January 18, 2000

#Outlook on the AUM-related Incidents and Outline of Drastic Reform

Outlook on the Aum-related Incidents

Fumihiro Joyu

* Introduction

The reason why I, Joyu, take charge of announcing the view of our religious organization is, I thought, that as the one who had announced our views on the incidents since the 1995 Tokyo subway gas attack, I should publicly correct the wrong views that I have made in the past. Not exactly as a person responsible for the present organization (neither controlled nor protected by law), but as a board member of the former religious organization, I thought it is my responsibility to make an apology and to explain what we are going to do about the incidents.

*Fact finding of the Aum-related incidents

Since December 1st of 2000 when we apologized in public for the Aum Shinrikyo-related incidents, we have continued looking into the incidents very carefully. As our present organization consists of those who were not directly involved in the incidents, our understanding of the incidents varies from person to person. However, as it became possible for us to directly contact a number of high-profile leaders of the former organization who are still in police custody, we have advanced in fact finding process and have become able to evaluate the incidents.

In the mean time, the involvement in the incidents of former Aum Shinrikyo followers became evident through trials and confessions by the accused ex-followers. Consequently, steering members of the present organization, who are board members (choro-bu) and the section leaders, have unanimously agreed that the former Aum Shinrikyo leader Shoko Asahara had been involved in the incidents, though they refrain from concluding his criminal liability because he is being still tried in the court.

We could say that former Aum Shinrikyo founder Shoko Asahara was a kind of genius in meditation, but at the same time we cannot approve of the incidents his organization caused. While inheriting the superior practices of Yoga and Buddhism, and the meditation method his Yoga talent has left, we'd like to clearly disapprove of the incidents.

We once again deeply apologize to the victims and bereaved families in the incidents. As ones who once belonged to the same religious organization, we deeply feel responsible for the outcome of the incidents. Considering what we have done in the past, I believe we have to reform the organization drastically.

Outline of Drastic Reform

Tatsuko Muraoka

*Setting up a liaison committee for promotion of compensation on Aum-related cases
We decided to set up a liaison committee for promoting compensation for the damages inflicted upon in the Aum-related incidents, and carry out necessary measures to deal with the outcomes of the incidents caused by the former organization, such as compensation to victims, support to accused followers and so on.

Following this decision, we agreed to transfer some of our properties to Aum Shinrikyo, which is responsible for compensation. And marking this as a start point, we also agreed to the plan to use a certain portion of the followers' income for compensation. Thus we are taking a further step to make as much compensation as possible.

Also, other than financial compensation, we started sending apology letters to the victims and bereaved family members in the incidents, paying much attention not to disturb them. W also think that it is also our duty to pay each of them a visit.

During the course of the discussion as to how to deal with the incidents and their consequences, we went as far as to consider the dissolution of the organization or quitting missionary work. However, we decided to carry out drastic reform rather than to resolve the organization. The reasons are three fold: (1) the dissolution of the organization would mean abandoning the responsibility for compensation (avoidance of compensation); (2) it will also confuse the process of making the new laws targeting us (avoidance of new laws); (3) despite the incidents that should be disapproved of, the practice of yoga has been proved to be beneficial to members, and the guidance and instruction of yoga will become a source of income for compensation. Therefore we decided to reform our organization drastically rather than dissolving the organization.

Until today, we have proposed to transfer seven properties to the bankruptcy administrator for Aum Shinrikyo. Those include properties in (1) Kawakami-mura, Nagano prefecture, (2) Saku-machi, Nagano prefecture (3) Fureai no Sato, in Tokigawa-mura, Saitama prefecture, (4) Mr. Ishii's house in Tokigawa-mura, Saitama prefecture (5) Fukiage-machi, Saitama prefecture, (6) Minamiaiki-mura, Nagano prefecture, and (7) Otawara-shi, Tochigi prefecture. They are worth over 100 million yen. The list includes properties, which once belonged to followers. For the compensation, they voluntarily transferred the ownership to the bankruptcy administrator.

*Note: For some properties [in (4) and (7)], we are requesting for a one-year determent of withdrawal.

* Outline of the new order after drastic reform

Based on our reflections upon the incidents, we would like to drastically reform our religious organization as follows:

[1] We will change our name and representative, and will make sure again to discard some parts of the teaching.

We will change our name from "Aum Shinrikyo" to "Aleph". After the reform has completed, I, acting representative, will take the responsibility of the organization as representative. This means former representative Shoko Asahara will no longer represent the organization.

The new organization will not have a guru, and the position of founder Asahara will be confined to the subject of meditation. Since he will be regarded only as a spiritual existence, he will not be in the position to give orders to the followers. We define Lord Shiva and Buddhas as the fundamental subjects of our adoration. In our context, a guru means an interpreter of scriptures. There have been a lot of gurus in the past and we do not define guru as the unique and absolute being.

Concerning the scriptures and teaching materials of the new organization, we will make new ones based on the teachings of Hindu Yoga, Early Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism that former representative Shoko Asahara interpreted. These will constitute the basic doctrine. On the other hand, we will abandon the parts of the teachings that are considered dangerous and told related to the incidents and disapprove of its exercise. To make our policy clear, we will produce a new doctrine and have it deeply rooted in each of us.

[2] Inaugurating the new order based on the purposes and objectives mentioned above, we will request each follower to fill in and submit a new admission form and a written oath. In the written oath, every member of the new organization must swear clearly that he/she will abide by the laws and that he/she will never exercise the killing or injuring of people, to say nothing of indiscriminant mass murder. It also bans engaging in unlawful activities, even if former representative Shoko Asahara should order him/her to do.

[3] From the viewpoint of the drastic reform, we would like to start from ground zero and reconsider what the branch system should be like in the future.

[4] As for the reformation of the domestic system, we will abolish Choro-bu or a closed board member system by a limited number of top leaders. Instead, the executive board, which consists of nearly ten members entrusted by tens of the different section leaders, will take over the function of Choro-bu system. That way we will avoid the power concentration to the top members and to ease the process of the merge and abolition of redundant sections.

[5] To completely cut off the new organization from the incidents, we will prohibit communication with any former members who, though involved in a grave crime, have not yet expressed repentance.

During a raid in September of 1999, the police confiscated research documents on poison gas and later reported it in public. The documents were collected at the request of accused followers and their lawyers in use for their trials. Lest the people misunderstand us, we will quit collecting such documents from now on.

*Application of the Aum-specific laws

The present organization poses no threat, and the new laws specifically targeting Aum Shinrikyo are highly unconstitutional. However, if the application was decided and the inspections into us were carried out, the third party, we think, would prove our organization safe and sound. Having said that, we also fear that our human rights could be seriously trampled upon depending on how the laws are utilized. One of the worst cases imaginable would be that they request us to hand in the list of the names and addresses of most followers including lay practitioners. If this kind of thing happens, the life of lay practitioners could be destroyed. Although it is irrational to think this way, but should this kind of thing happen, we will be in deep trouble.

*In conclusion

The executive board has discussed and come up with this view elaborated above in a few days ago. It has already explained the outline of the view to its monks and nuns and has just begun to explain it to the lay followers. Although we have not yet consulted with former representative Shoko Asahara, who has resigned as representative and leader of the organization, we will report our view to him and request his understanding if any opportunity arises. We also would like him to announce his opinion or something about the responsibility as then Aum Shinrikyo leader because he admitted at least the involvement of Aum Shinrikyo in the incidents, though he still keeps silent concerning his involvement.