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Asahara, Shôkô (b. 1955)

Shôkô Asahara is the founder of the Japanese movement Aum Shinrikyô, responsible for the use of chemical weapons on the Tokyo subway in 1995. He is significant also as an example of a prophetic millennial religious leader whose visions gave rise to apocalyptic teachings and to mass violence committed by his disciples.

Partially blind at birth, Asahara was sent to a boarding school for the blind while young, an alienating experience that influenced his later estrangement from his family. After his applications to university were rejected (possibly due to his blindness), he turned to alternative medicine. In 1977, he moved to Tokyo, married, raised six children, and engaged in alternative healing practices. He was arraigned in 1982 for selling fake remedies. He later joined the new ...

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