Aum Shinrikyo Archive

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Research resources: Apologetics Index entry on Aum Shinrikyo

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Captured cult member still worships Aum Shinrikyo guru

Katsuya Takahashi, the Aum Shinrikyo member who was arrested Friday in Tokyo after 17 years on the run, sits in his police cell in the lotus position and chants a cult mantra, according to investigative sources.

The The Yomiuri Shimbun says that

Takahashi, under arrest for his role in the cult’s deadly sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995, uses specific terms associated with the cult to answer investigators, including such remarks as “I was arrested because of karma,” according to police.

The word karma, meaning cosmic justice, was commonly used in the cult‘s religious training.

Takahashi sometimes performs a typical cult ritual called “ritsui reihai,” according to the sources. This practice of prayer, also employed by Tibetan Buddhists, involves a person throwing his body forward to the ground then resuming a standing position.

The Metropolitan Police Department is questioning Takahashi under the belief he still follows cult founder Chizuo Matsumoto, 57, a convict on death row. […]

Takahashi has not expressed any remorse toward the gas attack victims, according to the police.

Cult leader Chizuo Matsumoto is better known as Shoko Asahara.

Takahashi is suspected of transporting an Aum member to a railway station in the 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system that left 13 people dead and thousands sickened.

Kyodo says he has also been implicated in some of the cult’s other crimes, including murders, a kidnapping and a mail bomb attack.

The Asahi Shimbun says that when he was arrested Takahashi had more than 10 books published by the doomsday cult in his possession.

He also had cassette recordings of teachings by Aum guru Chizuo Matsumoto and photos of the bearded leader, who is one of 13 cultists on death row. […]

Aside from works published by the cult, his collection included about 15 other books dealing with religion.

“Initiation,” written by Matsumoto, 57, also known as Shoko Asahara, was part of the collection, Tokyo police said.

The Yomiuri Shimbun writes that Naoko Kikuchi, 40, another former Aum member arrested earlier this month, reportedly told police that Takahashi, 54, conducted cult rituals at his hideouts as late as around 2006.

The Mainichi quotes an unnamed investigator as saying, “”If we cannot undo Takahashi’s mind control, he will not help in uncovering the truth of the (AUM Shinrikyo) incidents.”

The paper also says

It has been learned that Takahashi reportedly told investigators, “The day before the sarin incident, at a hideout in Shibuya, I heard that Yoshihiro Inoue (currently on death-row) instruct those who were to carry it out, ‘Quickly spread the sarin.'” At the time, Inoue referred to sarin by code words like “wizard,” and Takahashi has said, “I didn’t know what the code words referred to. The liquid I was given was brown, so I thought that it wasn’t sarin.”

According to The Yomiuri Shimbun Takahasi

admitted driving the car to a subway station in central Tokyo on March 20, 1995, investigative sources with the Metropolitan Police Department said.

Although he saw “something containing brownish liquid” in the car, he had no idea the material was sarin, they cited Takahashi as saying.

At the time of the crime, Takahashi was a close aide to Yoshihiro Inoue, 42, chief of Aum’s self-styled “intelligence ministry.” Inoue is now on death row.

In spite of Takahashi’s statement, the MPD believes he was in a position to know the material was sarin prior to the subway gassing incident, the sources said.

Kyodo reports that the cult member was turned over to public prosecutors Sunday on charges of conspiring with the cult’s leader over the deadly 1995 Tokyo subway gas attack, police said.

Cult experts hope pending Aum Shinrikyo cult trial will raise awareness

When the Supreme Court in mid-December rejected an Aum Shinrikyo convict’s objection to the finalization of his death sentence, it almost closed the curtain on the cult responsible for the deadliest crimes in modern Japanese history, including the 1995 nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system.

But, says the Japan Times,

with the last gas attack fugitive, Katsuya Takahashi, in custody, the courts will inevitably revisit the atrocities committed by the cultists, whose spiritual pursuits under guru Shoko Asahara claimed 29 lives and left more than 6,500 people injured.

Aum’s critics say the trio of recently captured fugitives — Takahashi, 54, Makoto Hirata, 46, and Naoko Kikuchi, 40 — will not shed dramatic new light on the cult and its crimes because most of the pieces of the puzzle have already been put together via the trials of the other cultists.

But experts expressed hope that revisiting Aum’s mayhem will raise public awareness of the potential dangers of joining cults.

One of the leading experts in mind control, Dr. Robert J. Lifton addressed the issue of doomsday cults such as Aum Shinrikyo.

“We need to analyze why young people were attracted to that group, and how to prevent others from joining them. Otherwise, even if the Aum trials are over, new groups can emerge and attract young people and the same things can be repeated,” said Yoshifu Arita, a Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker who closely followed the Aum trials as a freelance journalist. […]

In the meantime, authorities may have to postpone the hangings of the condemned cultists because they could be needed as witnesses in the trials of the trio. Legal analysts say the pretrial process for determining the points of argument could take months or even years. […]

Aum splintered and changed its name to Aleph in 2000 but continues to operate under Asahara’s teachings. A report by the Public Safety Intelligence Agency shows there are some 1,500 Aleph followers in Japan and it gained 200 new ones last year.

The rise in numbers shows more people, especially in the younger generation, are not aware of what Aum did in the past and find its brand of spiritualism attractive, Arita of DPJ said. He stressed the need to educate people on the dangers of joining cults, since anyone faces the risk of being subtly brainwashed.

In a separate report the Japan Times writes

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The final three Aum Shinrikyo fugitives are now in custody, but groups working to rescue brainwashed followers from its main successor group are continuing their fight against the cult.

In a campaign to save the roughly 1,500 disciples who remain loyal to the cult, which changed its name to Aleph in 2000, the groups are calling on the former fugitives and other ex-members to warn the young about the risks it still poses.

“My goal is to make every single Aum follower leave the cult. . . . I’ve got to do something about this problem” while I’m still strong enough, Hiroyuki Nagaoka, the 74-year-old head of a group of relatives of former or current cult members, told The Japan Times on Friday.

Nagaoka said he believes Katsuya Takahashi, the last Aum fugitive who was arrested Friday, is still partly under the influence of Aum guru Shoko Asahara, currently on death row, and will require counseling to start viewing the world through his own eyes. […]

Experts say that due to Asahara’s demise many people now dismiss the possibility of falling under the influence of a cult, and warn the younger generation is especially at risk as it did not directly experience the shock waves generated by the Tokyo sarin gas attack 17 years ago.

They say anyone can fall prey to cults such as Aleph and that its members are actively looking for new recruits on university campuses. […]

According to a 2011 report by the Public Safety Intelligence Agency, Aleph conducted an aggressive recruitment drive last year, covertly seeking new members at universities by infiltrating cultural societies or using social networking services.

More than 200 new members joined the cult last year — roughly double the number in 2010 — and 62 percent were younger than 35, the report said.

See Also

About Aum Shinrikyo

Aum Shinrikyo may be gone in name but guru still has following
How cult apologists, including J. Gordon Melton and James R. Lewis, defended Aum Shrinrikyo
Aum Shinrikyo may be gone in name but guru still has following
Research resources on AUM shinrikyo

About Cults

Who Joins Cults, And Why?
Today’s Cults: You Might Not Recognize Them
When Spirituality Goes Awry: Students in Cults
Cult FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions About Cults

About Cult Experts

Need a cult expert? Here’s how to avoid the bad apples