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The Evils of Aum Shinrikyo and Japanese Society

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Title: The Evils of Aum Shinrikyo and Japanese Society
Author: Lee, Jenny
Department: Bi-College (Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges). Dept. of East Asian Studies
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 2009
Abstract: In this research, I explore the relationship between Aum Shinrikyo and Japanese contemporary society. The significance of this investigation lies in how a society can avoid the development of dangerous organizations like Aum. The purpose of this research is to find what forms Aum-like entities, and how this is related to the society it is born from. I propose three points: Aum is a reflection of society, and it functions in a similar manner as society; people who joined Aum were ordinary citizens of society, and they conformed to the practices of Aum that Asahara determined, which is similar to the way that members of society adhere to societal norms; and thirdly, people joined Aum for various reasons, but it was society's shortcomings that people were dissatisfied with that caused them to abandon society. Haruki Murakami and Shoko Asahara's texts are my primary sources for conducting this research. Murakami's Underground 2 explores the three points mentioned above. He interviewed members of Aum for this book, and they reveal why they wanted to join Aum. This is significant to my study of Aum and society, because they provide their idea of what it was that society lacked. Asahara, who founded Aum Shinrikyo, wrote several texts that were spiritual guidelines for his followers. His writing sheds light on his dogma, as well as what people were attracted to in Aum that they could not find in society. My research shows that people were dissatisfied with society for various reasons. The most common reason was that people did not feel accepted in their society, especially because they did not see economic wealth as a priority, which is how society functioned. As a result, they sought more meaningful and purposeful lives by joining Aum, and Aum was able to provide them with righteous living and spiritual meaning. It is therefore argued that society must change in such a way that its members are content.
Subject: Oumu Shinrikyō (Religious organization)
Subject: Religion and sociology -- Japan
Subject: Japan -- Social conditions
Access Restrictions: Open Access
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Lee, Jenny. "The Evils of Aum Shinrikyo and Japanese Society". 2009. Available electronically from

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