Asahara, Shoko (1955–)

Shoko Asahara is the leader of the Aum Shinrikyō cult and mastermind of the sarin gas attack on the Japanese subway.

Asahara was born Chizuo Matsumoto, the son of a poor tatami mat-maker, on March 2, 1955. Afflicted with glaucoma at birth, the disease left Asahara with only very limited vision in one eye, and his parents sent him to a school for the blind. There, his partial sight was an advantage, and Asahara used it to bully and extort money from his fellow students. An unpopular but ambitious child, he spoke to his classmates of his determination to become prime minister of Japan.

In the early 1980s, Asahara became deeply interested in spirituality. He devoted himself to both the Hindu-style yoga and the daily meditation of Buddhism, and dabbled in other religions. He was particularly intrigued by the Christian concept ...

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