A mere shell of a man

Asahi News (Japan), Apr. 26, 2003 (Editorial)

Aum followers must see their guru for what he is.

Prosecutors demanded the death penalty for Aum Shinrikyo founder Chizuo Matsumoto. In the courtroom, Matsumoto was a husk. It seemed there was nothing but a shell of the man who once called himself Shoko Asahara and elevated his position with the dogma that “even murder is justified in the cause of truth,” and incited many young people to senseless acts.

Aum Shinrikyo followers developed biological and chemical weapons, and actually used deadly sarin in Tokyo’s subways, killing or disabling many. Anti-Aum attorney Tsutsumi Sakamoto, his wife and infant son were murdered. Those who survived the Aum sarin attacks still suffer the aftereffects, and relatives of those who died have no solace. This shocking and indiscriminate terrorism was of unprecedented scale and nature in the nation’s history.

The trial opened seven years ago. Many of Matsumoto’s followers who were involved in the cult’s various crimes have been sentenced to die.

Prosecutors simply had no alternative but to seek the death penalty for him.

Our outrage against the defendant is renewed. But we wonder how to deal with the gnawing sense of futility and emptiness that remains.

Matsumoto never said anything coherent about the fundamental issues. He uttered not one word of apology to the victims and their families.

Initially, Matsumoto was quite vocal, however incoherent, in court. After having been harshly rebuked by a former follower for his “crimes as guru,” however, he locked himself up within his shell of silence.

Who is this man-this accused who seems nothing more than a puny, cowardly wretch?

In their testimony, his followers portrayed him as a man with a difficult past who had to struggle growing up. He was a man whose repeated frustration and setbacks built up within himself a deep-seated hatred of society that led him to seek to destroy the state and create a ritualistic-theocratic pseudo-state. That was the Matsumoto delusion he shared with his followers, according to their testimony regarding the cult and its founder.

One of the cultists who spread sarin in the subways declared, “Aum beliefs were outrageous. At the heart of all the outrageousness was Asahara’s (Matsumoto’s) personality disorders, including his narcissism.”

Despite that, his followers were loyal. Only after they were arrested did it finally dawn on them their guru was simply a vulgar, money-grubbing, power-hungry materialist. His followers gave it little thought before, devoting themselves utterly to this odious character.

Still, many of his followers have come to grips with their own past and have been able to talk about the crimes they committed. Only Matsumoto has continued to flee from his own past.

We have no idea what he feels within. But this much, at least, seems certain: From the outset, Matsumoto was an empty, vacuous human being with absolutely no intention of accepting responsibility for any of his actions.

The cult continues. There are still young people who accept the accused man’s teachings and who join the group.

We urge the remaining followers: Look at your master. Look at your guru and see how vacant he is.

We urge those followers to heed the tragic voices of those former believers-the perpetrators of so many crimes-who can now do nothing but await death because they let themselves believe in this man and surrender their youth to him.

We hope those followers will see Matsumoto for what he is-a filthy, miserable wretch-and rediscover themselves.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday April 26, 2003.
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