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[Shoko Asahara] was insane but managed to convince a couple thousand people that he was enlightened.
— Brad Warner, writer and Sōtō Zen monk

Shoko Asahara (麻原 彰晃, Asahara Shōkō), born Chizuo Matsumoto (松本 智津夫, Matsumoto Chizuo), was a Japanese devotee of Buddhism and Taoism, who, in 1984, started the cult of Aum Shinrikyo, whose doctrine a combination of Buddhist, Shinto, Christian, Hindu, and Taoist beliefs. Asahara claimed to be a Christ-like figure who had the power to cleanse people of their sins.

The cult gained popularity amongst university students and the societal elite. Asahara's sermons started taking a darker turn the world would be destroyed in a nuclear apocalypse in 1997, and that his followers would be the only survivors. In 1989, the cult committed the murder of a member who tried to leave and later murdered a lawyer intending to investigate the cult, as well as his family. By 1993, the cult was manufacturing sarin and VX nerve gas and smuggling in arms Russia. In 1994, the cult released sarin gas in Matsumoto, Japan, and a year later, the cult gained infamy when they released the gas in a Tokyo Subway, killing 13 and injuring 1100.

Shoko was arrested in May 1995 at Aum Shinrikyo's compound in Kamikuishiki, near Mt Fuji. He was sentenced to death in 2004 and was executed in 2018.