13. THE JAPANESE
DOOMSDAY GURU SHOKO
ASAHARA AND THE
XIV. DALAI LAMA
On March 20, 1995 there was a poison
gas attack in Tokyo’s underground system that killed a number of people and
injured around 5,500 further victims and shook the world public. It was a
sect leader, Shoko Asahara, who gave the command. Asahara was born in 1955
as the son of a large Japanese family. As he could barely see, he had to
attend a school for the blind. After finishing school he tried without
success to gain admittance to Tokyo University. In the following years he
became involved in Asian medicine and started to practice various yoga
exercises. He married in 1978. This marriage produced six children. The
first spiritual group, which he founded in 1984,was known as AUM Shinsen-no-kai, that is, “AUM —
Group of the mountain ascetics”.
Shoko Asahara’s relationship to the Fourteenth Dalai Lama
history of the AUM sect began in India in 1986. Shoko Asahara had wandered
through the southern slopes of the Himalayas for weeks visiting Buddhist
monasteries. This journey was supposed to mark the end of years of
pilgrimage through the most varied esoteric landscapes: „I tried all kinds
of practices such as Taoism, Yoga, Buddhism, incorporating their essence
into my training. My goal was supreme spiritual realization and
enlightenment. I continued the austere practices with Buddhist texts as my
only resort. Finally, I reached my goal in the holy vibration of the
Himalayas. I attained supreme realization and enlightenment. […] I also
acquired supernatural powers” (Asahara, 1991, vol. 2, p. 13). Upon
returning to Japan he changed the name of his yoga group and called it AUM Shinrikyo, which means roughly
„AUM — Doctrine of the absolute truth”. From this point on, Asahara’s world
view was shaped by the compassionate ethos of Mahayana Buddhism: „I could not bear the fact that only I was
happy and the other people were still in the world of suffering. I began to
think: I will save other people at the sacrifice of my own self. I have
come to feel it is my mission. I am to walk the same path as Buddha
Shakyamuni” (Asahara, 1991, vol. 2, p. 13).
But the Himalayas did not yet loose
their hold over him. Almost a year later, in February 1987, Shoko Asahara
stood before the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. He was received by the supreme Kalachakra master in person. He
probably first met him in the year 1984, as His Holiness conducted a
ceremony in Tokyo at the invitation of the Agon-shu sect. Asahara was at
this stage still a member of this religious community.
The Japanese would later report the
following of his meeting in Dharamsala: “Imagine my delight at being able
to meditate with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, … And in His Holiness’s
private meditation room! ‘I’ll sit here where I always sit; you sit there,’
he instructed me. ‘Let me give you a Buddha image.’ … After a few minutes
of loud, deep breathing, all traces of the Dalai Lama vanished. He must
have completely stopped his breath. At that moment, the astral vision of
the golden face of Shakyamuni Buddha radiated from my ajuna chakra. The vision persisted steadily, without a flicker.
‘Ah, this is the Buddha image the Dalai Lama was talking about,’ I thought.
I continued my meditation” (Bracket, 1996, p. 68). Smiling, the Dalai Lama
then took his leave of him after an intensive exchange of ideas with the
following words: “Dear friend, … Look at the Buddhism of Japan today. It
has degenerated into ceremonialism and has lost the essential truth of the
teachings. … If this situation continues, … Buddhism will vanish from
Japan. Something needs to be done” (Kaplan and Marshall, 1996, p. 13).
Thereupon the god-king entrusted him with a spiritual mission: “You should
spread real Buddhism there [in Japan]. … You can do that well, because you
have the mind of a Buddha. If you do so, I shall be very pleased. It will
help me with my mission” (Kaplan and Marshall, 1996, p. 13). Asahara was
indeed more than happy. Afterwards, His Holiness blessed him with water and
posed for a photo with him. Eight years later this photo was to appear in
all the newspapers of the world. From now on, the Japanese guru referred to
himself as a pupil of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. The god-king’s final
version of affairs is different. He never commissioned the Japanese to do
anything at all, nor established any special relation with him, and
definitely did not take him on as a sadhaka.
For him Asahara was just one of the many hundreds of worshippers and
visitors whom he met with in the course of a year. After the fact, His
Holiness made a critical pronouncement with reference to the Japanese guru,
which he obviously took to apply to others, but not himself: “I am
suspicious of miracles and supernatural powers. Believers in Buddhism
should not rely to much on a specific leader. This is unhealthy” (Tibetan Review, May 1995, p. 9).
But Asahara was not a complete nobody for the god-king. According
to the German magazine, Stern,
they had met five times since 1987 (Stern
36/95, p. 126). Amazingly, weeks after the first poison gas attack, His
Holiness still called the guru a “friend, although not necessarily a
perfect one” (Stern 36/95, p.
126). Then a document from 1989 came to light in which the Kundun thanked the AUM sect for
donations and confirmed that they “encouraged public awareness through
religious and social activities” (Focus
38/95, p. 114). On January 21, 1989 Asahara had sent the sum of $100,000 to
Dharamsala for the assistance of Tibetan refugees. As a kind of service in
return he received an official note from the Council for religious and cultural affairs of His Holiness the
Dalai Lama in which one can read: “To the best of our knowledge, AUM
attempts to promote public well-being through various religious and social
activities, for example through instruction in Buddhist doctrines and yoga”
(Focus 38/95, p. 116–117).
On February 8, Asahara wrote back: “It
is my fervent wish that Tibet will return to the hands of the Tibetans in
the near future. I am willing to do whatever I can to be of help”
(Shimatsu, I). The Japanese guru’s gratitude is only too easy to
understand, then with the aforementioned note in his hand he succeeded in
being recognized as a religious body by the Japanese administration and
thus exempt from taxes.
Admittedly there was a certain cooling
of relations between the two religious leaders before the poison gas
attack, since Tibetans in exile from Japan had sharply criticized Asahara’s
public appearances. Yet he simply ignored such criticisms. This is shown by
his spectacular letter to the Kundun
of February 24, 1995, which was sent about a month before the events in
Tokyo. The letter leaves no room for doubt about how deeply the Japanese
sect leader felt himself to be connected to the Tibetan religious sphere.
In it Asahara not without pride announces that his son, Gyokko, is the
reincarnation of the Panchen Lama who died in 1989: “May I report to His
Holiness most humbly that I am convinced that Gyokko is a reincarnation of
Panchen Rinpoche” (Shimatsu, I, HPI 008).
As evidence for this suspicion Asahara
appeals to synchronicities and miraculous signs. Like the Panchen Lama, his
son was also deaf in one ear. Yet the vision which appeared to the child’s
mother was even more unambiguous: “A boy flying in spurts over a snowy
mountain range with his legs crossed in a full Lotus posture. A low male
voice said: 'Panchen Lama'. The voice continued, 'Tibetan Buddhism is
finished. I have come to rebuild it ...'" (Shimatsu, I).
Asahara also met with other high
Tibetan tantra masters — Khamtrul Rinpoche, for example, an important
Nyingmapa teacher, and Kalu Rinpoche, the Kalachakra specialist of the Kagyupas whose multifarious
activities we have already considered. There is supposed to have been a
meeting between the Tibetan scholar, Khamtrul (who the Kundun had prophesied to be the future Rudra Chakrin), the Dalai Lama, and a member of the AUM sect
(Hisako Ishii) at which the publication of esoteric teachings of
Padmasambhava in Japanese was discussed. According to statements by
Asahara, Khamtrul Rinpoche confirmed his “perfect, absolute, divine wisdom”
(quoted by Repp, 1997, p. 18). On May 24, 1989, the Tibetan is supposed to
have issued the Japanese guru with the following letter of recommendation:
“Teacher Asahara is my old friend, and
I consider it an honor to be able to say the following in favor of him and
of his religious activities:
- I am filled with boundless admiration for
Teacher Asahara’s innate Buddhist traits, like enthusiasm for his
work, goodliness, generosity, and selflessness.
- He is an experienced and qualified
meditation; tantra; and yoga instructor.
- On the condition that he receives fitting
recognition, Teacher Asahara can become a truly well-known teacher of Buddhism,
who is capable of re-establishing the true doctrine of the Dharma in
- I also know that AUM Shinrikyo, Teacher
Asahara’s religious organization, is a religious association that
distinguishes itself through discipline and good organization and
wide-ranging activities in order to suitably further social
- Teacher Asahara’s sympathy and assistance in
regard to the people and culture of Tibet is an example of generosity
and concern for the poor.
- It is painful for me to see that AUM, with no
regard for its good intentions and activities, has up until now not
found the recognition and support it is due from the Japanese
- I emphatically recommend that AUM be accorded
the justly deserved status of a tax-free organization, and that it
likewise receive all necessary governmental and social privileges.
Many thanks, Khamtul Giamjang Dontup Rinpoche.” (AUM Shinrikyo, HPI
In Sri Lanka, the land of Therevada
Buddhism, he was additionally praised as the “greatest religious person in Japan”
and “the only one who can save the world” (also quoted by Repp, 1997, p.
18). The Prime Minister gave him a Shakyamuni relic, thus equipping him
with an important symbol of authority. Then, in the foreword to one of his
books it also says “The Buddha of our times is Shoko Asahara” (quoted by
Repp, 1997, p. 18). And the guru preaches to his followers “You ought to
become Buddhas yourselves. You should preach my teachings, or rather the
cosmic truth, and should produce many Buddhas. Spread the AUM system of
training on a global scale and scatter Buddhas around the whole world. If
we accomplish this, all battles and conflicts shall come to an end” (quoted
by Repp, 1997, p. 35).
In light of the in hindsight extremely
embarrassing meetings of the Kundun
and high Lamaist dignitaries with Shoko Asahara, His Holiness’s
representative in Japan (Karma Gelek Yuthok) issued a interesting
communiqué some weeks after the attack. Before the world press Karma Gelek
Yuthok explained that “Whatever little relationship Asahara had with His
Holiness the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan lamas fell purely under the
religious domain in spirit and deed. I had nothing to do with the
world-shocking criminal acts known and alleged to have been committed by
the AUM cult. It is unthinkable that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is related
with the criminal acts of AUM simply because of his casual spiritual
relationship with Asahara” (Samdup).
We see this in a completely different
light, however. It was precisely because of these spiritual encounters with the god-king and his “viceroys” and
his intensive study of the Tibetan/tantric esoterica and apocalyptica that
the inexorable madness developed in Asahara’s mind which made him become
the doomsday guru of the western
The staged Shambhala war
Let us begin, then, to present the
“spiritual” evidence and incriminating material piece by piece: there is no
doubt that Asahara believed himself to be the incarnation of a Shambhala warrior and was absolutely
convinced that he was acting as a delegate of the mythic kingdom. “There
will be a final battle between Rudra Chakrin, the king of Shambhala, and a foolish being
called Vemacitta. The war at the
end of this century is the last event seen by many prophets for the past
several thousand years. When it happens, I want to fight bravely”, the guru
had proclaimed via his radio station four (!) months before the Tokyo
assassination (on December 4, 1994) (Archipelago, I, HPI 003). Rudra
Chakrin (“the terrible wheel turner”), the militant doomsday king of
Shambhala, is also an epithet of the Indian god, Shiva. The destroyer god
and the Buddha blend into one figure for Asahara, just as they merge into
one as the final Shambhala king, Rudra Chakrin, in the Kalachakra Tantra. As his followers were called upon “to have
the purest faith in the guru, the Great Lord Shiva, or the Buddhas”,
Asahara declared in December 1990 that “Here, the Buddhas and the Great
Lord Shiva mean the guru [Asahara], who is their incarnation” (quoted by
Repp, 1997, p. 18). Or, even more succinctly: “The first thing you should
do is to understand the Great Lord Shiva, the Buddhas, and the guru as one,
as the embodiment of truth and to take refuge in them. Refuge means to
learn their teachings, to make sacrifices, and perform services for them
(quoted by Repp, 1997, p. 30). As early as in spring 1985, whilst
meditating on the beach at Miura, south of Tokyo, he was visited by a
vision of Shiva “the god of light who leads the armies of the gods” who
“charged him with building an ideal society made up of those who had
attained psychic powers, a society called the Kingdom of Shambhala. …
Asahara’s seaside epiphany was the origin of his claim to be a messiah and
his leadership role in Armageddon, or final war, which would destroy Japan”
(Brackett, 1996, p. 66). A sect pamphlet suggests that Asahara himself came
from Shambhala and had descended to earth in order to direct and save it:
“This kingdom (Shambhala), ruled by the god Shiva, is a world where only
those souls which have attained the complete truth of the universe can go.
In Shambhala, the ascetic practices of messianic persons have made great
advances in order to lead souls to gedatsu
(emancipation) and save them. Master Asahara has been reborn from there
into the human world so that he might take up his mission as a messiah.
Therefore, the Master’s efforts to embody truth throughout the human world
have been sanctioned by the great will of the god Shiva” (quoted by
Brackett, 1996, 70).
In his own words, Asahara drew up a
“Japan Shambhalization Plan . This was said to be “the first step to
Shambhalizing the world. … If you take part,” he explained to his readers,
“you will achieve great virtue and rise to a higher world” (Kaplan and
Marshall, 1996, p. 18). IN the pamphlet already quoted above, it says, “For
that reason Aum Shinri Kyo’s plan to transform Japan into Shambhala was
presented. This plan is without equal in its scope, as it wants to extend
Aum’s sacred sphere throughout all of Japan, making Japan the base for the
salvation of the whole world by fostering the development of multitudes of
holy people. This plan cannot be realized without the help of our
believers. Please come and join us!” (quoted by Brackett, 1996, p. 70). The
two journalists, David E. Kaplan and Andrew Marshall, with somewhat too
little fantasy and far too restrictively see this “Shambhala project” as a plan “to open AUM offices and training
centers in every major Japanese city and establish a 'Lotus Village' or
utopian community where AUM members would survive Armageddon” (Kaplan and
Marshall, 1996, p. 18). But whatever Asahara may have understood by this, Shambhala was for him the guiding
star that led him into the abyss and that he deliberately followed. One of
the songs the members of the sect had to listen to daily on headphones goes
The sect’s system of rituals is Tantric Buddhist
Asahara became familiar with the
teachings of Tantric Buddhism at a very early stage. In the early 1980s he
joined a religious group by the name of Agon Shun (founded by Seiyu
Kiriyma), which among other things employed sexual magic rites to attain
rapid enlightenment. Asahara, despite having been a keen pupil, left the
group and turned to the preferred teachings of Mahayana Buddhism. HE saw
himself as an orthodox Buddhist who wanted to anchor afresh the “Four Noble
Truths”, the “Bodhisattva vow”, and the system of monks and nuns in
decadent Japan. After his contacts with the Tibetan lamas, however, this
pure Mahayana orientation became increasingly complemented by tantric
practices and viewpoints. In the spring of 1990 he introduced what he
called the Tantra-Vajrayana System of
Practice as a discipline of AUM Shinrikyo.
Some time later a journal by the title of Vajrayana Sacca appeared.
Shoko Asahara in Front of a Tantric Deity
From this point on the gateway to the
legitimation of any crime lay open. In accordance with the tantric “law of
inversion” the low was from now on inverted into the high. „Bad deeds”,
the young tantra master wrote, „instantly change into good deeds. This is a
tantric way of thinking” (Asahara, 1991, vol. 1, p. 65).
At another point it says, “If the guru
possesses a crystal clear spirit, if a being can see through everything,
then for him there are no lies; lies no longer mean anything to him. […]
Good and evil also change according to their circumstances. Somebody who
has lied so as to motivate another to follow the practice of truth, for
instance. The fact that he has lied will certainly bring him bad karma, but
the fact that he led somebody to the truth brings him merit. Hence, what
one chooses to stress depends upon what one is aiming for. In the practice
of Mahayana, this kind of exercise is not used. From a tantric point of
view it is seen as good, then you will be of use to others because of your
self-sacrifice” (quoted by Repp, 1997, p. 32).We also learn of Asahara’s
commitment to the “crimes” of Tantric Buddhism from the charges laid
against him by the state prosecutor: “The teachings of esoteric Buddhism
from Tibet were really quite horrible”, he is supposed to have said, “If,
for example, a guru ordered a pupil to kill a thief, the pupil did so, and
treated the deed as a virtuous one. In my previous existence I myself
killed somebody at the guru’s command” (Quoted by Repp, 1997, p. 33).
True to the tantric doctrine, Asahara
explained the sexual magic symbolism of his system as follows: “For normal
Japanese sensibilities it is a very obscene image. A man and a woman in sexual
embrace. But the facts of the matter are quite different […] This consort
can be Parvati [Shiva’s wife] or Dakini, and if one practices guru yoga the
union is the holy union to create our astral bodies. It is the union of yin
and yang” (quoted by Repp, 1997, p. 27). He regularly held public lectures
about Kundalini Yoga, he even
spoke about the “fire serpent” in the Moscow sport stadium — naturally
without going into the sexual magic practices of his Tantra-Vajrayana System. As the highest guru, all the women of the organization
were at his disposal both on the basis of divine benevolence and de facto, and he made frequent use
of this right, but it did not prevent him from granting his wife (Tomoko
Ishii) the highest spiritual rank in the sect aside from his own. Just as
in Tibet’s monasteries, the tantric union with a karma mudra was for him exclusively the privilege of the
highest initiates. In contrast, the main body of AUM members had to submit
to a strict commandment of sexual abstinence. Anyone who was caught
masturbating had to spend several days in solitary confinement.
This, however, was only the case — and
here too we can see how strictly Asahara adhered to Vajrayana laws — if it came to ejaculation; other than that he
recommended the exact opposite to his male pupils: “Masturbate daily, but
do not ejaculate! … Continue this for ten days. Then start masturbating
twice a day ... Find a picture of your favorite entertainment star,
preferably nude. Use the photo to activate your imagination and start
masturbating four times a day” (Kaplan and Marshall, 1996, p. 159). The
number of daily masturbations is increased further in the course of the
By the sixth week the time has come. A
female partner is found and given a little alcohol to drink. Then the
couple withdrew together and began first with “some petting” in which the
adept stroked the nipples of his mudra
and stimulated her clitoris. Afterwards he copulated with the girl
according to a predetermined rhythm that was always derived from factors of
the number nine: keeping still for 81 breaths, moving the phallus in and
out nine times; keeping still for another 81 breath units, 27 times in and
out, and so forth. It is not clear from the translation by Kaplan and
Marshall whether here too the seed is retained. At any rate they had to
“always let her come first” (Kaplan and Marshall, 1996, p. 160).
The offering up of the wisdom consort
to the guru necessary in the high tantras was likewise practiced by the AUM
sect. A pupil who made his girlfriend available justified this offertory
act as follows: “If she and the guru fuse together her mental level rises.
… By sacrificing himself, he pours his energy into a woman. It’s better
[for her] than fusing with me” (Kaplan and Marshall, 1996, p. 161). Asahara
also made use of this reason: “This is a Tantric initiation. Your energy
will rise quickly and you’ll achieve enlightenment faster”, he is said to
have told a reluctant female pupil whilst he tore the clothes from her body
(Kaplan and Marshall, 1996, p. 158).
Asahara also worked with the tantric
fluids of blood and sperm. He had his own blood drawn off and offered it,
often for high prices, to the members of the sect as a cure-all. His hair
was boiled and drunk as a kind of tea. Even his bathwater is supposed to
have been sold as a holy substance. Such practices were also widespread in
Tibet’s monasteries, for example the excrement of the great lamas was
considered to be a medicine and sold well when manufactured into pills with
The science department of AUM, it was
said one day, had discovered that the “DNA of the master” possessed magic
characteristics and would grant anyone who drank it supernatural powers (siddhis). This was about Asahara’s
sperm, a small flask of which went for the price of $7000 according to
Kaplan and Marshall. Here too there is an allusion to the sperm gnosis of
the Kalachakra Tantra, where the
master gives the pupil to taste during the “secret initiation”.
Likewise the horror scenarios the members
of the sect had to go through in order to practice fearlessness are also
tantric. “Delinquents” who transgressed the rules of the order were locked
up in small chambers and had to watch videos of one horror film after
another. Via a loudspeaker they were inundated with constant death threats.
Already after his first trip to India
Asahara believed himself to be in possession of “supernatural powers” (siddhi). He claimed he could make
contact with the dead and read the thoughts of others. Like the “maha siddhas” he was said to be able
to walk through walls. “In the future … I will be able to fly freely
through the sky” (Kaplan and Marshall, 1996, p. 7), he prophesied. He Later
he developed the “Divine Ear” and was, on his own account, in a position “to
hear the voices of the gods and humans” (Kaplan and Marshall, 1996, p.
The metaphysics and spiritual practices
of the sect were primarily dominated by Tibetan Buddhist images and
exercise. Basically, “AUM Supreme Truth”, we learn from Kaplan and
Marshall, “became a familiar New Age blend of Eastern religion and
mysticism. Its beliefs and rituals were drawn heavily from Tibetan
Buddhism, its physical rigor from yoga” (Kaplan and Marshall, 1996, p. 15).
He himself referred to his rituals as “Tibetan Buddhism” (Tibetan Review, May 1995, p. 9).
Of course, this
is rejected by Dharamsala with protestation, in that the blame for the
Japanese’s practices is (as often happens) pinned on the Hindu competition:
„The rituals he teaches his disciples include practice of yoga, levitation
and other acts that are neither Tibetan nor Buddhism and are more akin to
ritual of Indian sadhus (Hindu ascetics). The teacher as well as the
disciples wear flowing white robes, something that no practitioner of Buddhism
does” (Tibetan Review, May, 1995,
This too is not
entirely correct — in certain scenes from the Kalachakra ritual white robes are worn, and all the priests of Shambhala are dressed in white.
Asahara regarded himself as an
incarnation of Buddha Shakyamuni. Publicly he declared that he was “at the
same level as Buddha” (Kaplan and Marshall, 1996, p. 25). In Bihar in India
he sat upon the sacred seat and announced to those present, “I am Buddha”
(Kaplan and Marshall, 1996, p. 67). “The Buddha in our times is Master
Shoko Asahara”, was the praise of his pupils (Kaplan and Marshall, 1996, p.
67). Many of the members of the sect were given Buddhist names. His closest
collaborator, the sect’s éminence
grise, Kiyohide Hayakawa, was called “Tiropa” (i.e., Tilopa) after the
great Kalachakra master. The guru
recognized him as “a Bodhisattva in his past life” and declared that
“without Master Tiropa’s efforts there would be no AUM Supreme Truth”
(Kaplan and Marshall, 1996, p. 75). It was Asahara’s proclaimed intention
to Buddhize the planet. “Spread the training system of AUM on a global
scale”, the guru preached, “and scatter Buddhas over the world” (Kaplan and
Marshall, 1996, p. 16).
We have discussed in detail the
description of Tantric Buddhism as a solar cult. Asahara also made
appearances like a sun priest and like the prophet of a coming empire of
light: “After insubstantial religions with pseudo-light, there will be a
religion which produces light as the sun does, and it will change the
future” (Archipelago, I, NPI 003).
Although his system of rituals was
decisively influenced by Tibetan mysticism, this was not universally true
of the gods. Here, in accordance with the guru’s world concept, the deities
of other religions were also invoked. Since these were, according to the
laws of Tantrism, nothing more than the yogi’s projections the doctrine was
able to easily overcome the cultural hurdles.
Behind Asahara’s decision to carry out
his act of destruction lay the Indian god, Shiva, the lord of destruction. The latter appeared to him a
number of times, the guru said, and confirmed his enlightenment in his own
words. The members of the sect were from now on expressly required to
replace their own wills with the will of Shiva. One epithet of this god who lays waste to the world so
as to subsequently produce it anew in the violent cycle of death and
rebirth, is Rudra. Translated
from the Sanskrit it means the “terrible one “, the “wild one “, the
“violent one”. As the Rudra of
the apocalyptic fire (Kalagni Rudra)
he destroys the universe and time itself (White, 1996, p. 232). “Once it
has consumed the waters of the ocean,” it says in a tantric text, “it will
become the Kalagni Rudra, the
fire that consumes time” (White, 1996, p. 232). There can be no doubt that
Asahara adopted Rudra’s will to
destroy from Tantric Buddhism. This is probably also true of the name: Rudra Chakrin, the 24th Shambhala king who contests the
final battle, undoubtedly combines the characteristics of Buddha and of the
wrathful Shiva in his person.
That is exactly what Asahara sought to do. Incidentally, the region around
Dharamsala, the seat of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government in Exile,
is from a Hindu point of view dedicated to the god Shiva.
The Japanese guru does not stop at
making loans from Christianity either. After his first reading of the Bible
he already announced: “I hereby declare myself to be the Christ” (Kaplan
and Marshall, 1996, p. 67). Afterwards he wrote a book on this topic and in
it drew attention to his similarities to Jesus of Nazareth: “Jesus changed
water to wine, I changed ordinary water to the water that emits light”
(Kaplan and Marshall, 1996, p. 18). Here, Asahara is referring to a
transformatory miracle he performed in the presence of his pupils. From his
own lips we learn “I am the last messiah in this century” (Kaplan and
Marshall, 1996, p. 67).
guru’s most insistent megalomanic claim was to deity. In addition to
declaring himself an avatar of Shiva, he professed to have achieved ‘the
state of a Buddha who has attained mirror-like wisdom’ and to be the
‘divine emperor’ of Japan and the world; the declared Christ, who will
‘disclose the meaning of Jesus’ gospel’; the ‘last twentieth-century
savior’; the ‘holiest holy man’, one ‘beyond the Bible’; and the being who
will inaugurate the Age of Aquarius and preside over a ‘new era of supreme
truth’. For disciples transfixed by guruism, he could indeed be all these
things (Lifton, 2000, p. 167)
The fantasy worlds of certain comics
also had an influence upon him. It is a fact that Asahara and members of
the sect took the virtual reality of the comic strips for real. The same is
true of science fiction novels. Isaac Asimov’s famous Foundation epic was declared to be a kind of holy book. In it
we can read the following sentences: “The Empire will vanish and all its
good with it. Its accumulated knowledge will decay and the order it has
imposed will vanish” (quoted by Kaplan and Marshall, 1996, p. 29).
Additionally Asahara was convinced that extraterrestrials constantly visit
our planet. He was, however, not on a friendly footing with them, as he
believed among other things that they fed themselves with human flesh. From
the world of “esoteric fascism” he had his reverence for Adolf Hitler, who
was said to be still alive and be landing with an escort of UFOs in the
The Japanese Chakravartin
Within his group the “Buddha of our
times” had an absolute power monopoly. He was lord over life and death in
the truest sense of the word, the there were cases where members who
resisted his will were tormented to death. In accordance with the
absolutification of the teacher drawn from the tantras, he demanded that
his pupils replace their own will with his own.
But for Asahara power was not just
spiritual in nature. He combined practical political concepts with it very
early on. When as a younger man he applied albeit unsuccessfully for
admission to Tokyo University, he wanted to become the prime minister of
Japan. Later he saw himself at the head of a Japanese Buddhocracy. He
prophesied that he would soon ascend the imperial throne and created a
shadow cabinet from among his people. Yet the guru was not even to be
content with this role as a Tennos.
Asahara intended to establish a “millennial kingdom” (!) which was to span
the entire planet. He called his political model the “Supreme State”.
Kaplan and Marshall comment that this description “leaves no doubt about
who would inherit the world. And on top of the great empire, ruling serenely
over the cosmos, sat Shoko Asahara, now deemed the Holy Monk Emperor”
(Kaplan and Marshall, 1996, p. 157). The claim to the world throne of the Chakravartin was thus a political
program: “I intend to become a spiritual dictator … A dictator of the
world”, the doomsday guru openly
proclaimed (Kaplan and Marshall, 1996, p. 25).
The financial motivations which Kaplan
and Marshall attribute to him were thus not his first priority. He
considered them to be only means to an end. A Japanese expert on the sect has
expressed this most clearly: “Asahara distinguished himself from the other
cult leaders in that he did not spend large sums of money upon himself. ...
His primary goal was to attain power” (Repp, 1996b, p. 195).
Murder, violence, and religion
Only a few months before it came to an
explosion of violence, Shoko Asahara attempted to gain power via legal
means — he founded a party (the Truth Party) and stood for election. Even
this short sequence in his religious political career demonstrates how
deeply allied to Buddhism in general and Tibetan Buddhism in particular he
felt himself to be. He formed a shadow cabinet from among the members of
his sect and gave these the names of either pupils of the historical Buddha
or of high Tibetan lamas.  The ostentatious election campaign ended in a
disastrous defeat. It is said that not even all the members of the sect
voted for him. Soon afterwards he turned to the tactics of terror.
Asahara’s aggression arose from its
opposite. Everything began with his proclaimed self-sacrifice in the sense
of Mahayana Buddhism. One of the mantras which the members of the sect had
to repeat constantly went as follows: “I make a joy of my suffering; I make
the suffering of others my own suffering” (Repp, 1996a, p. 45). Completely
in the Buddhist tradition, the guru wanted “to rescue people from their
suffering” and “to lead the world to enlightenment”.(Kaplan and Marshall,
1996, pp. 14-15). Thus, in this early phase the rejection of violence was
one of his highest ethical principles: “Nonviolence”, Asahara said, “means
to love every living creature”, and at another point he declaimed that
“killing insects means accumulating the bad karma of killing” (Kaplan and
Marshall, 1996, p. 50).
But in accordance with the tantric “law
of inversion”, and thanks to the fact that the Buddha can also appear in
his terrible form as Heruka, this
nonviolence soon became transformed into its exact opposite — cold-blooded
terrorism. We spare ourselves the details of the sect’s numerous crimes.
These include cases of imprisonment, extortion, bodily harm, child abuse,
torture and all kinds of murder. The police charged Asahara’s followers
with a total of 27 murders.
The murder of certain individuals was
legitimated by a ritual which Asahara called phowa and which he had also imported from Tibetan cultural
circles. This was understood to involve the deliberate leading of a soul to
a higher spiritual level so that it could be freed from the harmful karma
which clung to it in this current life. From a Tibetan point of view phowa practices can also include the
murder of an individual. Asahara committed his followers to murder through
an oath in the form of a prayer known as the “Vajrayana Vow” that required
complete subjugation to the guru and the practice of phowa. It was recommended that the following prayer be recited
“a thousand, a million, a billion times” (Brackett, 1996, p. 96).
I take refuge in the Tantra Vajrayana!
(repeated four times)
What is the first law?
To be mindful of the Buddha.
And in Tantra Vajrayana,
the Buddha and the Guru are identical.
I take refuge in the Guru!
(repeated four times)
What is the Guru?
The Guru is a life form born to
phowa all souls.
Any method that leads to salvation is acceptable.
My life will come to an end sometime.
It makes no difference if the end comes in twenty years,
thirty years, or eighty years,
It will come regardless.
What’s important is
how I give my life.
If I give it for salvation,
eliminating all the evil karma I have accumulated,
freeing myself from all karma, the Guru and Shiva
and all winners of truth
will without fail lead me to a higher realm.
So I practice the Vajrayana without fear.
The Armageddon taught in the Bible approaches,
The final battle is upon us.
I will be among the holy troops of this last great battle
phowa the evil ones.
phowa one or two evil ones.
Phowa is the
phowa is the path to the highest level of being.
(Brackett, 1996, pp.
In the end, the Tibetan phowa ritual became the guiding
principle behind the acts of terrorism and also played a significant role
in the prosecution’s case against Asahara. There, the following
incriminating quotations from the guru were also tabled: “If your guru
commands you to take somebody’s life it is an indication that this person’s
time is already up. With other words you are killing this person at
precisely the right time and making possible the phowa of this person. […] The end justifies the means. Take the
example of a person who is burdened by so many sins that he is certain to
go to hell. If an enlightened person decides that it would be best to put
an end to his life and to really kill him, this act would generally be seen
by society as a straightforward murder. But in the light of our teachings
the killing comes to the same thing as making his phowa possible for this person. Every enlightened person would
see at once that both the murderer and the murdered benefit from the deed”
(quoted by Repp, 1997, p. 33).
The guru justified all of his orders to
kill by appealing to the Tibetan practice of phowa, even in the case of the one-year-old son of the lawyer,
Sakomoto, who took the sect on legally: “The child ended up not being
raised by Sakomoto, who tried to repeat bad deeds”. It would be “born again
in a higher world” (Kaplan and Marshall, 1996, p. 42). According to Kaplan
and Marshall, the guru is also supposed to have said that “it is good to
eliminate people who continue to do bad things and are certain to go to
hell” (Kaplan and Marshall, 1996, p. 50). This was primarily directed at
the immediate opponents of the sect, like the parents of members, lawyers
Aum, Asahara’s attack guruism was anchored in what was called the mahamudra. In Tibetan Buddhism, the
term refers to a state in which a devotee achieves ‘the unity of emptiness
and luminosity’ and, thereby, ‘the purification ... [of] the transitory
contamination of confusion.’ The concept was sometimes conceived in this
way in Aum, and a few of of Asahara’s closest disciples were described as
achieving mahamudra. But given
Aum’s atmosphere, attaining mahamudra
came largely to mean the overcoming of all resistances to an absolute and
unquestioned dedication to the guru himself” (Lifton, 2000, p. 63).
The Japanese Armageddon
Asahara made himself familiar with the
“theologies of destruction” early on. A year after his visit to the Dalai
Lama (in 1988) he began with his study of the Apocalypse of St. John. The Prophecies
of Nostradamus followed soon after. This French prophet became a
leading light for the sect. On the basis of inspirations whispered to him
by the terror gods, the guru now developed his own apocalyptic
At first they concerned rescue plans.
The planet was supposed to be in danger and AUM had been chosen to secure
world peace. But then the prognoses became increasingly gloomy. The
planetary countdown was said to be in the offing: „In my opinion” Asahara
said, „the realm of desire by the law of this universe, has already entered
the process of going back to its original form to where it all started. In
short, we are heading for Armageddon” (Asahara, 1996, vol. 2, p. 103). He actually used the Hebrew word
“Armageddon”. But even now there was still talk of compassion and assistance
and Asahara believed that “If AUM tries hard , we can reduce the victims of
Armageddon to a fourth of the world’s population. … However, at present, my
rescue plan is totally delayed. The rate of survivors is getting smaller
and smaller” (Kaplan and Marshall, 1996, p. 31). “And what will happen
after Armageddon?”, he asked in one of his sermons, “After Armageddon the
beings will be divided into two extreme types: the ones who will go to the
Heaven of Light and Sound, and the ones who will go to Hell”(Kaplan and
Marshall, 1996, pp. 48-49).
His apocalyptic visions are dated
precisely: in one of his prophecies from 1987, the year of enlightenment,
he says that “Japan will rearm herself in 1992. Between 1999 and 2003, a
nuclear war is sure to break out. I, Asahara, have mentioned the outbreak
of nuclear war for the first time. We have only fifteen years before it”
(Kaplan and Marshall, 1996, p. 16).
imagined Armageddon is violent, but the violence tends to be distant and
mythic, to be brought about by evil forces that leave God with no other
choice but total cleansing of this world. With Aum’s Armageddon the
violence was close at hand and palpable. Aum was always an actor in its own
Armageddon drama, wheter as a target of world-destroying enemies or as a
fighting force in a great battle soon to begin or already under way. As
time went on, however, Aum increasingly saw itself as the initiator, the
trigger of the final event” (Lifton, 2000, p. 59).
Somewhat later, in his book Day of Annihilation, there was no
longer so much time left. According to this text, Japan would sink into the
ocean already in 1996. The end of the world would begin in 1998/99. A pupil
saw in a vision how a branch of AUM would move to Jerusalem in 1998 and
that members of the sect would be imprisoned there and then tortured. In a
triumphant campaign the fellow believers would be freed. Asahara, this
prophecy predicted, would die the death of a martyr during the liberation
and set off a final world war.
In order to introduce his “Shambhalization
of the world”, it was only natural that Asahara would want to lead a great
apocalyptic army, then that is integral to the script of the tantric myth.
Hence, as he was meditating on the Japanese Pacific coast, one day a
powerful voice told him, “I have chosen you to lead God’s army” (Kaplan and
Marshall, 1996, p. 12). From this point in time on the sect’s music also
changed; in place of the old harmonic New
Age music of the spheres, military marches now sounded over the
loudspeakers. “The time has come … We have to fight ... Defeat means death
for the guru”, Asahara’s closest intimate wrote in his notebook (Kaplan and
Marshall, 1996, p. 154). The connection between the destruction of the
world and emptiness invoked by the Kalachakra
Tantra also had a decisive influence on Shoko Asahara, and even found
expression in the title of one of his writings, From Destruction to Emptiness: A Sequel to the Day of Destruction.
Religion and chemical laboratories
The final war could not be fought
without effective weapons. Asahara recruited a small group of highly
qualified scientists, all university graduates in the natural sciences:
chemists, biochemists, electronic engineers. They were commissioned to
establish large laboratories for the manufacture of chemical and biological
weapons. According to Kaplan and Marshall colonies of all sorts of deadly
bacteria were cultivated there, anthrax, influenza, and even the notorious
Ebola virus. The young people dreamed of gigantic laser cannons. “When the
power of this laser is increased,” Asahara says, “a perfectly white belt,
or sword can be seen. This is the sword referred to in the Book of
Revelations. This sword will destroy virtually all life” (Kaplan and
Marshall, 1996, p. 207). He was especially fascinated by a “microplasm”
weapon with which all living things could be vaporized in seconds. “The
weapons used in World War III” he wrote in 1993, “will make the atomic and
hydrogen bombs look like toys. At present, the centerpiece of the Russian
arsenal is called the star-reflector cannon. The United States has the
Strategic Defense Initiative and the extension of this is
'microplasma’" (Archipelago, I, HPI 003).
In particular, Asahara’s ingenious
scientist, Hideo Murai reveled at the idea of all kinds of apocalyptic
weapons of destruction. He was a specialist in electromagnetic (EM)
phenomena. For him too, and for his work, the tantric law of inversion
would one day take effect. At first Murai began by constructing weapons to
defend the cult against the military apparatus of the superpowers. For
years his paranoid guru believed himself to be the target of
electromagnetic and chemical attacks by the most varied worldly and
religious secret services. It was only thanks to his elevated spirituality
that he was still alive at all. As redeemer of the world he wanted to
rescue humanity from an imminent war of destruction and hence he devoted
his thoughts to what countermeasures could be developed. But then came the
moment when defense turned into attack. Hideo Murai was commissioned by his
guru to develop miraculous weapons that were no longer defensive, but would
rather accelerate the end of the world.
The sect now focused on the physical
theories and experiments of the famous Serbo-Croatian inventor, Nikola Tesla
(1846-1943), who had undertaken extensive research into the enormous
electromagnetic (EM) energy fields that are said to span the globe. Tesla
believed that influence could be gained over these and that earthquakes
could thus be triggered or the weather changed. He is supposed to have
designed appropriate machines and conducted successful experiments. In the
course of his investigations he reached the conclusion that it would be
possible to split the world into two halves like an apple with an “EM experiment”.
This tempting apocalyptic conception motivated the young scientists at AUM
to write to the Tesla Society in New York and to visit the Tesla Museum in
Belgrade so as to be able to examine his notes.
In March 1994 Hideo Murai went to
Australia with several assistants and carried out electromagnetic (EM)
experiments on a sheep station bought by the sect. He is supposed to have
built an all round machine, which
could both evoke earthquakes and act as a shield against nuclear warheads.
This apparatus proved to be the ideal weapon of mass destruction for the
“final war” (Archipelago, I). There are speculations that the Japanese
earthquake in Kobe (in 1995) had an artificial origin and was staged by the
technicians of the AUM sect. This may well sound just too fantastic, but on
this occasion one of Asahara’s prophesies, which were otherwise very rarely
fulfilled, came true. Nine days before the big earthquake which shook the
Hanshin region, on January 8, 1995 the guru announced on a radio program
that “Japan will be attacked by an earthquake in 1995. The most likely
place is Kobe” (Archipelago, II, HPI 004). After the event AUM announced
that the infrastructure of the province of Kobe with its skyscrapers and
major bridges had been “the best place for simulating an earthquake-weapon
attack against a big city such as Tokyo. Kobe was the appropriate guinea
pig” (Archipelago, II, HPI 004).
But at the foot of the holy Mount Fuji
conventional weapons were also being mass produced. Members of the sect
there were producing Russian automatic rifles (the AK-47) in factories
disguised as spiritual centers. Sources purchased a military helicopter in
Russia that was then dismantled and shipped to Japan piece by piece.
But, as should be self-evident, the
tantra master Asahara saw the explosive force of his own mind as the most
dangerous weapon of all. “In Tantrayana
vows,” we hear from the man himself, “ there is one that prohibits
attainers from destroying villages and towns. This means that the power to
destroy a town or village is obtained through Tantrayana and Vajrayana
practice” (Archipelago, I, HPI 003). In accordance with the tantric logic
of inversion that we have described in detail, the guru believed he was
thoroughly justified in breaking this vow.
Fundamentally, Asahara’s factories
corresponded conceptually to the alchemical laboratories of the 17th and
18th centuries in Europe, although they were incomparably more technical.
In both cases scientists did not just experiment with chemical substances,
rather they combined their findings with religious concepts and symbols.
Let us recall how the couple, Nicholas and Helena Ivanovna Roerich,
described the temple structures of Shambhala
as “laboratories” and glorified the monastic priests of the wonderland as
“adepts of a sacred alchemy”.
Asahara also gave his chemical factory
holy names and called it the “Clear Stream Temple” or “Supreme Science”
(Kaplan and Marshall, 1996, p. 87). Several altars were to be found in the
three-story building in which the poison gases were created. Shortly after
entering one reached a mezzanine and came face to face with a golden figure
of the destroyer god Rudra Shiva. To the left of this stood a
small devotional shrine which according to Asahara housed some of the bones
of the historical Buddha. He had brought them back with him from Sri Lanka
to Japan. The room in which a wide variety of tinctures for the production
of poisonous gases were stored was referred to as the “Room of Genesis”.
Things were more matter of fact on the ground floor, there were tanks,
extruders, reactors, ducting systems, circulating pumps. The main hall was
called Satian 7, which meant
“Truth 7". But it also had a nickname. The young scientists referred
to it simply as “the magician”. In the last days before the fateful attack
on the underground a gigantic statue of Buddha was erected there.
The Song of Sarin
Since it is not difficult to
manufacture and the ingredients were easy for AUM to obtain, research and
production were concentrated upon a highly effective nerve gas by the name
of Sarin. This poison had been developed by the German national socialists
in the Second World War. Asahara’s relation to the deadly substance proved
to be very multi-layered. It followed a fiendish three-stage cycle. At
first there was constant talk of how the sect itself was the victim of
poison gas attacks. “Wherever I go,” the Guru announced, “I have been
sprayed from helicopters or planes. The hour of my death has been foretold.
The gas phenomenon has already happened. Next time it might be an atomic
bomb” (Kaplan and Marshall, 1996, p. 125). As a consequence of this
paranoia it was decided to hit back with the same weapon. In the third
phase the poison became independent and developed into a quasi-divine
substance. It was given half-ironic names like “Magic, Witch, and Sally”
(Kaplan and Marshall, 1996, p. 121) and sung about in the following hymn:
It came from Nazi Germany, a dangerous little chemical
If you inhale the mysterious vapor, you will fall with
from your mouth,
Sarin! Sarin! Sarin — the chemical weapon.
Song of Sarin, the brave.
In the peaceful night of Matsumoto City
People can be killed, even with our own hands,
Everywhere there are dead bodies,
There! Inhale Sarin, Sarin,
Prepare Sarin! Prepare Sarin! Immediately poisonous gas weapons
will fill the place.
Spray! Spray! Sarin, the brave Sarin
(Kaplan and Marshall,
1996, pp. 212-213)
The original plan was to spray the poison
gas over the parliament and government buildings with a helicopter so as to
paralyze the Japanese apparatus of state. The attack on the underground
system was therefore regarded as only a preparatory exercise.
Interestingly, 60 years before the events
in Tokyo the Russian whom we have already portrayed in detail, Nicholas
Roerich, had linked the Shambhala
myth to poison gases. He was convinced that the wonderland was
protected from invaders by a gaseous substance that he called “sur”. Here
is his story, told to him on his travels through Central Asia in search of Shambhala by a Buddhist monk: “A
lama, leader of a caravan, covers his mouth and nose with a scarf. He is
asked why, since it is not cold. He reports: 'Caution is needed now. We are
approaching the forbidden zone of Shambhala.
We shall soon notice 'sur', the poisonous gas that protects the border of Shambhala. Konchok, our Tibetan,
rides up to us and says in a subdued voice: 'Not far from here, as the
Dalai Lama was traveling to Mongolia, all the people and animals in the
caravan began to tremble and the Dalai Lama explained that they should not
be alarmed since they had entered the forbidden zone of Shambhala and the vibrations of the
air were strange to them” (Schule der
Lebensweisheit, 1990, p. 73). A plume of toxic gas is also supposed to
have streamed out of one of the famous Indian crematoria, the meeting place
of many Maha Siddhas. It was
assimilated by the submarine fire of the doomsday mare (Kalagni) also mentioned in the Kalachakra Tantra (White, 1996, p.
Since Auschwitz , the terror of gas is
also associated with the fate of the Jews and it is not surprising that
Asahara as an admirer of Hitler integrated an aggressive anti-Semitism into
his system. In a special issue of the AUM journal, Vajrayana Sacca, entitled “Manual of Fear”, war is declared on
the Jewish people: “On behalf of the world’s 5.5 billion people, Vajrayana Sacca hereby declares war
on the ‘world shadow government’ that murders untold numbers of people and,
while hiding behind sonorous phrases and high-sounding principles, plans to
brainwash and control the rest. Japanese awake! The hidden enemy’s plot has
long since torn our lives to shreds” (Brackett, 1996, pp. .107-108).
The international contacts
AUM Shinrikyo was not a purely Japanese
phenomenon but rather an international one that spread explosively through
several countries, principally Russia. The starving nation, hungry for any
spiritual message after so many years of communist dictatorship, became a paradise
on earth for the guru from the Far East. In 1992 he stood in front of St.
Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow with 300 of his followers, smiling and giving
the victory salute. The pose had its effect. Within just a few months AUM
was experiencing an unbroken rise in popularity across all of Russia. At
its peak the number of members exceeded 30,000. Asahara enjoyed a
surprisingly broad public recognition. He held a sermon on “Helping The
World to Happiness with the Truth” before a packed crowd at the University
of Moscow. He was introduced to the nascent capitalist power elite as
“Japan’s representative Buddhist leader (Kaplan and Marshall, 1996, p. 70).
The guru even gained influence over
leading Russian politicians. He maintained an especially warm relationship
with the influential chairman of the Russian Security Council, Oleg
Ivanovich Lobov, at this stage one of Boris Yeltsin’s close friends. Lobov
is said to have done not a little to assist the spread of the sect. Asahara
also knew how to cultivate contacts with well-known scientists. Things were
similarly successful on the propaganda front: in 1992, the government
station Radio Moscow broadcast his program “The Absolute Truth of Holy
Heaven” twice a day.
Of course, Asahara was not tightfisted
when it came to donations, a gesture which at that time in Russia opened
all doors. But that doesn’t explain the large influx of enthusiasts who
received nothing other than the pretty words of the “last messiah”. One
gains the impression that here an heir of Agvan Dorjiev’s Shambhala vision- where the hidden
kingdom was to be sought in Russia — was at work.
AUM Shinrikyo was the first religious
sect from a highly industrialized country which with deliberate terror
tactics turned on humanist society as such. It came from a religious milieu
which espoused like no other the principle of nonviolence — that of
Buddhism. Until then, people had known only occult groups like the 900
followers of Jim Jones in Jonestown, or the Sun Temple in Switzerland and
Canada or the Branch Davidians from Waco, who had exterminated themselves
but not uninvolved bystanders. Because of this new quality of religious
violence, the events in Tokyo caused much dismay all around the world.
One might have thought that this would
provoke global research into and discussion of the causes of and background
to the Asahara phenomenon. If so one would have been forced to recognize
the major influence Vajrayana had
had upon the system of the doomsday
guru. One would also have discovered the close connection between the Shambhala myth and the Kalachakra Tantra. Although such
links are overt, since Asahara refers to them explicitly in his writings,
both the Western and the Eastern public have chosen to act blind and
passively await the next catastrophe. In the press of the world the event
has already been forgotten repressed. In Japan too, nobody wants to look
behind the scenes, although Asahara’s trial is currently in progress: “In
general this contradiction between religion and violence is resolved here
by simply saying that AUM is not a religion at all” writes Martin Repp, and
continues, “One cannot make it so easy for oneself, then AUM Shinrikyo is
in its own understanding and in its practice [a] religion and has an
essentially Buddhist creed” (Repp, 1996b, p. 190).
The two different brothers
In the light of our study one could
rightly say that the AUM sect was a consistent and true to the letter pupil
of the tantric teachings. The occult magic world view, kundalini yoga, sexual magic, the linkage of power and seed
retention, the grasping for the Siddhis,
the invocation of the gods, the hastening of the end of the universe, the
glorification of destruction, the great fascination with fantastic machines
of destruction, the military obsessions, the idea of redemption, hope for a
paradise, the claim to world domination, the Shambhala myth — all of these leitmotifs that were so significant for Asahara are melodies
from the repertoire of Tibetan Buddhism, in particular that of the Kalachakra Tantra. For Asahara, the
tantric path to enlightenment began in the Himalayas and was supposed to
also end there. In 1988 he wrote that “After the United States we will go
to Europe. Finally we will establish a center in the Himalayas, the origin
of Buddhism and yoga. At this point my mission will be at an end” (quoted
by Repp, 1997, p. 27).
The story of Asahara demonstrates
clearly that Vajrayana and the Shambhala myth contain an extremely
demonic potential that can be activated at any moment. For the Asian side,
especially for the Mongolians (as we have seen), the aggressive warrior
ethos nascent in the idea of Shambhala
has never been questioned and still continues to exist today in the wishful
thinking of many. There is a definite danger — as we shall show in the next
chapter — that it could develop into a pan-Asian vision of fascist-like
Things are different with Tibetan
Buddhism in the West: there the lamas play only the pacifist card with much
success. It is almost the highest trump with which His Holiness the Fourteenth
Dalai Lama wins the hearts of the people. He is thus revered all over the
planet as the “greatest prince of peace of our time”.
What is the Kundun’s position on Shoko Asahara now? The Dalai Lama needs
the support of religious groups in Japan since the majority of Buddhist
schools in the country are friendly to China and foster frequent changes
with Chinese monasteries. It is said of the very influential Soka Gakkai
sect that they are in constant contact with the Chinese leadership. The
Agon Shun sect (to which Asahara originally belonged) which was formerly
friendly to the Dalai Lama has also switched loyalties and is now oriented
towards Beijing (Repp 1997, p. 95). Additionally, Asahara had transferred
large sums of money to the Tibetans in exile — official sources put the
total at US $1.7 million. All of these are factors in the political
calculations which might help explain the contact between the Dalai Lama
and the Japanese guru. If, however, we regard the meeting (with Asahara)
from a tantric point of view, we are forced to conclude that at one of
their meetings the Dalai Lama, as the supreme master of the Time Tantra,
initiated the doomsday guru
directly into the secrets of his “political mysticism” (the Shambhala myth). The reports of
people who have because of his magical aura experienced an audience with
the Kundun as a kind of
initiation are by now legion. Indeed,
how could it be otherwise in the light of an “omnipotent” and
“omniscient deity” in the figure of a “simple Tibetan monk”. Hence, in
interpreting the encounter between the two gurus in tantric terms, we have
to assume it was an occult relation between a “god” (the Dalai Lama) and a
Now, in what does the relationship
between these two unequal brothers consist? From a symbolic point of view
the two share the duties laid out in the tantric world view: the one plays
the compassionate Bodhisattva
(the Dalai Lama), the other the wrathful Heruka (Asahara); the one the “mild” Avalokiteshvara who “looks down from above” (the Dalai Lama),
the other the god of death and prince of hell, Yama (Asahara). The anthropologist and psychoanalyst, Robert A.
Paul, has been able to demonstrate with convincing arguments how profoundly
this two-facedness of the “good” and the “evil” Buddha has shaped Tibetan
culture. The two Buddha beings (the light and the dark) are considered to
be the counterposed forms of appearance of the one and the same divine
substance which has both a light and a shadowy side. We may recall that
Palgyi Dorje wore a white/black coat when he carried out the ritual murder
of King Langdarma.
On this basis then, is Asahara the
outwardly projected shadow of the Dalai Lama? His two most important
predecessors also had such “shadow brothers” in whom cruelty and criminality
were concentrated. Under the Fifth Dalai Lama it was the Mongol, Gushri
Khan. This counterpart transformed Tibet into a “sea of boiling blood”. The
thirteenth hierarch was accompanied by the bloodthirsty Kalmyk “Vengeful
Lama”, Dambijantsan. Is it really only a coincidence that the Fourteenth
Dalai Lama appeared on the world stage together with the Japanese doomsday guru, Shoko Asahara?
 The names of the other members of the shadow cabinet aside from
Shoko Asahara were Maha Kheema, Maitreya, Maha Angulimala, Milarepa,
Sakula, Kisa Gotami, Punna.mantaniputta Saitama 3rd, Machig
Lapdrön, Manjushrimitra, Mahakasappa, Kankha-Revata, Marpa, Naropa,
Uruvela-kasappa, Siha, Vangisha, Sukka, Jivaka, Ajita, Tissa, Dharmavajiri,
Vajiratissa, Bhaddakapilani, Sanjaya (Bracket, 1996, p. 80).
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14. CHINA’S METAPHYSICAL RIVALERY WITH TIBET
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Supreme Truth Sect (AUM Shinrikyo)