History of Aum Shinrikyo
Aum Shinrikyo was a religious group, once classified as a religion by the Japanese government (Pangi), that existed as Aum Shinrikyo from 1987 to 2000 (Japan). In 2000 the group rebranded itself as Aleph, and in 2007 some of it's members split off to form a new group known as Hakari no Wa (Reader). Aum's religious beliefs include aspects of Hinduism/Buddhism such as yoga-like cleansing rituals, as well as the concept of karma and many other Buddhist/Hindu concepts (Reader). Aum's beliefs include a Judeo/Christan-like hell and Armageddon (Reader), as well as a belief in Nostradamus's prophetical writings (Global). Aum's belief structure is highly centered around the supreme leader Shoko Asahara as the enlightened one, and his claimed abilities to levitate and see into the future (Daly).
Aum Shinrikyo's guru Shoko Asahara was born Born Chinzou Matsumoto in 1955. In 1984 Asahara started a yoga studio and publishing house out of his home named Aum Shinsen-no Kai. In 1987 the yoga group he had formed was re-named Aum Shinrikyo and in 1989 gained the official status of religious corporation. Aum's core belief was that its members could attain salvation after Armageddon through the teachings of Asahara. (FAS) Aum believed there is an eminent war between good and evil, and killing those who stand in the way of the supreme truth is justified, and that this supreme truth was possessed solely by Shoko Asahara (Reader).
At its height Aum Shinrikyo had over 10,000 members and held a net worth of over $2 billion (Jenkins). Starting in 1989, anti-Aum groups comprised mainly of family members or ex-Aum members started forming (Global). In 1990 Asahara and 24 other Aum members ran for office in the Japanese Diet and were embarrassingly defeated - this marks the point at which Aum became more radical (Global). Due to a combination of limited Japanese government intelligence gathering, and protection of religious organizations under the law, Aum Shinrikyo was able to gather large sums of chemical and biological agents in secret (Pangi). *Aum at one point attempted to acquire a Russian nuclear warhead (Daly).
Throughout the early 1990's Aum Shinrikyo 'test' a number of different chemical or biological agents in small scale attacks mainly against individual non-random targets who were perceived as enemies to the organization. In 1992 Aum failed to obtain and cultivate a sample of Ebola. From as early as 1990, many attempts to grow and release botulism failed. They also failed many times to grow and release anthrax. In 1994 Aum filled a reporter's apartment with phosgene gas, nearly killing her. Up to 20 of Aum's own dissidents were killed with VX in 1994. VX was used in many Aum assassination attempts, the most common delivery method being a syringe. By far the most successful and widely used agent wielded by Aum Shinrikyo was sarin. The first known use of sarin by Aum was in late 1993, and culminated in deadly attacks: first on the village of Matsumoto in 1994, where 7 were killed and hundreds wounded, then in the infamous 1995 subway station in Tokyo, that resulted in 12 people killed and over 1400 injured (Chonology).
In 1996 after the arrest and imprisonment of Aum Shinrikyo's top members the group lost it's status as a religion (Global).
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