After being outlawed with its leader imprisoned, Aum Supreme Truth has survived and is proselytizing and even drawing new members, reports the Washington Post (Sept. 28).
Two-and-a-half years after being charged with carrying out gas attacks in Tokyo’s subways, Aum’s leader Shoko Ashara is in jail and facing a probable death sentence. Authorities say that of the 427 Aum members arrested following the gas attack, 138 have rejoined the group, many after serving jail time.
There may be as many as 2,000, or at least 1,000 current members in Aum–down from 10,000 at its peak. But members continue their devotion to Ashara. living in communal dormitories, meditating to recordings of his voice and studying his writings.
Although Aum is now bankrupt (through government action) and tries to keep quiet in the midst of widespread hostility directed toward the group, they are also busy again operating businesses (such as selling computers). Most Aum members deny that Ashara preached violence. Araki, the Aum spokesman, said the group no longer adheres to such teachings that include the doctrine of killing someone to enhance one’s status in the next world.
This doctrine, however, is “still clearly highlighted on the Aum Internet home page,” reports Kevin Sullivan.