The Shadow of the Dalai Lama – Part II – 13. The doomsday guru Shoko Asahara and the XIV. Dalai Lama

© Victor & Victoria Trimondi






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

The „mystic” 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).


The Dalai Lama and Shoko Asahara


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:


  1. I am filled with boundless admiration for Teacher Asahara’s innate Buddhist traits, like enthusiasm for his work, goodliness, generosity, and selflessness.
  2. He is an experienced and qualified meditation; tantra; and yoga instructor.
  3. 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 Japan.
  4. 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 well-being.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 government.
  7. 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 013)


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 press.


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 “Shambhala, Shambhala!”


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 initiatory path.


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 other substances.


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. 199).


Asahara’s gods

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, p. 9). 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).

“The 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 near future.


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. [1] 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

And phowa the evil ones.

I will phowa one or two evil ones.

Phowa is the highest virtue

And phowa is the path to the highest level of being.

(Brackett, 1996, pp. 96-97)


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 and journalists.

“Within 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 prognostications.


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).

“Any 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 weapon,

Sarin! Sarin!

If you inhale the mysterious vapor, you will fall with bloody vomit

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. 234).


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 character.


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 “demon” (Asahara).


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?



[1] 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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