Knave or Fool? The Dalai Lama and Shōkō Asahara Affair Revisited

Written by Rob Hogendoorn

1 hours

These days, the fourteenth Dalai Lama loses no time in telling spiritual devotees of inveterate and deliberate offenders that they must make their abuses and crimes public. Likewise, he routinely declares that the media should investigate and expose such matters diligently. However, the Dalai Lama himself rarely if ever contributes to the coming about of such investigative reports. Instead, he is prone to discarding shocking journalistic exposés about the spiritual leaders he endorses at will—especially while these ‘friends’ continue to provide financial assistance, political support, and media exposure to the Tibetan cause. Worse still, the Dalai Lama is wont to ignore clear warnings issued to him directly. As a rule, it is not until his own public image is tarnished by media reports that the Dalai Lama distances himself from known abusers or criminals— retroactively, that is. But even then, the Dalai Lama himself eschews the transparency and diligence he prescribes to others. His pattern of behaviour is well-established, as this comprehensive reconstruction of the Dalai Lama’s involvement with the infamous Japanese leader Shōkō Asahara of the Aum Shinrikyō cult illustrates.

Shōkō Asahara (1955-2018), born Chizuo Matsumoto, was the founder and leader of Aum Shinrikyō or ‘Om Supreme Truth,’ a Japanese doomsday cult group. At the height of its powers, Aum claimed to have some 10,000 Japanese members, 1,100 of whom lived in communes. Asahara was convicted of masterminding a sarin-gas attack in the underground of Tokyo in 1995 as well as various other crimes. Aum’s large-scale assault with nerve gas, not its first attempt, killed thirteen people and wounded nearly 6,000. Asahara’s death sentence was carried out on July 6, 2018. Several other Aum-members were executed as well.

The consequences of his stubborn endorsement of a notorious guru who turned out to be murderous, didn’t chasten the Dalai Lama. He conducted himself in the same way with Sogyal Rinpoché in the 1990s, for instance, and Keith Raniere in the 2000s. 1

A close examination of the Asahara affair demonstrates that the Dalai Lama’s sustained endorsement of known abusers or criminals is hardwired in his allegiance toward perceived ‘friends’ who support him and his cause—rather than amenable to public denouncements by their victims. Consistently bypassing accountability for his numerous commendations, the Dalai Lama’s preferential treatment of ‘old friends’ leaves credible whistle-blowers from abusive communities out in the cold. Victims and survivors of violent spiritual leaders then, of all people, are hard-pressed to find succour in his famed amicability.

Eye-Catching Presence

Aum Shinrykō Pamphlet

In March 1991, the Tibetan community in exile was warned that a fast-growing Japanese cult, Aum Shinrikyō, indulged in “strange rituals” while making itself out to be Tibetan Buddhism. The widely read monthly Tibetan Review reported that Tibetans living in Japan became aware of the cult’s existence a year before. Unnerving media reports raised the Tibetan community’s concern about the eye-catching presence of the Dalai Lama’s image in Aum’s promotional literature and recruitment drives. 2

‘Have A Sip of Blood…’

From October 15, 1989 the Sunday Mainichi, a major Japanese newspaper, ran a seven-week series of critical articles about the chequered past of Aum’s founder, the partially blind Shōkō Asahara: ‘The Insanity of Aum Shinrikyō.’ The paper published interviews with six families that claimed Asahara had ‘stolen’ their children. Also, it described outlandish rituals such as the ingestion of Asahara’s blood by devotees. 3

Foreign media took due note of the Sunday Mainichi articles. The Sydney Morning Herald, for instance, published its own story: ‘Have a Sip of Blood… And Welcome to Japan’s Newest Religion.’ 4

Aum Shinrikyō was quick to wreak vengeance on Sunday Mainichi’s editor, Maki Tarō:

They lined up cavalcades of cars outside Maki’s private residence and papered his neighborhood with leaflets criticizing him and his paper. These leaflets were also pasted up in the toilets of Sunday Mainichi’s offices and throughout the building the paper shared with other companies. Aum followers besieged Maki’s house with unending telephone calls. Handbills calling Maki a muckraker and worse were distributed in every place he might be embarrassed. Eventually, this strategy yielded sufficient media coverage that Aum leaders were interviewed on TV to present their side of the story and reverse the damage of the original exposé. 5

This ‘assertiveness’ turned out to be a bad omen indeed.

Electoral Defeat

Aum Shinrikyō drew further media attention during its political campaign for the national election for the Japanese parliament in February 1990, with a failed bid for twenty-five seats in its Lower House. 6

Shortly after the election, Asahara decided to lead a ‘retreat’ on a remote island. It didn’t end well: ‘This large-scale movement of the religion so soon after its unexpected electoral defeat led the media to suspect that Asahara was planning mass suicide, à la Jonestown. Thus the one thousand Aum members were joined on the tiny island by hundreds of journalists. The local inns were equipped for only a few hundred people, and the rest spilled onto the beaches. The result was a disaster so complete that the retreat had to be called off, though each attendee had paid $3,000 for the trip.’ 7

Once again, Aum retaliated: Asahara ordered the spraying of toxin from three trucks near American naval bases, an airport, the royal palace, the parliament, and the headquarters of a rival religious group. However, the attack went unnoticed at the time: Aum’s biochemists botched their attempt at weaponizing the deadly type A clostridium botulinum bacterium, so that the strain was nonvirulent. 8

Police Raid

Even so, the widespread publicity and mounting concerns about the well-being of hundreds of young renunciants following Asahara led to police raids, multiple arrests, and a nationwide investigation in October 1990. 9 Moreover, Japanese media reported the “mysterious disappearance” of Tsutsumi Sakamoto, a young lawyer representing former devotees who sought legal protection.

Once again, foreign media carried the story. The Daily Mail in Queensland asked on November 18, 1990: ‘Japan’s Manson, or Peace Guru?’ During a visit to Aum Shinrikyō’s base in Tokyo, the Daily Mail reporter noticed a framed photograph of Asahara and the Dalai Lama on the wall of a meeting room. He wrote:

The black-bearded Shoko Asahara seems friendly enough, considering that he’s a religious guru suspected of murder. The roly-poly Buddhist master says he can levitate his body off the ground and predict the future. His followers also claim he can meditate under water for long periods without needing to breathe. To his disciples, Asahara, 35, is a peaceful meditative master whose teachings, enshrined in the cult called the Aum Shinrikyo or the Supreme Truth sect, will lead them to personal happiness. But to police he is more like Charles Manson, the sinister United States sect leader who inspired his followers to slay actress Sharon Tate in 1969. A year ago, Japanese lawyer Mr Tsutsumi Sakamoto, 33, mysteriously disappeared with his wife and child. He had been giving legal advice to parents of teenagers who claimed their children had been kidnapped and forced to join Asahara’s 5000-odd followers. Sakamoto, known to friends as a conservative and hard-working man, disappeared with his family from their Yokohama apartment one night. They have not been seen since. The only clue: police found an Aum cult badge on the floor of the Sakamoto apartment. They immediately began an intensive investigation of Aum. 10

Sakamoto had given radio interviews about Aum Shinrikyō, and he was one of Sunday Mainichi’s sources. He, his wife, and their one-year-old son were reported as missing on November 4, 1990. 11 The gruesome facts remained unknown until six years later, but by 1990 two devotees had already been killed through the agency of fellow Aum-members. The lawyer Sakamoto, his wife and child were brutally murdered—by order of Shōkō Asahara. 12

Visiting the Dalai Lama’s Office

When Shōkō Asahara traveled to India for the first time in May 1986 he was a yoga autodidact looking for a guru—any guru, really—who could validate his previous ‘training.’ Also, he planned to achieve ’emancipation’ or ‘Buddhahood’ then and there. Documentary-maker Atsushi Sakahara, who was a victim of Aum Shinryō nerve gas attack, describes in a podcast with Pearl Chan how Asahara claimed to have reached enlightenment while climbing the stairs during a meeting with his followers in New Delhi, and announced it to the press in July 1986. 13

At the end of 1986, Asahara visits the Dalai Lama’s Office for South Asia and the Pacific Region in Tokyo and meets his representative Pema Gyalpo Gyari there. Filmmaker Sakahara’s podcast is based in part on the (untranslated) Japanese book Asahara Shōko no tanjō (‘Birth of Asahara,’ 2006) by Takayama Fumihiko. The book suggests that Asahara made quite a display of his partial blindness during that visit, dramatizing his visual impairment.

During this meeting in the Dalai Lama’s Office in Tokyo, Asahara claimed to have practiced yoga and meditation for some time, and said that he wanted to meet ‘Tibetan elders’ to hear their opinion on his progress. 14 Originally, Pema Gyalpo’s impression of him was ‘quite good,’ he found him ‘earnest and polite.’ At the time, Asahara didn’t say that he wanted to meet the Dalai Lama in particular, just ‘Tibetan monks.’ 15

Pema Gyalpo decided to send a letter of introduction to the Department of Religion and Culture of the exiled Central Tibetan Administration in India. His view at the time was that Shōkō Asahara was one of the most famous practitioners in Japan, with a lot of followers, so that it might be useful for him to meet Buddhist monks. But also: ‘If I cut him off here, it might be bad for the reputation of Tibetan Buddhism.’ 16

Sceptical Remarks

On his next visit to India, in February 1987, Asahara visited the Department of Religion and Culture in Dharamsala. There, he met its deputy secretary, Karma Gelek Yuthok, who introduced him to a ‘Tibetan scholar’ and two ‘high-ranking monks.’ 17 Filmmaker Sakahara remarks that Gelek Yuthok left a skeptical remark by one ‘annoyed’ Tibetan monk untranslated at the time—the monk said that Asahara needed much more guidance than he seemed to believe, and that he was likely to cause a ‘problem.’ The other monks expressed similar views, he says, underlining that Asahara needed a qualified teacher. 18

After some ‘internal discussion,’ the podcast says, Karma Gelek Yuthok thought that it would be good idea to have Asahara meet the Dalai Lama in person: ‘because they felt that Asahara was dangerous and needed to be guided, so they arranged a meeting with the Dalai Lama.’ Karma Gelek Yuthok later said that this first meeting lasted circa 40 minutes, during which nothing unusual happened. On his view, it did not signify in any way that Asahara was ‘special.’

But the Dalai Lama did take him to see his ‘living area,’ and suggested that they might ‘meditate together.’ Quotes filmmaker Sakahara: ‘Shōkō Asahara saw this as acceptance, and was ecstatic. Karma Gelek says that the Dalai Lama was concerned about the path Asahara was heading down, and wanted to guide him.’ In 1987 alone, he saw the Dalai Lama three times.19

Rudely Turned Back

The torrent of negative publicity in 1989 and 1990 dismayed the Tibetan community in Japan, especially since Shōkō Asahara prided himself ostentatiously on the Dalai Lama’s commendation. According to Tibetan Review‘s article in March 1991, the Dalai Lama’s representative in Japan, Pema Gyalpo Gyari, was so disturbed by the widespread coverage that he tried to lodge a complaint against the misnomer of calling Aum’s ideology Tibetan Buddhism at one of its “ashrams.” However, Asahara’s devotees forcefully dissuaded him from doing so:

The source says he was rudely turned back and some of the students even threatened him with physical assault had he persisted with his efforts. Asahara, the source says, is believed to have told Gyalpo that he has shaken hands with the Dalai Lama and made donations to him. He is reported to have added that the religious department of the Tibetan government approves of his teachings. 20

Pema Gyalpo is not just anybody. His family—the Gyari clan—belongs to the upper echelons of the Tibetan community in exile. His brother Lodi Gyari then served as the foreign minister of the exiled Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). So, as the Tibetans’ de facto ‘ambassador’ in Japan, Pema Gyalpo presumably reported his concerns about Aum Shinrikyō to his brother, the minister, if not the Dalai Lama directly. 21

Escaped Member Talks To Close Aide

Around the same time, a young member who escaped Aum Shinrikyō travelled to India with his parents, to talk to an unnamed “close aide” to the Dalai Lama. His father was the head of a pressure group of concerned parents. 22

Since he founded this group together with Sakamoto, the family was aware of the young lawyer’s “disappearance.” It is highly unlikely that they would have concealed their suspicion of foul play during the meeting with the Dalai Lama’s aide. However, the aide limited himself to denying Asahara’s claim that the Dalai Lama believed him to be enlightened, or that he instructed him to propagate “real Buddhism” in Japan. 23

Robert Lifton writes about this meeting:

One former disciple actually embarked on a trip to India with a small group of others to seek out the Dalai Lama and ask him whether he had really said that Asahara possessed “the mind of a Buddha,” as the guru claimed he had. The group did not succeed in meeting the Dalai Lama but a close associate of his denied to them that such a thing could have been said. Telling me the story, the former disciple added with a wry smile, “Of course I did not have to go to India to find that out.”’ 24

Presumably, again, the aide reported the exchange to the Dalai Lama or his staff. If so, his report did not persuade the Dalai Lama and his entourage that he should stop seeing Asahara, for their meetings continued unabated.

In point of fact, Shōkō Asahara, together with his wife Tomoko and some 20 devotees, visited India seven times between February 1987 and July 1992. He met with the Dalai Lama on at least five or six occasions, most of which were photographed and filmed. 25

Also, beginning in May 1988, Aum Shinrikyō donated more than 1.5 million US dollars to the Dalai Lama in multiple currencies. The Dalai Lama received a lump sum of 1.2 million US dollars in July 1992, after which Asahara of his own accord suspended their meetings. 26

Tip-off From Japan

Tibetan Review sprang into action in March 1991 after a tip-off from an unnamed Tibetan source in Japan. Evidently, the source’s overriding concern was Tibetan Buddhism’s public image: ‘Tibetans in Japan, the source says, are not concerned with what is being taught to whom, but they are indignant that something that is not Tibetan Buddhism is being taught as Tibetan Buddhism. They believe that Asahara began calling his rituals Tibetan Buddhism around the time that the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 1989.’ 27

Tsewang Nishikura, a Tibetan doctor and Japanese citizen, responded to this article with a letter to the editor. He pointed out that while many Japanese had an open mind about the Tibetan cause, Asahara’s actions posed a ‘big social problem’ and caused a ‘lot of despair among Tibetans and Japanese alike.’ He questioned the advisability of soliciting Asahara’s ‘support in no uncertain terms:

Though Mr. Asahara is said to be one of these supporters, his behaviour of using publicity and defamation should not be forgiven. What I feel is important is the attitude of our side toward the attitude of the supporter. Do we receive support indiscriminately without considering the intentions of the supporters? Do we lack independence of mind? Under these circumstances, I think we should be more wary of the intentions and aims of these groups or individuals operating under the guise of Tibet and H.H. the Dalai Lama linking them to their own aims under the banner of support. 28

It’s unclear whether Aum-members became aware of the criticisms in Tibetan Review at the time, but their previous response to public critique shows that Nishikura’s letter put him at risk of being harmed. It ís clear, though, that his warning fell on deaf ears in the Dalai Lama’s Office, for the meetings continued.

First Acquaintance

The Dalai Lama’s new-won prestige and worldwide celebrity likely became strong incentives later but, as we’ve seen, his first meeting with Asahara in 1987 predates the announcement of the Nobel Prize by two years. Tibetan Review’s article sheds little light on this: It notes that Asahara traveled to the Dalai Lama’s hometown Dharamsala in India ‘at least once,’ but it provides no detailed timeline.

Possibly, Asahara became acquainted with the Dalai Lama even earlier. Before he founded Aum Shinrikyō, Asahara was a failed masseur and acupuncturist. As a ‘pharmacist,’ he was convicted for selling counterfeit health-potions in the early 1980s. This case led to negative press coverage, but some years later some occult journals praised Asahara’s religious practice and attainments. 29. Somewhere between 1980 and 1984, he joined Agon-shū, a “new new” religious movement established in 1978. 30

The Dalai Lama on stage at the Nippon Budō-kan, Tokyo (May 1984)

Seeking religious legitimation and public promotion in media, Agon-shū wooed the Dalai Lama on his visit to Japan in May 1984. The Tibetan leader attended its ‘Aura Festival World Peace Prayer Service’ in the Nippon Budō-kan sports arena in Tokyo, where he conducted a fire ritual in front of some 13,000 people.31 Asahara was an undistinguished member of Agon-shū, but this event may have prompted his desire to seek out the Dalai Lama. 32

The Dalai Lama, in turn, may have become amenable to establishing relations with Asahara as his new backer in Japan when Agon-shū switched allegiance and began cultivating relations with the Communist regime in Beijing. This fit a pattern: Historically speaking, Japanese Buddhists are primarily interested in cultivating relations with Buddhists in China rather than with Tibetan exiles in India. 33

First Meeting and Donation

On his first visit to Dharamsala in February 1987, Asahara went to see the Tibetan refugee centre. Allegedly, he produced a letter of introduction by the ‘ambassador’ Pema Gyalpo Gyari and told Karma Gelek Yuthok, then deputy secretary of the Department of Religion and Culture: ‘There is no Buddhism in Japan in the true sense of the word, I would like to meet Tibetan Buddhist leaders to learn of their views about Buddhism.’ Gelek Yuthok obliged by introducing Asahara to several Tibetan leaders, including the Dalai Lama. 34

Shōkō Asahara: Supreme Initiation (1988)

Shortly after their first meeting, Asahara published a book in which he quoted the Dalai Lama: ‘Dear friend, look at the Buddhism of Japan today. It has degenerated into ceremonialism and has lost the essential truth of the teachings. As this situation continues, Buddhism will vanish from Japan. Something needs to be done, and you should spread real Buddhism there. You can do that well. If you do so, I shall be very pleased and it will help me with my mission. (…) You can do that well, because you have a Bodhi-chitta.’35

The turn of phrase sounds slightly off to a trained ear, but the message is not out of character. Evidently, Martin Repp says, Asahara mistook the Sanskrit term bodhicitta, a mind that strives toward awakening for others’ benefit, as referring to the mind of an actual Buddha—a person who is already awakened. Likewise, Asahara construed the Dalai Lama’s gratitude for his financial support as ‘proof’ of the Dalai Lama’s support of his own. 36 Besides, this quote fits other endorsements by the Dalai Lama in writing or on film that are verifiable.

Sometimes, the Tibetan leader appears to remain somewhat wary: During their meeting in May 1988, for instance, the Dalai Lama accepted a large donation in cash from Asahara, telling him that he did not want the money ‘if it will lead to controversy.’ 37 Apparently, then, the Dalai Lama was aware of a risk of reputation damage. During that same meeting in 1988, filmmaker Atsushi Sakahara says, Shōkō Asahara told the Dalai Lama that he was close to Buddhahood, to which the Dalai Lama said: ‘O, really?’ Asahara also told him then about his 5,000 followers, and that he ‘provided his blood to them, which is how he became blind.’ The Dalai Lama laughed, and said: ‘Strange, because if you practice more, your eyes are supposed to get better.’ 38

Signed Endorsement

During this visit in 1988, Asahara asked the Dalai Lama for a written endorsement that would expedite Aum’s formal recognition as a religious organization by the authorities in Tokyo.39 He rejected this at first, to avoid putting strain on his administration’s diplomatic relations with Japan. However, eventually the Dalai Lama did succumb to Asahara’s demand. The signed letter that he issued on May 26, 1989 reads:

The Dalai Lama’s Endorsement (May 26, 1989)

Aum, according to my knowledge, endeavours to promote public awareness through religious and social activities. Apart from providing intensive meditation guidance its members also practice Mahayana Buddhist traditions. Aum has also been providing generous offerings for our Buddhist community in exile, particularly for monk students who have recently arrived from Tibet. These have been very useful and much appreciated. 40

Endorsement by the Council for Religious and Cultural Affairs (May 25, 1989)

The Council for Religious and Cultural Affairs of the Dalai Lama, a department of the Central Tibetan Administration, kept its end up too: It issued a second ‘To Whom It May Concern’ statement: ‘AUM, according to our best knowledge, endeavours to promote public welfare through various religious and social activities, such as, holding classes on Buddhist teachings and Yoga, organizing seminars, and providing guidance in intensive meditation and ethical practices.’ The Council praised Aum’s ‘generous donations to the Buddhist community in exile,’ and called upon the Japanese government to grant Aum ‘its well-earned tax-exempt status’ and ‘due recognition.’ 41

Deputy secretary Karma Gelek Yuthok later claimed: ‘Asahara became angry because the letter defined Aum as “an Oriental religious body” rather than an authentic “Buddhist organization.” At first, Asahara was courteous, using only polite expressions, but later he became increasingly arrogant, Karma said. The guru’s actions prompted the Dalai Lama to warn Asahara to be “careful in his words and behavior,” he said.’ 42 Evidently, not even Asahara’s objectionable behaviour could keep the Dalai Lama from welcoming him in his residence, for their meetings continued for three more years.

Most Coveted Aim

The two commendation letters helped Aum Shinrikyō conclude its vain attempts at achieving a most coveted aim: In August 1989, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government finally registered Aum as a religious body. It thereby granted Aum a tax-exempt status: ‘With the help of the letters of recommendation from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is also highly respected in Japan, the coup was achieved in just nine weeks. The result: Shōkō Asahara no longer needed to pay taxes and was able to invest the accumulated funds in poison gas production unhindered.’ 43 The Sunday Mainichi newspaper ran its seven-week series ‘The Insanity of Aum Shinrikyō’ on the heels of Aum’s recognition as a religious body: ‘The series of articles reached a large audience and provoked a general outcry among the public.’ 44

The Japanese government estimates that Aum Shinrikyō’s total assets grew from 4,3 million US dollars at the time it was recognized as a religious body, to 1 billion US dollars in 1995. Moreover, the recognition provided ‘de facto immunity from official oversight and prosecution,’ since Japanese authorities were not allowed to investigate its religious activities or doctrine—not even “for profit” activities. 45

‘My Wish and Prayer’

In a video of one of their meetings, the Dalai Lama remarks about Asahara:

I’m always happy to meet him, [ever] since we’ve known each other. I’m impressed with his strong desire to practice. So, whenever we meet, we discuss these things. Also, I understand, he received some teachings from different Tibetan lamas. So, as an old friend, I’m hoping and praying for his every success and more benefit for different people. That is my wish and prayer. 46

 

Likewise, Aum Shinrikyō’s newsletter ‘Beyond Life and Death’ quotes the Dalai Lama as saying: ‘I always look forward to seeing Master Shoko Asahara. He always practices hard.’ And: ‘”Your experience is solid and interesting. I recognized that you practiced Tantra in your past life. You should spread true religion all over Japan. You can do it. I will always be blessing you and watching over you.” (in 1987, at Dharmsala, India).’ The newsletter further quoted: ‘”Aum endeavors to awaken people through religious and social activities. They teach the method of meditation and they themselves are continuously practicing the tradition of Mahayana Buddhism.” (From an autographed letter, May 1989).’ 47

Once again, the translations sound somewhat contrived. But the Dalai Lama’s basic message does fit other documented declarations about Asahara.

Exit ‘Ambassador’ Pema Gyalpo…

Clearly, Shōkō Asahara and the Dalai Lama engaged in a pursuit that was mutually profitable. Unfortunately, the Dalai Lama and his aides took no heed of warning signs everywhere that were blinking bright red. 48

Meanwhile in Dharamsala in 1990, the exiled Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies determined that the intelligence bureau of the Kuomintang regime in Taiwan surreptitiously channelled 250,000 US dollars through representative Pema Gyalpo Gyari’s office in Tokyo. The Security Office of the Dalai Lama’s Central Tibetan Administration had kept the deal a secret ‘since it would be open to misinterpretation.’ 49 The Dalai Lama instructed his administration to further end all contacts with the Taiwanese government, ‘even on non-political matters,’ but this was not carried out until a year later. 50

Effacing his own administration’s direct involvement in the Kuomintang deal, the Dalai Lama later told The Washington Times: ‘There is a small percentage of the Tibetan community who receive some money from the KMT [Kuomintang, RH]. Some of these Taiwan agents send some Tibetans inside Tibet in order to receive some information and also, it seems, to send in some guns. Then they usually pretend these people were sent by the Dalai Lama.’ 51

When the news about Pema Gyalpo’s dealings with the Kuomintang broke in Dharamsala, a mob threw stones at the house of his brother, cabinet minister Lodi Gyari. 52 So, it came as no surprise that the Kuomintang affair gave Pema Gyalpo reason to step down as the Dalai Lama’s representative in Japan. He was succeeded by the Dalai Lama’s older brother Thubten Norbu. 53

As we shall see later, Pema Gyalpo’s fall into disrepute may have seemed particularly opportune to another protagonist in the Asahara debacle—erstwhile deputy secretary Karma Gelek Yuthok, who introduced Asahara to the Dalai Lama.

Last Meeting

Thubten Norbu, the Dalai lama’s brother, resigned his post in Japan already in 1992, by his account out of displeasure with the Central Tibetan Administration’s leadership. 54

It is unlikely that Thubten Norbu would have thought that the Dalai Lama’s continued meetings with Asahara were of no concern, but his actual position on them remains unclear. At any rate, the meetings did not stop until July 1992, when Asahara—not the Dalai Lama—suspended them:

In July 1992, Asahara made another donation, which was larger than usual. As he gave it, he reportedly said “This contribution will be the last of its kind. There will be no encounters between us for the time being.” At the time, Asahara made references to Aum’s connections with Russia, adding that 1 million Russian people were tuning in to Aum’s radio program. A month before that, Aum opened a branch in Moscow. In December 1992, Aum decided to manufacture automatic rifles at its own plant, based on Russian blueprints. 55

…Enter New ‘Ambassador’ Karma Gelek Yuthok

In January 1994, Karma Gelek Yuthok, who had previously introduced Asahara to the Dalai Lama, took up the now vacant post of representative at the Office for South Asia and the Pacific Region in Tokyo. 56

One year into his tenure, on March 20, 1995, Aum Shinrikyō attacked the underground railway of Tokyo, killing thirteen people and wounding nearly 6,000. 57

Shōkō Asahara and the Dalai Lama

As it happens, the Dalai Lama travelled to Japan on the heels of Aum Shinrikyō’s sarin attack—his first visit in eleven years.58 Anticipating his journey to Japan, Tashi Wangdi, the Dalai Lama’s representative in New Delhi, confirmed to Agence France-Press that the two leaders had met. Wangdi insisted, though, that they had not been close: ‘His Holiness (the Dalai Lama) has met with him [Asahara, RH], as he does with thousands and thousands of people from around the world every year, during a visit to India.’ 59

Karma Gelek Yuthok, the Dalai Lama and Shōkō Asahara

In spite of Wangdi’s soothing tone, photographs and footage of the Dalai Lama’s amicable meetings with Asahara continued to prompt a barrage of questions from reporters. On the day of his arrival, the Dalai Lama expressed his shock about the nerve gas attack. He told reporters that he met Shōkō Asahara ‘many times’ and ‘remembered him well.’ Also, he said: ‘Aum Shinri Kyo has a mixed doctrine of Buddhism and Hindu. As I am a Buddhist, I cannot comment on the Aum Shinri Kyo.’ Even so, he opined that Asahara ‘should come out of hiding.’ 60

Just an ‘Acquaintance’

The Dalai Lama’s Press Conference in Tokyo (April 5, 1995)

During an impromptu press conference on April 5, 1995, the all but last day of his visit to Japan, the Dalai Lama acknowledged that he met Shōkō Asahara ‘three or four times.’ 61 When he was asked about his personal impression of Asahara, the Dalai Lama said: ‘Impressions? [Laughing] At the beginning, as I mentioned earlier, it seems [as if he showed] a sincere interest or eagerness to know Buddhism, or Tibetan Buddhism. Then, eventually, I felt [that] they were more concerned with [their] organization. Basically, the Buddhist way of approach is, you see, [that] you should not rely on [the] person, we must rely on [the] teaching rather than the person! So, you see, the organization which becomes very much [a] cult… actually, that is not a healthy sign.’ 62

Insisting that Asahara was just an ‘acqaintance’ of his, not a ‘disciple,’ the Dalai Lama said that he was impressed by what appeared to be Asahara’s seriousness and spirituality. To this he added: ‘I consider him (Asahara) as my friend, but not necessarily a perfect one.’ 63 His personal advice to Asahara, who was a fugitive from justice, was: ‘Investigate! Open, make open, everything, that’s important!’ 64

Robert Kisala quotes Japanese media reports in which the Dalai Lama says: ‘I approach everybody who comes to visit me as a friend. That doesn’t mean, however, that I approve of Aum’s beliefs.’ And: ‘If people want to use a meeting with me for their own purposes, it is beyond my reach to stop them.’ Kisala concludes: ‘Thus, while denying any intimate connection or explicit recognition of Asahara or Aum, the Dalai Lama also avoids any direct criticism of the group.’ 65

His insistence on full disclosure notwithstanding, the Dalai Lama and his aides didn’t volunteer the information about the large donations he accepted from Aum Shinrikyō. Nor did he or his aides mention the endorsements that he and his administration signed in 1989, the meeting of the ex-member’s family with a close aide in 1990, or the concerns that the Tibetans in Japan raised in Tibetan Review in March 1991—at great personal risk. As a result, the true extent and financial rewards of the Dalai Lama’s involvement with Aum remained unreported at that time. 66

Tibetan Media Reports

After the massacre in Tokyo, Tibetan Review was quick to remind its readers of its cautionary report in March 1991. Its news article on the nerve gas attacks quoted that issue at length and referred to ‘Japanese newsmen’ diligently seeking Tibetan officials’ comments on ‘the controversial guru.’ 67

The Tsuglagkhang complex in Dharamsala contains the Dalai Lama’s residence, a monastery and temples.

Then, in May 1995, the Tibetan fortnightly newspaper Mang-tso (‘Democracy’) ran an article that ‘accused the Dalai Lama’s advisers of exposing the Tibetans’ greatest living asset to scandal by not screening his visitors properly. It said reports of meetings between the Dalai Lama and Shoko Asahara, the founder of the Aum Shinrikyo sect which carried out the poison gas attack on the Japanese underground, were damaging to the Tibetan cause.’ 68

A year or so before, after ‘a somewhat snide report’ about the Dalai Lama in Vanity Fair, the editors of Mang-tso met with a senior official of the Dalai Lama’s Private Secretariat. They briefed him ‘on how absolutely vital it was for the Secretariat and the CTA to vet everyone the Dalai Lama met and ensure they dressed and behaved in a seemly manner, so that no misunderstanding could ensue.’ Jamyang Norbu, one of the editors, recalled writing an editorial about the issue in Mang-tso at the time, to the consternation of some readers: ‘I remember a contingent of women charging into our office in McLeod Ganj screaming that we were spreading lies about the Dalai Lama.’ 69 It’s unclear if the editors brought up the Dalai Lama’s constant meetings with Asahara too, but the shocking events in 1995 were sure to affirm that their concern was just.

Death-Knell

In effect, though, Mang-tso‘s critique of the Dalai Lama’s involvement with Shōkō Asahara rang the death-knell of the magazine:

The exile-Tibetan magazine Mangtso (‘Democracy’) was discontinued in 1996, only a few years after it was launched, because, the editors of Mangtso said, its critical articles on the workings of the Tibetan-government-in-Exile had led fellow exiles to accuse them of serving Chinese interests, discrediting the name and person of the Dalai Lama and working against the Tibetan cause. The editors of Mangtso were targeted with harassment and even violence because they had voiced their criticism. 70

Looking back in 2009, Jamyang Norbu, then editor of Mang-tso, wrote that they ‘attempted to report on Tibetan politics in an open and truthful manner. Our staff members and some young men who sold our paper on the streets were constantly harassed and threatened. The editors received death threats on a regular basis, and gangs and mobs often poured into our office, scaring the girls at the reception desk and harassing everybody else. All these incidents were clearly organized and instigated by the religious-right coalition in order to shut down the paper.’ 71

Western Media

Cover of Focus Magazin (38) 1995

While Mang-tso’s attempt at cultivating openness, transparency, and accountability was being nipped in the bud, Western media continued to investigate the matter. 72 In September 1995, right when the Japanese police unearthed the remains of Tsutsumi Sakamoto and his wife—their infant son’s body was never found—Werner Bloch’s article ‘Unholy Surety’ asked how the Dalai Lama and his aides could have ‘missed the headlines that announced the disappearance of a lawyer who had made a name for himself as a representative of the victims’ association of former Aum members? Did no one near to His Holiness know about the police raid on Asahara’s House of “Supreme Truth” in late 1990?’ For all these years, Bloch wonders, why did the Dalai Lama not distance himself from Asahara?

First page of ‘Unheilige Bürgschaft’ (Focus Magazin)

The Dalai Lama’s personal secretary at the time, Kelsang Gyaltsen, admitted that the revelations about Asahara ’caused quite a stir in the Dalai Lama’s Office.’ However, when he was asked whether such an event could repeat itself, Gyaltsen ‘shrugged his shoulders: The Dalai Lama is just a helpful and open person.’ 73

All the same, Kelsang Gyaltsen himself was less than ‘helpful’ and ‘open.’ He saw no reason to reveal the full extent of Asahara’s support. A month later, in October 1995, Gyaltsen did admit that ‘Asahara had donated an unspecified amount of money after “several” meetings with the Tibetan spiritual leader in the Indian hill town of Dharamsala in the 1980s. “He (Asahara) made donations to the Buddhist community in exile, specially for Buddhist monks and nuns who have fled Tibet in recent years.”‘ 74 Obviously, this much was already clear from reports on the text of the Tibetan commendation letters signed in 1989.

Piecemeal Transparency

The Dalai Lama’s secretary also told the French press agency Agence France-Presse that he was not aware how much money Asahara had donated, while he continued to downplay the matter:

“His Holiness met him several times,” he said. “In a year, His Holiness meets around 3,000 to 4,000 people from all walks of life. It was also the case with Asahara. He (Asahara) expressed interest in Buddhism and concern over the condition of Tibetan refugees, particularly for their education,” the spokesman said. “So he made some donations. I have seen one letter from our office acknowledging his donation but it did not specify the amount,” Gyaltsen added. The Tibetan official said that in retrospect the Dalai Lama regretted meeting Asahara. “Of course, we have no intention of taking money that is tainted in any way,” the spokesman said. “But at that time we took it in good faith.” 75

It’s hardly credible, of course, that the recollection of a donation of 1.5 million US dollars would have faded by then. 76 While the Dalai Lama’s prevaricating aides controlled the flow of information and piecemeal transparency continued, the media demand for full disclosure mounted. 77 But it was not until April 1996 that Karma Gelek Yuthok, the Dalai Lama’s new representative in Japan, disclosed the full extent of his personal and financial relations with Asahara and Aum Shinrikyō, ‘to dispel negative publicity and baseless rumours.’ He reconfirmed that the Dalai Lama first met Asahara in 1987, and on six further occasions. Yuthok also mentioned that Asahara suspended their meetings in July 1992 after he gave a ‘big donation’ to the Dalai Lama for the preservation of Tibetan culture. 78

As it happens, the first secretary of the Japanese embassy in India paid the Dalai Lama an ‘unofficial’ visit in Dharamsala on April 30, 1996. Contemporaneous news reports didn’t cover the topics of discussion, but it is unlikely that the Japanese diplomat would have failed to raise the Dalai Lama’s financial involvement with Shōkō Asahara and Aum Shinrikyō. After all, the Japanese government investigated the cult’s financial dealings at length. 79

Curiously, Karma Gelek Yuthok, the new ‘ambassador’ in Japan, also alleged that the Dalai Lama-Asahara relation ‘soured’ after the Tokyo Metropolitan Government failed to grant Aum the status of a Buddhist religious organisation. 80 Recall that Aum Shinrikyō was registered as a religious body in August 1989: Clearly, the alleged ‘souring’ of their relationship did not prevent Asahara and the Dalai Lama from meeting for three more years, nor did it keep the Dalai Lama from accepting his donations.

Flooded With Journalists

Revisiting the Shōkō Asahara affair in 2012, Jamyang Norbu said in the The Tibetan Political Review: ‘We had problems in Dharamshala before in the 90s when the Office of Religious and Cultural Affairs (chodon leykhung), against the advice of the Office of Tibet in Japan [italics RH], arranged for Shoko Asahara to meet Holiness and even have a picture taken with him—a giant enlargement of which became the central icon in Asahara’s temple. When this cult leader was arrested for the Tokyo subway sarin gas attacks and the photograph discovered by the police and the press at his temple, McLeod Ganj was flooded with Japanese journalists, TV people and a few who seemed like police or intelligence personnel. I was there at the time.’ 81

Jamyang Norbu continues to say that ‘thankfully, after a couple of weeks CTA officials, also myself and others, managed to convince the Japanese press that His Holiness had absolutely no relationship with the cult leader and that the audience in Dharmshala was a just a single routine event.’ With this, he directly contradicts the statements of the Dalai Lama’s representative in Japan, Karma Gelek Yuthok, in April 1996. 82

However, Norbu’s account does tally with Yuthok’s predecessor at the Office for South Asia and the Pacific Region in Japan, Pema Gyalpo Gyari. Soon after the sarin attack in Tokyo, he told United Press International that he had no personal connection with Aum Shinrikyō. Also, he denied having acted as ‘the intermediary who introduced the two religious leaders.’ 83

We’ve seen that, by his admission, Karma Gelek Yuthok introduced Shōkō Asahara to the Dalai Lama in 1987, during his tenure as deputy secretary of the Department of Religion and Culture. And in doing so he (supposedly) went by Pema Gyalpo Gyari’s ‘letter of introduction.’ But we’ve also seen that in the book Asahara Shōko no tanjō, quoted in filmmaker Sakahara’s podcast, Pema Gyalpo claims that the letter primarily served to introduce Asahara to ‘Tibetan monks’ more generally, not the Dalai Lama in particular.84

Two Birds, One Stone?

If his Japanese Office did in fact advise against having the Dalai Lama meet Asahara, as Norbu clearly says, its position is consistent with Pema Gyalpo’s aborted attempt at Aum’s ‘ashram‘ in 1990, aimed at persuading the cult to drop the label Tibetan Buddhism altogether. As we’ve seen, according to Tibetan Review‘s source, Aum-members confronted Pema Gyalpo Gyari forcefully at the time, telling him that Asahara had ‘shaken hands’ with the Dalai Lama and had given him donations.

Presumably, if Jamyang Norbu is right in saying that Pema Gyalpo advised against such a meeting, Aum-members’ claims would have caught his Japanese representative, unaware. Alternately, his confrontation with Aum in 1990 prompted Pema Gyalpo to advise against further meetings between the two leaders. At any rate, it stands to reason that Pema Gyalpo sought to corroborate Aum’s claim by contacting officials in Dharamsala—likely his brother Lodi Gyari, the foreign minister, or the Dalai Lama himself—right away.

It is very unlikely that Pema Gyalpo would have suppressed his concerns about Aum Shinrikyō at that time. All things considered, then, it is plausible that it became apparent to his own Japanese representative in 1990, at the very latest, that the Dalai Lama had no objections to meeting Asahara and accepting donations from him. 85 Also, the clear ‘despair’ among Tibetans in Japan over the Dalai Lama’s intransigence in this matter—flatly ignoring Pema Gyalpo’s explicit warning—provides a reasonable motive for the tip-off that led to Tibetan Review’s publication and Tsewang Nishikura’s letter to the editor in 1991.

Obviously, Jamyang Norbu’s version of the events begs the question why the new representative Karma Gelek Yuthok would (falsely) suggest to a Japanese newspaper that he went by a (non-existent or different sounding) ‘letter of introduction’ from the previous office holder in Japan—who, quite conveniently, had fallen into disfavour over the alleged acceptance of 250,000 US dollars from the Kuomintang regime. Why would the new representative paper over his predecessor’s negative advice?

A plausible answer to this question is that Yuthok’s version has the benefit of killing two birds with one stone. First, it absolves him and the Department of Religion and Culture, because he would simply have acted on the recommendation of the Dalai Lama’s Japanese representative at the time. Second, this view absolves the Dalai Lama and his aides from ignoring his representative’s explicit advice against becoming involved with Shōkō Asahara and Aum Shinrikyō—never mind accepting 1.5 million US dollars from him.

So, Yuthok’s ‘disclosure’ may well have been aimed at deflecting the media’s attention from the Dalai Lama’s active part in the Asahara affair—at Pema Gyalpo’s expense.

The ‘Sovereign’ Can Do No Wrong

The incompatibility of Norbu’s and Yuthok’s narrative serves to mark an apparent attempt at bypassing the Dalai Lama’s personal accountability for his enabling behaviour towards the leader of a murderous cult. Indeed, the very evasiveness of his successive spokesmen suggests that the ‘immutability’ and ‘inviolability’ of the Dalai Lama’s public office supersede this particular incumbent’s accountability for the actual discharge of his constitutional administrative duties. On this view, literally, the Dalai Lama is a ‘sovereign’ who can do no wrong. The buck never stops with him—least of all publicly. 86

Tibetan commentators’ conceivable reluctance notwithstanding, some Western observers had less trouble holding the Dalai Lama accountable.

‘Either a Knave or a Fool’

In 1996, religious scholar Michael Pye was among the first western opinion makers who openly decried the Dalai Lama’s involvement with Aum Shinrikyō: ‘In this connection serious doubt must be cast on the judgment of the Dalai Lama. It is part of his style to expres himself warmly and in full confidence that his words are based on a strong spiritual perception. It appears that he acquiesced in the judgment that Japanese Buddhism in general is moribund and this-worldly. As a spiritual leader of great reputation he expressed his confidence in Asahara’s ability to lead Japan into the way of true Buddhism.’ Pye continued:

One can only conclude from this that the Dalai Lama is, as the saying goes, ‘either a knave or a fool’. Either it suited him, or he was taken in. In other words, either he understood that Asahara was a skilled religious operator and cynically encouraged him in accordance with the principle that all publicity is good publicity, or he totally miscalculated Asahara’s character, which says little for his spiritual perception. 87

Pye regretted having to criticize the Dalai Lama—calling it ‘not at all fashionable’—but thought it was unavoidable ‘in a situation in which specialists in religion find themselves being criticized because they did not previously make clear statements about Aum Shiinrikyō.’ 88

In his review of Martin Repp’s German monograph Aum Shinrikyō (1997), Pye focusses on the fact that Shōkō Asahara evidently turned the Dalai Lama’s endorsement to his advantage: ‘When we see what has been made here out of these various connections it is apparent that religious leaders (such as the Dalai Lama and Hans Küng) who are active in interreligious dialogue and prominent in the call for a “global ethic” will have to look much more careful, and be ready to express themselves more critically, about many contemporary religions and their manner of participating in “ethics.” 89

The late Christopher Hitchens, in turn, remarked on the pernicious effect of acquiescing in having a leader who is above all criticism:

The greatest triumph that modern PR can offer is the transcendent success of having your words and actions judged by your reputation, rather than the other way about. The “spiritual leader” of Tibet has enjoyed this unassailable status for some time now, becoming a byword and synonym for saintly and ethereal values. Why this doesn’t put people on their guard I’ll never know. 90

Scattershot Reporting

Over the years, references to the Dalai Lama’s involvement with Shōkō Asahara became a permanent fixture in critical, or even biased and hostile, denunciations of some strong religious and political views he holds—specifically his tenacious repudiation of the worship of an obscure Tibetan deity. While the fact that the Dalai Lama met Asahara is widely reported, its effect on the Tibetan community in Japan and India and the transparent attempts at a cover-up by his spokesmen eludes most observers. The scattershot contemporaneous reporting later led reporters to frame their accounts with simplistic variations on ‘he that toucheth pitch shall be defiled.’ 91

In 2009, reporters Tilman Müller and Janis Vougioukas of the German magazine Stern ventured to investigate matters in Dharamsala—nicknamed ‘Little Lhasa’, after Tibet’s capital. They met with the reputed Tibetan critics Lhasang Tsering and Jamyang Norbu:

Cover of Stern (32) 1995

“His Holiness lives as if he’s in a bubble, without contact with the outside world,” says the longtime activist Lhasang Tsering, who now runs a bookstore in Little Lhasa. “Religion and politics should finally be separated.” Jamyang Norbu also demands this. “The Dalai Lama is not a bad person,” says the former editor-in-chief of the discontinued newspaper “Mang-Tso”, “but he is beginning to stand in the way of our development.” And adds: “We have no democracy. Much is even worse today than in 1959. In the old days there were three centers of political violence: the Dalai Lama, the monasteries and the nobles.” Today the Dalai Lama is the only leader left. 92

But even the more comprehensive journalistic or scholarly accounts of the Asahara affair mostly overlook the interventions of the concerned Tibetans who, in various ways, tried to protect the Dalai Lama from the reputation damage they foresaw. Likewise, in-depth, sustained analyses of the Dalai Lama’s media strategy, primarily aimed at damage control, are scarce. Also, because most of contemporaneous timelines are fragmentary, important events or actions escape professional commentators’ notice. Worse still, observers usually fail to note the disconcerting correspondence between the Shōkō Asahara case, and the Dalai Lama’s unbending endorsement of other infamous spiritual teachers—Chögyam Trungpa, Keith Raniere and Sogyal Lakar, for instance. 93

It’s Not About Him

The Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama told Pico Iyer that when he first met Shōkō Asahara, ‘he was genuinely moved by the man’s seeming devotion to the Buddha: Tears would come into the Japanese teacher’s eyes when he spoke of Buddha. But to endorse Asahara, as he did, was, the Dalai Lama quickly says, “a mistake. Due to ignorance! So, this proves” (and he breaks into his full-throated laugh), “I’m not a ‘Living Buddha!'” 94

The Dalai Lama probably isn’t. But, the Asahara affair is not just about him—his public image, his political agenda, his religious motives, and his refugee government’s financial needs.

It’s about the Dalai Lama’s moral obligation towards the concerned Tibetans and Japanese who tried to warn him in vain—at great personal risk. It’s about his duty of care for those who whose lives would have been spared had he not breezily endorsed Shōko Asahara, but read the writing on the wall instead—and exposed him as an impostor undeserving of his commendation. 95 It’s about the Dalai Lama’s personal accountability for his actions—and inaction—as the leader of his government. Ultimately, as Michael Pye said, it’s about the way he ‘participated in “ethics”.’

Truth be told, once the Dalai Lama endorses a spiritual leader, the playing field slants in his or her favour—to the detriment of whistleblowers who denounce his or her unethical, abusive, and even criminal conduct in public, at great personal risk. And while victims and survivors bear the brunt of airing their overt criticism, the Dalai Lama is absolved time and again from his constant endorsement of the very ‘friends’ he is being warned about. In a word: The Dalai Lama counsels others to do the very thing he himself evades until it is too late: Denounce abusive gurus in public. But at the very least, stop endorsing questionable figures that the least amount of investigation would have exposed.

Thousands of Letters

In media reports on the rampant abuse by Tibetan Buddhist lamas who bask in the glow of the Dalai Lama’s halo—hawking double portraits, endorsements, praises, and forewords that prove how close they are—one constant keeps cropping up: Concerned people reach out to the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama all the time. 96

The Dalai Lama’s archive must hold thousands of letters and emails from courageous, credible sources who allege all manner of abuses and assaults by Tibetan lamas who were endorsed, praised, promoted, supported, and favoured with visits by him—and who he continues to commend, even now.

Clearly, the letter writers hope that the Dalai Lama will do something, everything, anything to protect those who are victimized, traumatized, and scarred for life by his ‘old friends’—the least of which would be to not endorse, praise, promote, support, and visit those who are undeserving of his favouritism. However, the Dalai Lama does little more than tell people to become whistleblowers themselves, to pitch their ‘tell-all’ stories to the media—as if that were easy, as if he would listen to them.

After the Dalai Lama finally met a small group of survivors in Rotterdam in 2018, Nicole LeFever of the Dutch Eight O’Clock News asked him what he had learned: ‘I already did know these things, [it’s] nothing new. (…) Twenty-five years ago … someone mentioned about a problem of sexual allegations.’ 97 With this, the Dalai Lama referred to his ‘very good friend’ Sogyal Lakar, who he continued to endorse, promote, and visit for twenty-five years after learning about his sexual abuse and violent assaults. Only after Sogyal’s highly publicized downfall, the Dalai Lama said about him: ‘My very good friend, but he’s disgraced.’ 98

No Follow-Up

Survivors meet the Dalai Lama in Rotterdam, September 14, 2018 (photo: Marlies Bosch)

The group that met the Dalai Lama in Rotterdam in 2018, told reporters that he promised to ‘follow up on the reports of sexual, physical, and psychological abuse, and had said he would raise the matter during a conference between senior leaders of Tibetan Buddhism scheduled to be held in Dharamsala in November.’ 99

But 2021 is approaching fast, and the Dalai Lama has not kept his promise. The planned meeting in 2018 was canceled, because the head of one of the Tibetan traditions died unexpectedly. 100 This can always happen, of course. But when it was rescheduled in 2019, the conference focussed on the Dalai Lama’s own succession, not sexual abuse. 101

Endorsement by Cabinet Office of the Dalai Lama (February 9, 1994)

As a young child, Ricardo Mendes was one of the victims of Robert Spatz (also known as ‘Lama Kunzang’) of Ogyen Kunzang Chôling (OKC) in Brussels. Spatz was recently convicted in Belgium to a suspended five-year prison sentence and the payment of damages to his victims. Mendes met the Dalai Lama in Rotterdam in 2018. After the verdict against Spatz, Mendes told the Dutch news network NOS: ‘By attaching his name and reputation to it, the Dalai legitimized OKC.’ This is why he wanted to discuss the matter with the Dalai Lama himself.

Tenzin Peljor (Michael Jäckel, also known as Tenpel), one of the Dalai Lama’s most inveterate German apologists, rightly pointed out on his blog that the Dalai Lama’s name helps sell papers—and even critiques. However, it doesn’t seem to occur to Peljor that the Dalai Lama’s name helps sell abusive and criminal communities too. Nor does Peljor seem to realize that the Dalai Lama is responsible and accountable for his numerous endorsements, particularly when his favours are returned by abusive and criminal communities that offer him financial rewards and free publicity. 102

The NOS writes that more than two years later, the Rotterdam meeting yielded little: ‘The Dalai Lama had said he would discuss the abuse issue at a large meeting with Buddhist teachers. That did not happen. “We never heard about it again.”‘ 103 As it stands, it seems unreasonable to assume that we will see any follow-up during this Dalai Lama’s lifetime. 104

Banner at OKC’s restaurant (1992)

The inconvenient truth is that the Dalai Lama’s track record as a judge of character is exceedingly poor and his association with dubious characters unabashedly transactional. If the Dalai Lama—as his interactions with the alcoholic Trungpa, executed Asahara, the imprisoned Raniere, the disgraced Lakar, and the convicted Spatz, suggest—is indeed ‘either a knave or a fool,’ an express blanket warning against his hearty commendations of ‘old friends’ is clearly warranted. 105

Postscript: The original post has been updated to reflect the content of survivor and filmmaker Atsushi Sakahara’s podcast on the coming about of Shōkō Asahara’s first meeting with the Dalai Lama. Also, some factual information and references that were not available at the time of publication have been added. 

  1. For the Dalai Lama’s involvement with Keith Raniere and Nxivm, see The Dalai Lama and Nxivm Revisited. Keith Raniere was sentenced to 120 years in prison. For the Dalai Lama’s decades-long support of the abusive Sogyal Lakar and his organization Rigpa, see: Finnigan, Mary & Rob Hogendoorn. (2019). Sex and Violence in Tibetan Buddhism: The Rise and Fall of Sogyal Rinpoche. Portland: Jorvik Press. Sogyal Lakar died while hiding in Thailand in 2019. See also: Charity Regulator: Rigpa UK Put Students at Risk of Harm and Lamaism Crashes into the Rule of Law by Rob Hogendoorn; Unintended Consequences: Reflections on Diaspora Tibetan Buddhism by Mary Finnigan. For a recent discussion in French of the Dalai Lama and Shōkō Asahara case, see Hridayartha. “C’est dur d’être aimé par les cons”. Retrieved December 7, 2020. In 2020, Japanese director Atsushi Sakahara, himself a victim of the sarin nerve gas attack by Aum Shinrikyō in March 1995, premiered a 114 mins. documentary featuring his conversation with executive cult member Hiroshi Araki. Sakahara, Atsushi. (2020). Aganai: Me and the Cult Leader. Retrieved December 7, 2020; Author unknown. (2020). Me and the Cult Leader. Retrieved December 7, 2020; Idfa. (2020). IDFA 2020 – Trailer – Me and the Cult Leader. Retrieved December 7, 2020; Good Move Media. (2020). The Cult Leader and Me (Teaser Trailer). Retrieved December 7, 2020.
  2. Author unknown. (1991). Buddhism Being Misrepresented? Tibetan Review, 26 (3), pp. 4-5. For a discussion of Tibetan Review’s importance to the exiled community, see Samphel, Thubten. (2003). Virtual Tibet: The Media. In Dagmar Bernstorff & Hubertus von Welck (Eds.), Exile as Challenge: The Tibetan Diaspora (pp. 167-185). Hyderabad: Orient Longman. The exiled Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) has subsidized Tibetan Review, but the journal always had full editorial independence.
  3. Kaplan, David E. & Andrew Marshall. (1997). The Cult at the End of the World: The Incredible Story of Aum. London: Arrow Books. p. 29; Dorman, Ben. (2001). Aum Alone. Retrieved November 30, 2020; Manabu, Watanabe. (2001). Opposition to Aum and the Rise of the “Anti-Cult” Movement in Japan. In Robert J. Kisala & Mark R. Mullins (Eds.), Religion and Social Crisis in Japan: Understanding Japanese Society through the Aum Affair (pp. 87-105). Basingstoke: Palgrave; Hardacre, Helen. (2007). Aum Shinrikyô and the Japanese Media: The Pied Piper Meets the Lamb of God. History of Religions, 47 (2-3), pp. 171-204. Buddhist scholar Ian Reader writes about these reports: ‘The importance of initiations was a theme assimilated from esoteric Buddhism, and in Aum a number of initiation rituals were used for which followers paid considerable sums of money, and through which, it was believed, the powers of Asahara were passed to his followers. Such initiations (most notoriously the imbibing of Asahara’s blood) eventually created problems for Aum, and became a prominent element in the media exposés by the Sunday Mainichi magazine in October 1989, which portrayed Aum as a manipulative group extracting large sums of money from followers for bizarre rituals, and led to the investigation by the lawyer Sakamoto Tsutsumi.’ Reader, Ian. (2000). Imagined Persecution: Aum Shinrikyō, Millennialism, and the Legitimation of Violence. In Catherine Wessinger (Ed.), Millennialism, Persecution, and Violence: Historical Cases (pp. 158-182). Syracuse: Syracuse University Press. For an extensive discussion of the opposition to Aum in Japan, see Manabu, Watanabe. (2001). Opposition to Aum and the Rise of the “Anti-Cult” Movement in Japan. In Robert J. Kisala & Mark R. Mullins (Eds.), Religion and Social Crisis in Japan: Understanding Japanese Society through the Aum Affair (pp. 87-105). Basingstoke: Palgrave. The same volume contains an extensive discussion of Aum’s relations to the media. Gardner, Richard A. (2001). Aum and the Media: Lost in the Cosmos and the Need To Know. In Robert J. Kisala & Mark R. Mullins (Eds.), Religion and Social Crisis in Japan: Understanding Japanese Society through the Aum Affair (pp. 133-162). Basingstoke: Palgrave.
  4. Hartcher, Peter. (1989, October 19). Have a Sip of Blood… And Welcome to Japan’s Newest Religion. The Sydney Morning Herald, p. 9.
  5. Hardacre continues: ‘In this and many subsequent encounters with the media, Aum developed an ability to use criticism as a chance for self-promotion, defending itself vigorously and never compromising or admitting wrongdoing.’ Hardacre, Helen. (2007). Aum Shinrikyô and the Japanese Media: The Pied Piper Meets the Lamb of God. History of Religions, 47 (2-3), pp. 171-204.
  6. In September 1989, Aum founded a political party: Shinritō or ‘Truth-Party.’ However, only 1,872 people voted for Shōkō Asahara. Aum later alleged that Asahara had lost because the rest of his votes were withheld in the election results. Nakanishi, Nao. (1990, February 1). Japan Sect Leader, Claiming Special Powers, Runs in Election. Reuters News; Gandow, Thomas. (1995). Aum Shinri-Kyo: Fortschritts-Optimismus wird zu Endzeit-Terrorismus. Berliner Dialog, 2, pp. 42-46; Hardacre, Helen. (2007). Aum Shinrikyô and the Japanese Media: The Pied Piper Meets the Lamb of God. History of Religions, 47 (2-3), pp. 171-204.
  7. Hardacre, Helen. (2007). Aum Shinrikyô and the Japanese Media: The Pied Piper Meets the Lamb of God. History of Religions, 47 (2-3), pp. 171-204.
  8. Monterey Institute of International Studies. (2001). Chronology of Aum Shinrikyo’s CBW Activities. Retrieved November 29, 2020. The Monterey Institute of International Studies writes: ‘The information in this chronology was taken from the Monterey WMD Terrorism Database, which is maintained at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. The database contains information on over 900 terrorist and criminal incidents worldwide involving, chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear materials, from 1900 to the present.’
  9. David Kaplan and Andrew Marshall report that ‘By 1990, an estimated 15 percent of Aum’s monks and nuns were under the age of twenty.’ So, many hundreds of members were minors. Kaplan, David E. & Andrew Marshall. (1997). The Cult at the End of the World: The Incredible Story of Aum. London: Arrow Books. p. 27.
  10. Franklin, M. (1990, November 18). Japan’s Manson, or Peace Guru? Sunday Mail.
  11. Author unknown. (1990, October 22). Police Mount Nationwide Probe into Religious Group (Aum Shinrikyo). Kyodo News; Sato, Masaru. (1990, October 26). Police Raid New Buddhist Cult, Seize Membership Lists. Reuters; Author unknown. (1990, October 27). Police raid controversial sect. The Sydney Morning Herald, p. 17; Kaplan, David E. & Andrew Marshall. (1997). The Cult at the End of the World: The Incredible Story of Aum. London: Arrow Books. pp. 42-52. For a contemporaneous overview and discussion of the media reports on Aum Shinrikyō, see Hardacre, Helen. (1996). Aum Shinrikyo and the Japanese Media. JPRI Working Paper, 19. Retrieved November 29, 2020. See also: Hardacre, Helen. (2007). Aum Shinrikyô and the Japanese Media: The Pied Piper Meets the Lamb of God. History of Religions, 47 (2-3), pp. 171-204; Gardner, Richard A. (1999). Lost in the Cosmos and the Need to Know. Monumenta Nipponica, 54 (2), pp. 217-246, republished as Gardner, Richard A. (2001). Aum and the Media: Lost in the Cosmos and the Need To Know. In Robert J. Kisala & Mark R. Mullins (Eds.), Religion and Social Crisis in Japan: Understanding Japanese Society through the Aum Affair (pp. 133-162). Basingstoke: Palgrave.

    Baffelli, Erica. (2008). Media and religion in Japan: the Aum affair as a turning point: Working paper presented to the EASA Media Anthropology Network & EASA Religion Network joint e-seminar, 15-29 January 2008. Retrieved December 9, 2020. In 1991, investigative reporter Egawa Shōko published a prescient Japanese monograph on Aum Shinrikyō, Messianic Ambitions: In Pursuit of Aum Shinrikyō: ‘We can see through his personality that Mr. Asahara as a desire for power, as reflected in his desire to increase the number of his disciples and to expand his influence. He has a conspicuous tendency toward destroying the current framework of society rather than leading people and society in a better direction. Egawa, Shōkō. (1991). Messianistic ambitions: In pursuit of Aum Shinrikyō. Tokyo: Kyōiku Shiryō Shuppan. p. 252. Quoted in: Watanabe, Manubu. (1998). Religion and violence in Japan today: A chronological and doctrinal analysis of Aum Shinrikyo. Terrorism and Political Violence, 10 (4), pp. 80-100. Manabu Watanabe remarks about Egawa’s work: ‘Through such writings over the past few years Egawa as consistently pointed out that Asahara is a vulgar philistine filled with worldly desires, and that he has antisocial tendencies.’ Another scathing document about Aum Shinrikyō was published in 1991 as well: The “Religion” of Insanity: The Dreadful Realities of Aum Shinrikyō by the Defense Counsel for Countermeasures to Damages from Aum Shinrikyō. Manabu, Watanabe. (2001). Opposition to Aum and the Rise of the “Anti-Cult” Movement in Japan. In Robert J. Kisala & Mark R. Mullins (Eds.), Religion and Social Crisis in Japan: Understanding Japanese Society through the Aum Affair (pp. 87-105). Basingstoke: Palgrave.

  12. Kaplan, David. E. & Andrew Marshall. (1997). The Cult at the End of the World: The Incredible Story of Aum. London: Arrow Books. pp. 42-52; Hardacre, Helen. (2007). Aum Shinrikyô and the Japanese Media: The Pied Piper Meets the Lamb of God. History of Religions, 47 (2-3), pp. 171-204.
  13. Documentary-maker Atsushi Sakahara was interviewed for his series of podcasts by film producer Pearl Chan. He bases himself in part on Takayama Fumihiko’s (untranslated) book Asahara Shōko no tanjō (‘Birth of Asahara,’ 2006). Sakahara, Atsushi & Pearl Chan. (2020). Before After Aum: In Search of a Guru in India. Retrieved December 9, 2020. According to the podcast, two of the Dalai Lama’s representatives in Japan, Pema Gyalpo Gyari and Karma Gelek Yuthok, were Fumihiko’s sources.
  14. Ibid. The caption to the podcast of Atsushi Sakahara and Pearl Chan podcast notes: ‘This meeting has long been used against the Dalai Lama by his critics. We also want to be clear that our research about the meetings was sourced from interviews Fumihiko conducted with members of the Tibetan Exiles Government. These may be biased and try to present only one version of the encounters.’
  15. Ibid.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Ibid. The podcast doesn’t give the names of these three Tibetans, but it seems likely that one of them was Lobsang Tenzin, a Tibetan yogi living in Dharamsala. A promotional video also mentions one ‘Shanperu Tenzin’, but I’ve not yet been able to identify the person shown or to convert the Japanese spelling into a known Tibetan name. See note 44.
  18. Ibid.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Author unknown. (1991). Buddhism Being Misrepresented? Tibetan Review, 26 (3), pp. 4-5. Pema Gyalpo Gyari was the Dalai Lama’s representative at the Office for South Asia and the Pacific Region in Tokyo from 1976 until 1990. In 1980, he was a member of the Tibetan exiles’ second fact-finding mission to Tibet. See also Repp, Martin. (2008). H.H. The 14th Dalai Lama and the Japanese Buddhists: An Account and Analysis of Complicated Interactions. Japanese Religions, 33 (1-2), pp. 103-125.
  21. Lodi Gyari (1949-2018) later became the Dalai Lama’s envoy to the United States of America. Ramzy, Austin. (2018, November 2). Lodi Gyari, Top Envoy for the Dalai Lama, Dies at 69. The New York Times. Retrieved December 4, 2020.
  22. The Association of the Victims of Aum Shinrikyō was founded in October 1989. Gandow, Thomas. (1995). Aum Shinri-Kyo: Fortschritts-Optimismus wird zu Endzeit-Terrorismus. Berliner Dialog, 2, pp. 42-46.
  23. Takahara, Kanako. (2000, March 21). Long road back from mind control. The Japan Times; Shimizu, Kaho. (2006, September 17). Former member recount’s Aum’s control. The Japan Times; Ito, Masami. (2015, March 15). Cult attraction: Aum Shinrikyo’s power of persuasion. The Japan Times; Shimizu, Kaho. (2006, September 2006). Former member recount’s Aum’s control. The Japan Times.
  24. Lifton, Robert J. (2000). Destroying the World to Save It: Aum Shinrikyō, Apocalyptic Violence, and the New Global Terrorism (Kindle ed.). New York: Henry Holt and Company. On January 4, 1995, an Aum-member attacked Hiroyuki Nagaoke with VX nerve gas. Although he was hospitalized, Nagaoka survived the poisoning. Tu, Anthony T. (2020). The use of VX as a terrorist agent: Action by Aum Shinrikyo of Japan and the death of Kim Jong Nam in Malaysia: Four case studies. Global Security: Health, Science and Policy, 5 (1), pp. 48-56.
  25. Werner Bloch mentions five meetings, the first of which occurred in February 1987. Bloch, Werner. (1995). Unheilige Bürgschaft. Focus Magazin, (38), pp. 114-119. Martin Repp writes that Asahara called six times on the Dalai Lama in Dharamala, between May 1988 and July 1992. Repp, Martin. (1997). Aum Shinrikyō: Ein Kapitel krimineller Religionsgeschichte. Marburg: Diagonal-Verlag. p. 31. The Dalai Lama’s representative Karma Gelek Yuthok speaks of six visits to Dharamsala between May 1988 and July 1992. Emoto, Yoshinobu. (1996, April 24). Aum gave Dalai Lama huge gift. The Daily Yomiuri.
  26. Emoto, Yoshinobu. (1996, April 24). Aum gave Dalai Lama huge gift. The Daily Yomiuri; Author unknown. (1996, April 24). Asahara gave Dalai Lama 1.5 million US dollars – aide. Agence France Presse; Skelton, Russell. (1995, April 27). Lama linked to doomsday cult. The Age, p. 13.
  27. Author unknown. (1991). Buddhism Being Misrepresented? Tibetan Review, 26 (3), pp. 4-5.
  28. Nishikura, Tsewang. (1991). Letters: Whose Support? Tibetan Review, 26 (6), p. 21.
  29. Shimazono Susumu writes: ‘Asahara’s first contact with the power of the press was in 1982, when he was charged with violating the Drug, Cosmetics, and Medical Instruments Act and severely censured in the newspapers. It is said that his wife, Matsumo Tomoko, was so upset by this event that for several years she refused to leave the house. The media became an ally of the group, however, when in 1985 several occult journals, such as , reported favorably on Asahara’s religious practice and psychic powers.’ Shimazono Susumu. (2001). The Evolution of Aum Shinrikyō as a Religious Movement. In Robert J. Kisala & Mark R. Mullins (Eds.), Religion and Social Crisis in Japan: Understanding Japanese Society through the Aum Affair (pp. 19-52). Basingstoke: Palgrave.
  30. Baffelli, Erica. (2018). Aum Shinrikyō. In Lukas Pokorny & Franz Winter (Eds.), Brill Handbooks on Contemporary Religion (pp. 193-210). Leiden: Brill. For background reading on Shōkō Asahara’s past and the development of Aum Shinrikyō’s ideology, see Reid, T.R. (1995, March 24). The Doomsayer Guru: Japanese Sect Leader Rose to ‘Venerated Master’ After Failure as Acupuncturist, Tonic Vendor. The Washington Post, pp. A25, A28; Kristof, Nicholas D., & Sheryl Wudunn. (1995, March 26). A Guru’s Journey—A Special Report; The Seer Among the Blind: Japanese Sect Leader’s Rise. The New York Times, p. 1.; Metraux, D. A. (1995). Religious Terrorism in Japan: The Fatal Appeal of Aum Shinrikyo. Asian Survey, 35 (12), pp. 1140-1154; Shimazono Susumu. (1995). In the Wake of Aum: The Formation and Transformation of a Universe of Belief. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, 22 (3-4), pp. 381-415; Sayle, Murray. (1996). Nerve Gas and the Four Noble Truths. The New Yorker, 1 April 1996, pp. 56-71; Bracket, D. W. (1996). Holy Terror: Armageddon in Tokyo. New York: Weatherhill; Kaplan, David E., & Andrew Marshall. (1997). The Cult at the End of the World: The Incredible Story of Aum. London: Arrow Books; WuDunn, Sheryl, Judith Miller & William J. Broad. (1998, May 26). How Japan Germ Terror Alerted World. The New York Times, pp. A1, A10; Watanabe, Manabu. (1998). Religion and violence in Japan today: A chronological and doctrinal analysis of Aum Shinrikyo. Terrorism and Political Violence, 10 (4), pp. 80-100; Lifton, Robert Jay. (2000). Destroying the World to Save It: Aum Shinrikyō, Apocalyptic Violence, and the New Global Terrorism (Kindle ed.). New York: Henry Holt and Company; Reader, Ian. (2000). Religious Violence in Contemporary Japan: The Case of Aum Shinrikyō (Kindle ed.); Shimazono Susumu. (2001). The Evolution of Aum Shinrikyō as a Religious Movement. In Robert J. Kisala & Mark R. Mullins (Eds.), Religion and Social Crisis in Japan: Understanding Japanese Society through the Aum Affair (pp. 19-52). Basingstoke: Palgrave; Perlmutter, Dawn. (2004). Millennial Religions and Terrorism (2004). In Dawn Perlmutter (Ed.), Investigating Religious Terrorism and Ritualistic Crimes (pp. 25-43). Boca Raton: CRC Press; Baffelli, Erica & Ian Reader. (2012). Editors’ Introduction: Impact and Ramifications: The Aftermathof the Aum Affair in the Japanese Religious Context. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, 39(1), pp. 1-28; Baffelli, Erica. (2018). Aum Shinrikyō. In Lukas Pokorny & Franz Winter (Eds.), Brill Handbooks on Contemporary Religion (pp. 193-210). Leiden: Brill.
  31. Agon Shu Canada Buddhism. (2020). Agon Shu Ogoma Purification Around the World. Retrieved December 7, 2020; Author unknown. (1984). Tibet News: Details of Dalai Lama’s Visit to Japan. Tibetan Review, 14 (6-7), pp. 7-8.
  32. Martin Repp writes about Agon-shū’s leader Seiyū Kiriyama (1921-2016): ‘According to Agon-shū sources, Kiriyama had met the Dalai Lama first during his previous visit to Japan in 1980 in Tokyo, and later he was invited by the Tibetan leader to attend his Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo 1989.’ Repp, Martin. (2008). H.H. The 14th Dalai Lama and the Japanese Buddhists-An Account and Analysis of Complicated Interactions. Japanese Religions, 33 (1-2), pp. 103-125. See also Author unknown. (1984). Tibet News: Details of Dalai Lama’s Visit to Japan. Tibetan Review, 14 (6-7), pp. 7-8; Reader, Ian. (1988). The Rise of a Japanese “New New Religion”—Themes in the Development of Agonshū. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, 15 (4), pp. 235-261; Reid, T. R. (1995, March 27). New Cults Flourish in a Changed Japan: Young Seek Nontraditional Religion to Match Material World. The Washington Post, p. A1, A16.
  33. Repp, Martin. (1997). Aum Shinrikyō: Ein Kapitel krimineller Religionsgeschichte. Marburg: Diagonal-Verlag. p. 95. About the Dalai Lama’s difficulties in soliciting the support of Japanese Buddhists, see Repp, Martin. (2008). H.H. The 14th Dalai Lama and the Japanese Buddhists: An Account and Analysis of Complicated Interactions. Japanese Religions, 33 (1-2), pp. 103-125.
  34. Emoto, Yoshinobu. (1996, April 24). Aum gave Dalai Lama huge gift. The Daily Yomiuri; Shainberg, Lawrence. (1997). From Mysticism to Murder. Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. Retrieved November 25, 2020. Karma Gelek Yuthok became the Dalai Lama’s representative in Japan in 1994.
  35. Asahara, Shoko. (1988). Supreme Initiation: An Empirical Spiritual Science for the Supreme Truth. New York: AUM USA Co. p. 10; Gandow, Thomas. (1995). Aum Shinri-Kyo: Fortschritts-Optimismus wird zu Endzeit-Terrorismus. Berliner Dialog, 2, pp. 42-46. Asahara’s antiestablishment rhetoric and sombre assessment of the state of Buddhism in Japan mirror sectarian polemical tropes that were very common at the time, both among the so-called “New Religions” and contemporary Zen movements such as Sanbōkyōdan. Asahara may well have solicited his approval by repeating clichés about the Japanese religious establishment that the Dalai Lama heard before, for instance from Agon-shū’s leader Seiyū Kiriyama. Sharf, Robert. (1995). Sanbōkyōdan: Zen and the Way of the New Religions. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, 22 (3-4), pp. 417-458.
  36. Repp, Martin. (1997). Aum Shinrikyō: Ein Kapitel krimineller Religionsgeschichte. Marburg: Diagonal-Verlag. p. 17.
  37. Emoto, Yoshinobu. (1996, April 24). Aum gave Dalai Lama huge gift. The Daily Yomiuri.
  38. See endnote 12.
  39. Ibid.
  40. Goldner, Colin. (2008). Dalai Lama: Fall eines Gottkönigs. Aschaffenburg: Alibri Verlag. p. 267; Gandow, Thomas. (1995). Aum Shinri-Kyo: Fortschritts-Optimismus wird zu Endzeit-Terrorismus. Berliner Dialog, 2), 42-46; Gyatso (the fourteenth Dalai Lama), T. (May 26, 1989). To Whom It May Concern.
  41. Goldner, Colin. (2008). Dalai Lama: Fall eines Gottkönigs. Aschaffenburg: Alibri Verlag. p. 264-265; Gandow, Thomas. (1995). Aum Shinri-Kyo: Fortschritts-Optimismus wird zu Endzeit-Terrorismus. Berliner Dialog, 2), 42-46; Yeshi, Kalsang. (May 25, 1989). To Whom It May Concern.
  42. Emoto, Yoshinobu. (1996, April 24). Aum gave Dalai Lama huge gift. The Daily Yomiuri. Martin Repp quotes a source who knew Asahara, Shimada Hiromi: He attributed his increasing haughtiness to the electoral defeat that broke his pride. Repp, Martin. (1997). Aum Shinrikyō: Ein Kapitel krimineller Religionsgeschichte. Marburg: Diagonal-Verlag. p. 31.
  43. My translation of a quote from Bloch, Werner. (1995). Unheilige Bürgschaft. Focus Magazin, (38), pp. 114-119. See also: Author unknown. (1995). Global Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction: Hearings before the Permanent Subcommitee on Investigations of the Committee on Governmental Affairs United States Senate: One Hundred Fourth Congress: First Session: Part 1. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 50. On Aum Shinrikyō’s financial dealings, see Smith, R. Jeffrey. (1995, November 1). Japanese Cult Had Network of Front Companies, Investigators Say. The Washington Post, p. A8.
  44. Manabu, Watanabe. (2001). Opposition to Aum and the Rise of the “Anti-Cult” Movement in Japan. In Robert J. Kisala & Mark R. Mullins (Eds.), Religion and Social Crisis in Japan: Understanding Japanese Society through the Aum Affair (pp. 87-105). Basingstoke: Palgrave. Sunday Mainichi‘s series was published between October 15 and December 17, 1989.
  45. Author unknown. (1995). Global Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction: Hearings before the Permanent Subcommitee on Investigations of the Committee on Governmental Affairs United States Senate: One Hundred Fourth Congress: First Session: Part 1. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 50. In 1997, Kevin Sullivan estimated that Aum’s assets amounted to at least 300 million US dollars. Sullivan, Kevin. (1997, September 28). Japan Cult Survives While Guru Is Jailed. The Washington Post, p. A21, A27.
  46. Author unknown. (2010). High praise from overseas saints for Mr. Asahara of Aleph (1/2). Retrieved November 18, 2020. Aleph is the present name of Aum Shinrikyō. This is the first of two videos that were published on YouTube in 2010. Author unknown. (2010). High praise from overseas saints for Mr. Asahara of Aleph (2/2). Retrieved Novernber 18, 2020. The caption says: ‘A video collection of exchanges between Mr. Asahara of Aleph and famous saints from overseas. Mr. Asahara was praised by the saints for the level of his practice. This valuable video collection was never reported in the media.’
  47. Author unknown. (1995). Global Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction: Hearings before the Permanent Subcommitee on Investigations of the Committee on Governmental Affairs United States Senate: One Hundred Fourth Congress: First Session: Part 1. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 560.
  48. In 1991 and 1992, Asahara also met Gajé Khamtrül Rinpoché, who served as the first General Secretary of the exiled Council for Cultural and Religious Affairs between 1962 and 1987. Khamtrül Rinpoché became the Dalai Lama’s consultant on affairs concerning the Nyingma sect in 1990. It’s hard to abstract Khamtrül’s praise from the Dalai Lama’s previous endorsement of Asahara. No doubt, Khamtrül was aware of their frequent meetings and took his lead. According to Martin Repp, Asahara first met Gajé Khamtrül Rinpoché (1928-2019) in 1991. Repp, Martin. (1997). Aum Shinrikyō: Ein Kapitel krimineller Religionsgeschichte. Marburg: Diagonal-Verlag. p.18. They met again during Asahara’s last visit to India in July 1992. See also Emoto, Yoshinobu. (1996, April 24). Aum gave Dalai Lama huge gift. The Daily Yomiuri; Author unknown. (2010). High praise from overseas saints for Mr. Asahara of Aleph (1/2). Retrieved November 18, 2020. Asahara further met Kalu Rinpoché, a renowned hierarch of the Kagyü sect, and Lobsang Tenzin, an accomplished Tibetan yogi living in Dharamsala. Emoto, Yoshinobu. (1996, April 24). Aum gave Dalai Lama huge gift. The Daily Yomiuri; Author unknown. (1988). Biography of a Contemporary Yogi: Venerable Lobsang Tenzin. Chö Yang: The Voice of Tibetan Religion and Culture, 3, pp. 102-111. Martin Repp writes that Asahara met Kalu Rinpoché for the first time in 1988. Repp, Martin. (1997). Aum Shinrikyō: Ein Kapitel krimineller Religionsgeschichte. Marburg: Diagonal-Verlag. p. 18. According to a video report produced by (former) Aum-members, Kalu Rinpoché (1905-1989) paid his respects to Asahara and spoke at the dedication of one of Aum Shinrikyō’s centres in Japan in the summer of 1989. Author unknown. (2010). High praise from overseas saints for Mr. Asahara of Aleph (2/2). Retrieved November 18, 2020. Khamtrül Rinpoché’s told Asahara through his interpreter ‘that in the Nyingmapa tradition highly realized people can see different drops of light, bindu, and see different worlds in these drops of light. The bindus grow bigger and bigger, and then they see different worlds, different visions. So, it’s very much like his experience.’ Khamtrül added: ‘He’s very happy to hear that, because it shows that Master Asahara has practiced very much. These people have “yeshe,” they have very bright wisdom. They cannot experience the ordinary things we human beings can experience, but they have very bright wisdom.’ Khamtrül closed by saying that ‘he would pray for the long life of Master Asahara, and the Master himself should also make a determination to stay long to help other sentient beings.’ Author unknown. (2010). High praise from overseas saints for Mr. Asahara of Aleph (1/2). Retrieved November 18, 2020. Aum’s newsletter later quoted Gajé Khamtrul Rinpoché: ‘You have attained the highest stage of self-realization. That is the stage of “Yeshe” (perfect, absolute, divine wisdom). Your sole purpose in life is salvation. (May, 1991, at Dharamsala, India)’ And: ‘”If Master Asahara can obtain the general public’s cooperation, he will become the true Master of Buddhism. Then, it will be accepted by many people, and he will able to establish the true Law of Dhamma once again in Japan.” (From an autographed letter, May 1989).’ Author unknown. (1995). Global Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction: Hearings before the Permanent Subcommitee on Investigations of the Committee on Governmental Affairs United States Senate: One Hundred Fourth Congress: First Session: Part 1. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 560. A promotional video showed yet anoter ‘To whom it may concern’, letter dated May 24, 1989, issued by Gajé Khamtrul Rinpoché: ‘I know Master Asahara as an old personal friend, and am honored to make following statements in favour of his person and religious activities; I greatly admire Master Asahara’s natural Buddhist qualities of devotion, kindness, generosity, and selflessness. He is an experienced and qualified master of meditation, Tantra and Yoga. Master Asahara, if given proper public co-operation, can become a genuinely popular Buddhist master, who could re-establish the true doctrine of Dharma in Japan. I am also aware that Master Asahara’s religious organization, AUM Bhinrikyo, is a disciplined and well-organized religious body undertaking various activities for furthering the general cause of public welfare.’ Author unknown. (2010). High praise from overseas saints for Mr. Asahara of Aleph (1/2). Retrieved November 18, 2020.
  49. Author unknown. (1991). Outside Tibet: Dharamsala Severs All Ties With Taiwan. Tibetan Review, 25 (2), pp. 4-5. Until 2011, the Dalai Lama was the Tibetan ‘head of state’ and the leader of his government, the Central Tibetan Administration. The Kuomintang’s financial support was a highly sensitive and controversial issue, because of its position that Tibet is Taiwanese territory—not an independent country. Tibetan Review reported about the deal: ‘At the meeting with the government officials on 9 January, the Dalai Lama reprimanded the Cabinet for allowing a small internal matter to be leaked out and then spending considerable time and energy to further let it be blown out of all proportions instead of dealing with it promptly and efficiently by at once making clear what exactly happened. Now that the damage has been done, the matter should be resolved without further delay and a general report brought out on it. In the meantime, he advised them that the more important thing is to investigate how such a situation came into being, how serious is the Kuomintang influence in the Tibetan community and whether any step can be taken to check it further.’ Ibid. An authoritative Dutch newspaper notes that a ‘reliable source’ confirmed that the Kuomintang transferred 5 million Dutch guilders to the Tibetans in 1989 alone. Kemenade, Willem van & Lolke van der Heide. (1990, March 8). Medewerkers van Dalai Lama kregen steun uit Taiwan. NRC Handelsblad, p. 5. Tibetan Review later published that the Kuomintang earmarked a total of $ 4 million to be spent on Tibetans in 1990. Author unknown. (1990). Taiwan plans to spend US $ 4 m on Tibetans this year. Tibetan Review, 25 (9), pp. 8-9.
  50. Author unknown. (1991). Outside Tibet: Dharamsala Severs All Ties With Taiwan. Tibetan Review, 25 (2), pp. 4-5. Wangyal, Tsering. (1991). Editorial: The Plot Thickens. Tibetan Review, 26 (1), p. 3; Author unknown. (1991). Outside Tibet: Taiwan Proposal Unacceptable to Dharamsala. Tibetan Review, 26 (1), pp. 9-10. See also Wangyal, Tsering. (1991). Money, Lies and Audiotapes. Tibetan Review, 25 (2), p. 3; Taklha, Tenzin N. (1991). The Taiwan scandal—Who is to be blamed? Tibetan Review, 25 (2), pp. 8-9; Wangyal, Tsering. (1991). Interview: Thubten J. Norbu: “I am proven right about Taiwan.” Tibetan Review, 25 (2), pp. 10-11. Thubten Norbu (1922-2008) or Taktser Rinpoché was one of the Dalai Lama’s older brothers. He succeeded Pema Gyalpo Gyari as the Dalai Lama’s representative in Japan in 1990.
  51. Ehrlich, Richard S. (1992, September 24). Dalai Lama sees Taiwanese spies, Mao back in boy’s body. The Washington Times, p. A11.
  52. Author unknown. (1991). Outside Tibet: Dharamsala Severs All Ties With Taiwan. Tibetan Review, 25 (2), pp. 4-5; Dechen, Pema. (1990). Letters: Who threw the stones? Tibetan Review, 25 (4), p. 24.
  53. Sperling, Elliot. (1994). The Rhetoric of Dissent: Tibetan Pamphleteers. In R. Barnett (Ed.), Resistance and Reform in Tibet. (pp. 267-284). Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Sangmo, Tenzin. (2008). Taktser Rinpoche: An Obituary. Phayul.com Retrieved November 25, 2020; Pema Gyalpo Gyari stayed in Japan, and went on to become a political commentator and university professor. Author unknown. (1992). Outside Tibet: Tibetan becomes Tokyo TV celebrity. Tibetan Review, 27 (11), p. 9.
  54. Thubten Norbu decried the administration’s ‘secret negotiations’ with the Chinese government and sent the Tibetan cabinet a 37-page letter, alleging that it was being manipulated by three families—one of which was his own. Author unknown. (1992). Outside Tibet: Tokyo office head resigns. Tibetan Review, 27 (4), p. 7. At that time, his and the Dalai Lama’s brother Gyalo Thondup chaired the Tibetan cabinet. Thondup temporarily resigned in 1992. Wangyal, Tsering. (1992). Editorial: Yabshi vs. Yabshi. Tibetan Review, 27 (6), p. 3; Author unknown. (1992). Outside Tibet: Gyalo Thondup resigns temporarily. Tibetan Review, 27 (6), pp. 8-9; Author unknown. (1992). Outside Tibet: Yabshi controversy ends. Tibetan Review, 27 (9), 7. Any Dalai Lama’s family is referred to with the honorific yabshi.
  55. Emoto, Yoshinobu. (1996, April 24). Aum gave Dalai Lama huge gift. The Daily Yomiuri.
  56. Smith, Mark W. (1994, May 21). Tibetan medium says ‘big change’ in store for Tibet. The Daily Yomiuri. Karma Gelek Yuthok became a cabinet minister in 2016, and currently heads the Department of Religion and Culture of the Central Tibetan Administration.
  57. This was the last of seventeen known attacks with chemical and biological weapons (CBW): ‘Between 1990 and 1995, Aum launched 17 known CBW attacks, with motivations ranging from assassination to mass murder. Of these attacks, 10 were carried out with chemical weapons (four with sarin, four with VX, one with phosgene, and one with hydrogen cyanide) and seven attempted attacks were carried out with biological agents (four with anthrax and three with botulinum toxin, although in both cases the microbial strains were apparently nonvirulent). In addition to these cases, Aum is alleged to have killed 20 of its dissident members with VX and has been linked more tenuously to more than 19 other CBW attacks and attempted attacks (13 attacks where Aum involvement is suspected and six possible copycats).’ Monterey Institute of International Studies. (2001). Chronology of Aum Shinrikyo’s CBW Activities. Retrieved November 29, 2020.
  58. Repp, Martin. (2008). H.H. The 14th Dalai Lama and the Japanese Buddhists: An Account and Analysis of Complicated Interactions. Japanese Religions, 33 (1-2), pp. 103-125.
  59. Author unknown. (1995, March 28). Dalai Lama heading for Japan despite Beijing warning. Agence France Presse.
  60. Author unknown. (1995, March 29). Dalai Lama Arrives in Japan Amid Chinese Protest. Associated Press Worldstream; Author unknown. (1995, March 29). Dalai Lama arrives in Japan for 1st visit in 11 years. Kyodo News. Author unknown. (1995, March 30). Dalai Lama criticizes Aum leader. The Daily Yomiuri.
  61. AP Archive. (1995). Japan: The Dalai Lama’s Press Conference. Retrieved November 24, 2020; Author unknown. (d.u.). “Hippocresias” de Dalai Lama (1995). Retrieved November 24, 2020; Author unknown. (2010). High praise from overseas saints for Mr. Asahara of Aleph (1/2). Retrieved November 18, 2020; Author unknown. (2010). High praise from overseas saints for Mr. Asahara of Aleph (2/2). Retrieved Novernber 18, 2020; Author unknown. (1995, April 6). Dalai Lama ‘shocked’ by subway gas attack. Kyodo News; Author unknown (1995, April 7). Dalai Lama in Japan; Dalai Lama says Aum leader not his disciple. BBC Summary of World Broadcasts. The Dalai Lama’s aides previously told media that the two leaders had met four or five times since their first meeting in 1987.
  62. AP Archive. (1995). Japan: The Dalai Lama’s Press Conference. Retrieved November 24, 2020; Author unknown. (d.u.). “Hippocresias” de Dalai Lama (1995). Retrieved November 24, 2020; Author unknown. (2010). High praise from overseas saints for Mr. Asahara of Aleph (1/2). Retrieved November 18, 2020; Author unknown. (2010). High praise from overseas saints for Mr. Asahara of Aleph (2/2); Author unknown. (1995, April 6). Dalai Lama ‘shocked’ by subway gas attack. Kyodo News; Author unknown (1995, April 7); Sutel, Seth. (1995, April 6). Dalai Lama: Sect strayed from Buddhism. Wisconsin State Journal, p. 11A.
  63. Author unknown (1995, April 5). Dalai Lama says AUM leader is not his disciple. Kyodo News; Author unknown. (1995, April 6). Dalai Lama ‘shocked’ by subway gas attack. Kyodo News. Author unknown. (1995). Outside Tibet: Controversial Japanese cult and Tibetan Buddhism. Tibetan Review, 30 (5), p. 9.
  64. AP Archive. (1995). Japan: The Dalai Lama’s Press Conference. Retrieved November 24, 2020; Author unknown. (d.u.). “Hippocresias” de Dalai Lama (1995). Retrieved November 24, 2020; Author unknown. (2010). High praise from overseas saints for Mr. Asahara of Aleph (1/2). Retrieved November 18, 2020; Author unknown. (2010). High praise from overseas saints for Mr. Asahara of Aleph (2/2). Retrieved Novernber 18, 2020.
  65. Kisala, Robert. (1995). Aum Alone in Japan: Religious Responses to the “Aum Affair”. Nanzan Bulletin, 19, 6-34, republished as Kisala, Robert J. (2001). Religious Responses to the “Aum Affair”. In Robert J. Kisala & Mark R. Mullins (Eds.), Religion and Social Crisis in Japan: Understanding Japanese Society through the Aum Affair (pp. 107-132). Basingstoke: Palgrave.
  66. Evidently, Robert Kisala remained unaware of the Dalai Lama’s financial involvement with Aum Shinrikyō. His (republished) article on the Dalai Lama’s response to the Aum affair (see endnote 64) contains no reference to the donations the Dalai Lama received. For a preliminary discussion of the Dalai Lama’s media strategy in 2009, when reporters began asking questions about his involvement with Keith Raniere and Nxivm, see The Dalai Lama and Nxivm Revisited.
  67. Author unknown. (1995). Outside Tibet: Controversial Japanes cult and Tibetan Buddhism. Tibetan Review, 30 (5), 9.
  68. Goldenberg, Suzanne. (1995, July 5). Unhappy Returns? The Dalai Lama. The Guardian, p. T4.
  69. Norbu, Jamyang. (2012). Protect Kundun—Free RFA. Retrieved December 2, 2020. The Amnye Machen Institute in Dharamsala founded Mang-tso in 1993.
  70. Brox, Trine. (2012). Unyoking the political from the religious: Secularisation and Democratisation in the Tibetan Community in Exile. In Nils Bubandt & Martijn van Beek (Eds.), Varieties of Secularism in Asia: Anthropological Explorations of Religion, Politics and the Spiritual (pp. 55-74). London: Routledge. See also: Huber, Toni. (2001). Shangri-la in Exile: Representations of Tibetan Identity and Transnational Culture. In Thierry Dodin & Heinz Räther (Eds.), Imagining Tibet: Perceptions, Projections, & Fantasies (pp. 357-371). Boston: Wisdom Publications; Samphel, Thubten. (2003). Virtual Tibet: The Media. In Dagmar Bernstorff & Hubertus von Welck (Eds.), Exile as Challenge: The Tibetan Diaspora (pp. 167-185). Hyderabad: Orient Longman; Bhaskaran, Harikrishnan et al. (2020). Encroachers and victims: Framing of community dynamics by small-town journalists in Dharamsala, India. Newspaper Research Journal, 41 (3), pp. 333-348.
  71. Norbu, Jamyang. (2009). Waiting for Mangtso: A Reality Check on Tibetan Exile Politics. Retrieved December 2, 2020. Ann Frechette, likewise, puts the blame for Mang-tso’s demise squarely on the Dalai Lama’s administration: ‘A Tibetan newspaper called Mangtso (Democracy), for example, printed a special edition on the exile administration’s efforts to stifle opposition and censor the press (July 31, 1995). Ironically, within the year, the exile administration had closed it down, as if only to substantiate its findings.’ Frechette, Ann. (2007). Democracy and Democratization among Tibetans in Exile. The Journal of Asian Studies, 66 (1), pp. 97-127.
  72. In 1999, a historical survey of Tibetan news media in Tibetan Bulletin, the ‘official bi-monthly journal of the Tibetan Administration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’, failed to mention Mang-tso‘s existence. Tsering, Topden. (1999). All the news—Tibetan-style. Tibetan Bulletin, 3 (1), pp. 13-15.
  73. My translation from the German. Bloch, Werner. (1995). Unheilige Bürgschaft. Focus Magazin, (38), pp. 114-119. Pollack, Andrew. (1995, September 7). Japanese Police Find Body of a Lawyer Believed Killed by Cult. The New York Times, p. A15.
  74. My translation from the German. Bloch, Werner. (1995). Unheilige Bürgschaft. Focus Magazin, (38), pp. 114-119.
  75. Author unknown (1995, October 12). Dalai Lama’s bureau accepted money from Japanese cult chief for welfare. Agence France-Presse.
  76. In 2007, Australian journalist Michael Backman reported in The Age: ‘Several years ago, I asked the Dalai Lama’s Department of Finance for details of its budget. In response, it claimed then to have annual revenue of about $US22 million, which it spent on various health, education, religious and cultural programs. The biggest item was for politically related expenditure, at $US7 million. The next biggest was administration, which ran to $US4.5 million. Almost $US2 million was allocated to running the government-in-exile’s overseas offices. For all that the government-in-exile claims to do, these sums seemed remarkably low. It is not clear how donations enter its budgeting. These are likely to run to many millions annually, but the Dalai Lama’s Department of Finance provided no explicit acknowledgment of them or of their sources. Backman, Michael. (2007, May 23). Behind Dalai Lama’s holy cloak. The Age, p. 14.
  77. The media pressure increased even further once Chinese media began exploiting the Dalai Lama’s relationship with Shōkō Asahara, to serve the government’s agenda of disparaging him and the Tibetan cause. Kwan, Daniel. (1995, October 11). Attack on ‘Unholy Alliance’. South China Morning Post; Author unknown (1995, October 16). Newspaper on “close relationship” between Dalai Lama, Japanese cult leader Asahara. BBC Summary of World Broadcasts; Author unknown (1996, March 8). Chinese magazine article accuses Dalai Lama of supporting leader of Aum sect. BBC Summary of World Broadcasts; Author unknown. (1998, November 16). Party daily article says Dalai Lama organizing sabotage with funding from Japanese cult. BBC Summary of World Broadcasts.
  78. Emoto, Yoshinobu. (1996, April 24). Aum gave Dalai Lama huge gift. The Daily Yomiuri.
  79. Tibetan Review reported this ‘unusual contact’ between the Japanese government and the Dalai Lama in August 1996: ‘A Japanese diplomat stationed abroad has met informally with the Dalai Lama in an unusual contact between the Japanese government and the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, a Japanese legislator revealed 6 July, Kyodo newsagency reported. Fumihiko Igarashi said the diplomat, a first secretary at the Japanese Embassy in New Delhi, visited the Dalai Lama t0gether with him and four other legislators belonging to a nonpartisan parliamentarians’ league on Tibet at his residence in Dharmsala on April 30. Igarashi, a House of Representatives member belonging to New Party Sakigake, the smallest of the three ruling coalition parties, broke the news at a Tokyo party marking the Dalai Lama‘s birthday. He said the diplomat also joined talks between the legislators and members of the Tibetan government in exile. Although the meeting had an unofficial character, Peking, which insists the Himalayan region is an integral part of Chinese territory and does not recognize the Dalai Lama as a legitimate Tibetan leader, is not likely to let it go unprotested. Author unknown. (1996). Japanese diplomat meets Dalai Lama. Tibetan Review, 31 (8), p. 12; Author unknown. (1996). Japanese diplomat meet with Dalai Lama in India. Kyodo News Service. Also, see endnote 42.
  80. Skelton, Russell. (1996, April 27). Cult gave Dalai Lama $2m. Sydney Morning Herald, p. 14. Karma Gelek Yuthok took up the post at the Office for South Asia and the Pacific Region in Tokyo in January 1994.
  81. Norbu, Jamyang. (2012). Protect Kundun—Free RFA. Retrieved December 2, 2020.
  82. Emoto, Yoshinobu. (1996, April 24). Aum gave Dalai Lama huge gift. The Daily Yomiuri.
  83. A.u. (1995). Former dalai lama rep speaks out. United Press International. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
  84. Sakahara, Atsushi & Pearl Chan. (2020). Before After Aum: In Search of a Guru in India. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
  85. See note 19.
  86. Traditionally, each incumbent of the public office called Dalai Lama is understood to be a conditional, temporary emanation of a Buddha—that is, a fully enlightened, omniscient, omnibenevolent, and omnipotent being. But until 2011, the present Dalai Lama was the religious and political leader of the Tibetan people at the same time, and thereby served as the Tibetan exiles’ professed ‘head of state.’ Author unknown. (1963). Constitution of Tibet: Promulgated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama: March 10, 1963; Autor unknown. (1991). Charter of the Tibetans in Exile; Gyatso (the fourteenth Dalai Lama), Tenzin. (1992). Guidelines for future Tibet’s polity and the basic featurs of its constitution. Tibetan Review, 27 (10), pp. 10-14. In 2011, the Dalai Lama decided to devolve his political role. Gyatso (the fourteenth Dalai Lama), Tenzin. (2011). Statement of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the 52nd Anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising Day. Retrieved December 3, 2020; Gyatso (the fourteenth Dalai Lama), Tenzin. (2011). Message of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Fourteenth Assembly of the Tibetan People’s Deputies. Retrieved December 3, 2020; Gyatso (the fourteenth Dalai Lama), Tenzin. (2011). His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Remarks on Retirement – March 19th, 2011. Retrieved December 3, 2020.
  87. Pye, Michael. (1996). Aum Shinrikyō: Can Religious Studies Cope? Religion, 26, pp. 261-270.
  88. Ibid. See also Ian Reader’s affirmative comment: ‘The Dalai Lama was one of a number of Buddhists (others included prominent Sri Lankan and Tibetan priests) who met Asahara and who w rote or spoke positively about his work in promoting Buddhism in Japan. However, there may well have been a level of politeness and diplomatic formality in such greetings and gestures of friendship. As I have pointed out elsewhere, Japanese new religious leaders in general have been extremely adept at developing contacts with and acquiring recognition from world religious leaders such as the Dalai Lama (Reader 1988). However, the fact that Asahara was able to secure a positive endorsement is in itself a criticism of the Dalai Lama who, as Michael Pye (1996, p. 268) has rightly commented, allowed himself to be used by Aum and displayed a lack of critical judgement.’Reader, Ian. (2000). Religious Violence in Contemporary Japan: The Case of Aum Shinrikyō (Kindle ed.). location 5889, endnote 18. See also: Reader, Ian. (1988). The Rise of a Japanese “New New Religion”—Themes in the Development of Agonshū. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, 15 (4), pp. 235-261; Wilkinson, Gregory E. (2009). The next Aum: Religious violence and new religious movements in twenty-first century Japan. The University of Iowa, Iowa City. pp. 120-135.
  89. Pye, Michael. (1998). Martin Repp, Aum Shinrikyō: Ein Kapitel krimineller Religionsgeschichte (Review). Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, 25 (3-4), pp. 385-388. Nicolaus Neumann made a similar point: Neumann, Nicolaus. (1995). Falsche Freunde für den Frieden. Stern, (36), pp. 126-128. For Sōkō Asahara’s use of Tibetan Buddhist ideas and imagery, see Reader, Ian. (1996). A Poisonous Cocktail? Aum Shinrikyo’s Path to Violence. Copenhagen: NIAS Press. pp. 17-18; Reader, Ian. (2000). Imagined Persecution: Aum Shinrikyō, Millennialism, and the Legitimation of Violence. In Catherine Wessinger (Ed.), Millennialism, Persecution, and Violence: Historical Cases (pp. 158-182). Syracuse: Syracuse University Press; Wessinger, Catherine (2000). 1995—Aum Shinrikyo. In How the Millennium Comes Violently: From Jonestown to Heaven’s Gate (pp. 120-156). New York: Seven Bridges Press.
  90. Hitchens, Christopher. (1998 July 13th). His Material Highness. Retrieved December 1, 2020.
  91. A Google search on December 3, 2020, that included both the words “Dalai Lama” and “Asahara” resulted in 41,900 hits. A search on news media archive Lexis Nexis between 1990 and 2020 resulted in 179 hits. And a similar search on Newspapers.com between 1987 and 2020 gave 168 hits. For passing references to the Dalai Lama’s involvement with Asahara in popular media, see, for instance: Neumann, Nicolaus. (1995). Falsche Freunde für den Frieden. Stern, (36), pp. 126-128; Volland, Bernd. (2004). Der Dalai Lama. Stern Spezial Biografie, (1), pp. 12-41.
  92. Müller, Tilman & Janis Vougioukas. (2009). Lichtgestatt mit Schattenseiten. Stern, (32), pp. 26-39. The article elicited indignant responses by the Dalai Lama’s German advocates, who conveniently disregard highly corroborated facts that had long been published—such as the Dalai Lama’s repeated acceptance of large donations from Asahara. Peljor, Tenzin (Michael Jäckel). (2009). Korrekturen und Reflexionen zum Stern-Artikel über den Dalai Lama. Retrieved November 28, 2020; Berzin, Alexander & Vorstand DBU. (2009). Leserbrief an den Stern. Retrieved December 3, 2020; Peljor, Tenzin (Michael Jäckel). (2012). SS Expeditions, Nazis in Tibet: Has the Dalai Lama Close Ties to the Nazis? Retrieved November 28, 2020.
  93. See endnote 1. For extensive discussions of the responses to the Aum Shinrikyō affair, see Kisala, Robert J., & Mark R. Mullins. (Eds.). (2001). Religion and Social Crisis in Japan: Understanding Japanese Society through the Aum Affair. Basingstoke: Palgrave. Japanese director Mori Tatsuya filmed the inside activities of Aum Shinrikyō members during the aftermath of the sarin gas attack. His documentaries A and A2 are available on DVD, with English subtitles. Tatsuya, Mori. (1998). A Chicago: Facets Video; Tatsuya, Mori. (2001). A2 Chicago: Facets Video. Richard Gardner discusses these two documentaries at length in Gardner, Richard A. (2001). Aum and the Media: Lost in the Cosmos and the Need To Know. In Robert J. Kisala & Mark R. Mullins (Eds.), Religion and Social Crisis in Japan: Understanding Japanese Society through the Aum Affair (pp. 133-162). Basingstoke: Palgrave.
  94. Iyer, Pico. (2004). Sun After Dark: Flights Into The Foreign. In Making Kindness into Reason (Kindle Edition ed., pp. 51-78). New York: Vintage Departures; Iyer, Pico. (2008). The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 107.
  95. For a recently released documentary by one of Aum Shinrikyō’s victims, see endnote 1.
  96. The most recent sexual abuse cases that surfaced, are those of the Tibetan Buddhist teachers Dagri Rinpoché (Federation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition) and Robert Spatz, also known as ‘Lama Kunsang’ (Ogyen Kunzang Chôling, OKC). Robert Spatz was convicted to a five year suspended prison sentence and the payment of large indemnities to his victims. DeMaioNewton, Emily & Karen Jensen. (2020). Buddha Buzz Weekly: Dagri Rinpoche Permanently Removed as FPMT Teacher. Retrieved December 5, 2020; Mees, Anna. (2020). Belgische sekteleider veroordeeld, ‘zijn misbruik zou me snel verlichten’. Retrieved December 5, 2020.
  97. Mees, Anna & Bas de Vries. (2018). Dalai lama over misbruik: ik weet het al sinds de jaren 90. Retrieved December 4, 2020.
  98. Littlefair, Sam. (2017). Dalai Lama denounces ethical misconduct by Buddhist teachers. Lion’s Roar. Retrieved December 4, 2020.
  99. Lewis, Craig. (2018). Dalai Lama Speaks on Abuse by Dharma Teachers After Meeting Alleged Victims. Retrieved December 4, 2020. See also: Corder, Mike. (2018, September 14). Dalai Lama meets alleged victims of abuse by Buddhist gurus. Associated Press. Retrieved December 4, 2020; Hogendoorn, Rob. (2018). The Dalai Lama’s Clarion Call. Retrieved December 4, 2019.
  100. Author unknown. (2018). Tibetan religious leaders’ conference put off after Nyingma head’s passing away. Tibetan Review. Retrieved December 5, 2020.
  101. Eckert, Paul. (2019). Tibetan Religious Figures Reject Chinese Role in Dalai Lama Reincarnation. Retrieved December 5, 2020.
  102. With this, Tenzin Peljor responded to this article, a link to which a respondent posted in a comment on his blog. Peljor, Tenzin (Michael Jäckel). (2020). A Call for Impartial Compassion. Retrieved December 10, 2020. See also endnote 84 and 99.
  103. Mees, Anna. (2020). Belgische sekteleider veroordeeld, ‘zijn misbruik zou me snel verlichten’. Retrieved December 5, 2020.
  104. The Dalai Lama was born in Taktser, Tibet in 1935.
  105. For my op-ed on Tenzin Peljor’s discussion of this article on his Diffi-Cult blog, see Hostile Takeover.

About the author

Rob Hogendoorn

Investigative reporter and academic researcher Rob Hogendoorn (b. 1964) began researching the reception of Buddhism in Western society and culture in the early 1990s. His modus operandi remained the same ever since: independent, inquisitive and provocative.