polytheism. In Buddhism, Satan is connected with sex and violence. Satanism as a negation is therefore determined by the a ffirmation being denied.
Only in this way is it possible to understand why Aum Shinrikyo can be called Buddhism. The movement is a sort of Buddhistic Satanism and as such it is a contradiction of Buddhism.
The same situation applies when the founder of the movement, Shoko Asahara invokes Jesus in order to justify himself. In doing so, however, he also turns this into a contradiction. He uses Christianity which therefore in his version becomes anti-Christianity.
The name Aum Shinrikyo consists of aum which by the Hindus is considered to be life's key sound, a so-called seed mantra which is the basis of all other mantras, i.e. magic formulas. And Shinri-kyo means the highest teaching on truth. The name as such indicates Indian tantra which is the special version of Hinduism known as tantrism and which aims for power and energy.
In Japan and Russia, the police's searchlight is being focused on the movement. These are rooted in Japanese movements of an earlier period, and it wasn't until 1986 that it appeared as separate movement. There are offshoots of it to be found at least in New York, Bonn, and Sri Lanka. In Japan, in 1989, the first parents' association emerged as a result of their disciples being isolated and alienated from their families. The same year, the leader of this association, Mr Sakamoto, a solicitor, and his family were kidnapped. Since then, no one has seen them.
In Japan, Aum Shinrikyo has experienced a large following of not less than 10,000. In Russia and in the former Soviet Empire, however, the size of the movement has become even larger. In Russia, from 1992 until today, the movement has established a following of approx. 35,000 members. This is the result of massive use of television, newspapers, and large quantities of posters and handbills. In 1994, the movement became officially registered under the name of "The Teachings About the Truth AUM". Shoko Asahara's first contacts with 'the alternative world' were as an acupuncturist and as a purveyor of health tonics, but he especially developed as a yoga teacher and the religious dimension became a still more significant part of his activities. He travelIed to the Himalayas, the common name for the northern part of India, where he claims to have achieved his satori [final liberation; enlightenment]. He adopted a new name and gave his movement its final name, Aum Shinrikyo.
His career involved several conflicts with the authorities, but it wasn't until his movement's rise in Japan that it actually came into conflict with the local inhabitants.
Part of this was due to chemical experiments and tests apparently conducted by the movement causing obnoxious smells to its neighbours. Another part of the conflicts was due to a considerable number of accusations from ex-disciples recounting ghastly things that had happened inside the movement.
In all essentials, the accounts correspond to similar accounts coming from other tantric gurus' centres so there' s every reason to take these accounts extremely seriously.
Asahara and his immediate initiates have acted as tantric yogis who have administered shaktipat in a way which seems similar to the one used by Muktananda and his successor Chitvilasananda from Ganeshpuri north of Bombay. They represent a special kind of kashmiri-tantra which may also prove to be part of the foundation for Asahara.
To achieve these states of trance, they practise meditation and rapid-breathing. By hour-long intense breathing they cause convulsions, breakdowns and peculiar mental conditions. In doing so, they believe to arouse the kundalini-power. This comes in the shape of a serpent which is said to open the minds of the meditating persons to states of extraordinary consciousness. Similar phenomena are seen. Gurus are worshipped and their juices are drunk, i.e. their blood, their urine and sometimes even their semen. Of course, this is an ugly behaviour which, nonetheless, is a reality in the form of religious occultism. Now and then, it is connected with w hat is called sado-tantra which uses a variety of sadistic and also masochistic techniques on its disciples. Such manipulation is often linked to sexual relations between the guru and his disciples. This kind of behaviour is unpleasant to recount, and is why most reporters avoid such issues. This is, however, not a wise solution since it is an important ingredient of the movements, and it moulds their members and their community. Obviously, most Buddhists will see all this as straightforward satanism. It should be added, however, that in fact a variety of such activities are commonly accepted as part of Tantric-Buddhist groups.
As to the extent of Christian influence, this is quite significant. The fixation with Armageddon in The Book Of Revelations is interpreted in the style of Jehovah's Witnesses, though the only survivours are, of course, Asahara' s own adherents.
The religious centre of the whole movement is in fact Asahara himself who is merged into the Hindu god, Sh iva. It is with him that refuge is taken, not Buddha. The methods are the usual hatha yoga techniques interpreted in a tantric way.
One of Asahara' s books is called "I am the Messiah". The cover is a picture of Asahara crucified wearing a crown on his head. None of this represent, of course, any favourable attitude towards Jesus Christ. On the contrary, it is the most extreme form of blasphemy. In all of his conduct, Asahara presents himself both as anti-Buddha and as anti-Christ. Buddhists along with Christians necessarily have to see Asahara and his movement as demonic in nature and satanic in content.
It is not difficult to understand that religion can appear in a sick form and that sick religion can create sick people. Aum Shinrikyo is a textbook example of this. Religion is both the best of all - and the worst of all. Any societ y's first and foremost task is therefore to study religion. Otherwise religiously sick people will corrupt our societies. They will begin with our children and teenagers, and they will never let go until they have exerted their influence everywhere in society.
Translation by Torben Simonsen