Japanese religious group which mixed Buddhist and Hindu beliefs; founded by blind acupuncturist Asahara Shoko. The group gained international notoriety in 1995, when several of its followers carried out a poison gas attack on the Tokyo subways which left 12 people dead and 5,500 injured. Asahara and other group leaders were found guilty and sentenced to death for coordinating the attack. The name "Aum Shinrikyo" derives from the Hindu syllable aum (which represents the universe), followed by the three kanji characters shin ("truth," "reality," "Buddhist sect"), ri ("reason," "justice," "truth"), and kyō_ ("teaching," "faith," "doctrine"). In 2000, the organization changed its name to "Aleph" (the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet). In 1995 the group was reported as having 9,000 members in Japan and as many as 40,000 worldwide. As of 2004, Aum Shinrikyo/Aleph membership was estimated at 1,500 to 2,000 persons. The group remains under close scrunity and survelliance by the Japanese police. (from Wikipedia)
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