Early on the morning of March 20th the poisonous gas sarin, which was developed by Nazi Germany during World War Two, was used on subway lines in the very heart of Tokyo. Ten people died from poisoning and over 5000 people were reported injured. The affected subway lines intersected at Kasumigaseki station, the office quarters of the Tokyo government. Poisonous gas was found on five trains heading for the station, and the entire city was thrown into confusion for a day.
Investigation on a Separate Charge Keeps the Sarin Poisoning in View
The Tokyo Metropolitan police department has set up a special investigation department to find and arrest those responsible for the incident. On March 22nd, police searched facilities at 25 locations across the nation. The facilities were all connected to the religious sect Aum Shinrikyo, whose name has appeared before in connection to sarin.
The search on this day was carried out because police suspected Aum involvement in the kidnapping of a man whose sister was a member of the Aum sect but had wanted to leave the group. As many as 2500 police were involved in the search. At the site of Aum's main facility in Kamikuishiki, Yamanashi prefecture, they wore gas masks and protective clothing. This made it clear that the ostensible reason for their investigation was to find sarin.
Aum Shinrikyo claims the search was illegal. They claim it is religious oppression. The group has repeatedly claimed that the kidnapping investigation is a pretense to 'bring down Aum Shinrikyo.' The sect also denies any involvement in the sarin incident.
In June of last year a number of residents died or suffered injury from sarin poisoning in Matsumoto City, Nagano prefecture. This was followed by an offensive odor being reported in July near the religious sect's facilities in Kamikuishiki. Investigators found by-products of sarin production in soil taken from near the facility.
In regard to the Kamikuishiki incident, Aum claims that 'somebody has been conducting poisonous gas attacks on us, and we are the victims.' The sect filed a complaint of attempted murder against local residents.
What is 'Aum Shinrikyo'?
Aum Shnrikyo is a religious sect founded by the 'Venerated Master,' Shoko Asahara (born Chizuo Matsumoto on March 2, 1955).
In 1984, the forerunner of Aum Shinrikyo, 'Aum Divine Wizard Association,' was established in Shibuya, Tokyo. Mr. Asahara is said to have attained final salvation in the Himalayas in 1986. In 1987, the samgha-system was introduced. In this, followers undergo religious training while living as a group. It was at this time that the headquarters of the group was transferred to Setagaya Ward, Tokyo.
In 1989, the sect was recognized by the City of Tokyo as a religious corporation, and in 1990, Mr. Asahara and a number of other top ranking officials of the sect announced their candidacies as Supreme Truth Party representatives for the House of Representatives. (None of them won.)
The group reveres Shiva as their chief god, and is involved in ancient yoga, primitive Buddhism and Mahayanist Buddhist teachings. The group's ultimate aim is to 'save all living things from transmigration.' The group is often referred to as a new Buddhist sect, but it also claims to be an original religion based on Hinduism and created by Mr. Asahara.
Mr. Asahara has prophesied that because of increasing evil the world is heading for a catastrophe at the end of the century. He says that in 1999 a nuclear war will erupt that will cause the end of the world. In order to prevent this, 30-thousand people must attain salvation, since only by spiritual awakening will holy energy be created to avert the coming crisis.
Based on the four main areas of doctrine, meditation, religious austerity, and initiation, there are three training systems called the yoga tantric course, siddhi course, and the bodha course. Through salvation and enlightenment ultimate happiness can be obtained. Followers aiming for salvation renounce the world and donate their personal wealth to the sect.
Shoichi Okawa, Journalist