The New Delhi riots and fascism

In New Delhi this week, as US President Donald Trump visits India, violent unrest has been erupting for a few days now as Hindus clash with Muslims over a policy implemented by Narendra Modi, the current prime minister, known as the Citizenship Amendment Act. As of now 21 people have been killed and up to 200 people have been injured. What is noteworthy about these riots is that Muslim settlements in particular have been scorched while apparently Hindu settlements have not been scorched, suggesting that a significant portion of the violence and destruction would have been instigated by Hindutva extremists. The riots also see Hindutva mobs chanting “Jai Shri Ram”, meaning “Hail Lord Ram” (or Rama, an avatar of Vishnu), which is a major rallying cry for Hindutvas, and it is here that we can establish the major context as relates to Hindutva of these riots, and from there why we should not be surprised about these riots (other than in relation to the scale of the violence, of course).

We can begin with the Citizenship Amendment Act. Many commentators highlight that it is a law designed to make it easier for non-Muslims to gain Indian citizenship. It’s true purpose, however, is to directly exclude Muslims from Indian citizenship so that they could be deported. As part of this legislative program the Indian government introduced a National Register of Citizens, which requires all Indians to provide documentation proving that they are Indian citizens, while the Citizenship Amendment Act would grant citizenship documents to any illegal immigrants who are not Muslims. Furthermore the government is also building detention camps for the purpose of holding people who fail to attain citizenship, using the labour of the very Muslims that the government will later detain there upon its completion. While some would deny that this is intended to unjustly discriminate against Muslims, Amit Shah, Modi’s Minister of Home Affairs and close ally, has openly stated that the party intends to implement the CAA for the purpose of granting non-Muslims citizenship and then implementing the NRC in order to deny citizenship to Muslims (or “the infiltrators” as he calls them). This suggests that the Bharatiya Janata Party knows exactly what they’re doing by implementing this legislation – they want to create a country where Muslims are denied the basic rights of citizenship on the grounds of their faith. What’s more, what is happening in India has striking parallels to what happened in Nazi Germany. The Nazis similarly drafted legislation designed to exclude Jews from German citizenship through what was known as the Nuremberg Laws. And of course, we all know what happened to the Jews after that. Not to mention, Amit Shah has very publicly referred to Muslims not only as “infiltrators”, but also refers to them as “sucking the blood of this country like parasites”, which is in many ways an echo of kind of blood libel that was once reserved for Jews in anti-semitic tirades, such as the kind that were promulgated by the Nazis. We can safely conclude, then, that this legislation is the means by which India will transform into a fascist state, and so what Modi and his government are doing is fascism, plain and simple.

So it should come as no surprise then thhere have been multiple protests over this law for months. It is worth noting that said protests had not initially descended into mob violence, it was only relatively recently (as of Sunday) that clashes began to break out. Given that the Hindutvas have a habit of instigating and causing violence towards political opponents without provocation, we are left to assume that it is the Hindutvas, perhaps seeking to browbeat popular dissent, that are the primary cause of the violence.

Then there’s the “Jai Shri Ram” rallying cry. Last year, a Muslim man named Tabrez Ansari was murdered by a mob of Hindutva men in Jharkhand. They tied him to a pole, beat him, and forced him to chant “Jai Shri Ram” while he pleaded for his force, before ultimately handing him over to the police, who imprisoned him and left him to die from his injuries. The month before had seen a steep rise in violent attacks carried out against innocent Muslims by Hindutva thugs, who just like in this instance forced their victims to chant “Jai Shri Ram”, along with other nationalist slogans such as “Bharat Mata ki Jai” (“Long Live Mother India”) and “Pakistan Murdabad” (“Death to Pakistan”). The slogan “Jai Shri Ram” likely originated as a simple religious greeting, comparable to “Namaste” and the like. However, since the 1980s, the Bharatiya Janata Party and various Hindutva movements used it as a political slogan as part of their campaign to build a temple to Rama in a part of Ayodhya that they believe was controlled by Hindus and wrongfully usurped by Muslims. In 1992, the Babri Masjid mosque that once sat there was destroyed by BJP-aligned mobs, who chanted “Jai Shri Ram” in the midst of their destruction. Ever since, that chant has frequently accompanied various acts of Hindutva violence and rape, such as the Gargi College molestations that occurred earlier this month, and the BJP has adopted that slogan for their own purposes. As such, the chanting of “Jai Shri Ram” can be seen as the Hindutva equivalent of an Islamist terrorist shouting “Allahu Akbar” while carrying out his crimes.

Finally, as I learned about the riots one question struck me: what was Modi doing about these riots? After all, the last time I recall Modi presiding over a major religious riot was when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2002, when riots Hindus began attacking and killing Muslims. Despite a Supreme Court ruling exonerating him, clearing him of complicity, there is still a sense that he did nothing to disperse the riots, or indeed may have instigated them himself, and it’s rather telling that, every time the subject comes up, he has a habit of dodging the subject and once even walked out of an interview wherein he was asked if he regretted that the killings happened. No one would assume that this was the action of a man of clear conscience, free of culpability or complicity, capable of defending his actions, other than a complete and total rube. Now that he is again residing over a major riot, this time as Prime Minister, it becomes pertinent to ask what his actions over the riots have been so far. Not much, I imagine, considering he’s rather busy doing trade talks with Trump, other than a tepid appeal to peace and brotherhood – tepid, I say, because his entire political project has been built atop anything but. And so far, I have been hearing reports about how police in New Dehli have done very little to intervene in the situation, with some police forces claiming they are helpless to act, and telling journalists that they cannot protect them. Needless to say this doesn’t sound like a situation that has been put under control.

In my opinion, the bloodshed in New Dehli is the culmination of a growing and strengthening fascist movement in India, and what we are seeing can be treated as a repeat of the atrocities that happened in Gujarat about 18 years ago. We’re seeing signs of a grim future for India, as the stage is set for what amounts to the rebirth of the Third Reich.

The burning of a settlement in New Delhi


Mythological Spotlight #10 – Zhulong

Modern artwork of Zhulong


Zhulong (also known as Zhuyin or Chu-yin) is a peculiar figure within Chinese mythology. Other names for him include Zhoulong and Chuolong. He is recorded as a dragon who was also worshipped by the Chinese as a god. This deity stretches back to very early periods of Chinese myth and history, and is considered to be a god of the weather, light and the sun. He is typically described as a dragon or serpent with a human head, but he could also be thought of as a pig dragon, as pig dragon is one of the many meanings of his name. Like many creatures found in Chinese myth, he also found his way to Japan, where he was recgonized as a yokai (a kind of monster or demon).



There are many myths centering around Zhulong that can be found in the ancient Chinese Classics, a series of texts whose composition predates the Qin dynasty, the first imperial dynasty of China, and which collectively form the canonical basis of ancient Chinese literature, particularly Confucian scholarship. The Classic of Mountains and Seas (or Shanhaijing) describes Zhulong as a deity residing at the top of a place called Zhōngshān (or Mount Bell), which seems to refer to a geographical location now known as Zijinshan (or Purple Mountain). Older myths place his abode in a different location, specifically a place called Mount Zhangwei. A huge creature, described as a thousand leagues long, Zhulong appears to have control over the transition of night and day as well as the weather. It is written that when his eyes are open or looking out there is daylight, and when they are closed it is night, and that he commands the seasons by blowing and/or calling out – when he blows it is winter and when he calls out it is summer. He is described as not needing to eat, drink or even breathe, but also that when he does breathe it creates gales of wind.

This myth is sometimes considered to be an antecedent to a similar myth concerning Pangu (or Pan-ku), another Chinese creation deity, on the grounds that both Pangu and Zhulong were believed to have built up the foundations of heaven and earth, thereby responsible for the creation of the universe. The fact that the composition of the Shanhaijing seems to predate the myths of Pangu appears to support the hypothesis that the Zhulong myth is the ancestor of the Pangu myth, as well as the origin of Pangu during the Han dynasty, thus suggesting Pangu to be the Han dynasty successor to Zhulong. And speaking of chaos, the myth of Zhulong has also been compared to another mythical creature known as Hundun, a beast representing the primordial chaos that existed before creation. The comparison stems from Zhulong not needing to eat, drink or breathe, which theoretically matches up Hundun’s lack of orifices. However, most depictions of Zhulong do have orifices, and the myths state that, although Zhulong doesn’t need to breathe, he sometimes does. There is one depiction of Zhulong that sometimes looks “faceless” at first, or at least lacking eyes, but upon close inspection it is just that he has only one eye, not unlike the Cyclopes of Greek mythology.

In the Classic of the Great Wilderness, Zhulong is mentioned as a god-man with a serpent body and describes the same characteristics as before, while adding that the wind and the rain are under his command and that he shines over “the ninefold darkness”. In the Chu Ci (or Songs of Chu), Zhulong is described as a being capable of bringing light into places that the sun cannot reach, which is implied to be the underworld, based on how the Shanhaijing in some translations refers to him as being able to “light the dark world of the dead”. The Huainanzi describes him as a creature that hides in the mountains and never sees the sun. In The Records of Penetration into the Mysteries (or Dongmingji), Zhulong is referred to, though not by name, as a blue or azure dragon that carries a torch in its jaws and illuminates a mountain reached by neither the sun nor the moon and is populated by peculiar plants and trees that can be used as torches.

In Japan, Zhulong is known as Shokuin, or Shokuryu, and is generally considered to be a yokai. The term yokai is a complicated a loaded term, but it can be translated as “strange apparition” and the categorization seems to comprise of ghosts, demons and various supernatural creatures, and is treated separately from the god category, or kami. This would mean that Zhulong has effectively been downgraded in Japanese myth from a god to a monster. Beyond that, however, many of the details of Shokuin are essentially the same as the details of Zhulong but with some differences. Whereas Zhulong resides at either Mount Zhangwei or Mount Bell, Shokuin resides at the top of Mount Shō. Shō is the name of one of the Yōrō Mountains which sit between the Mie and Gifu prefectures, however it’s possible that this is not the mountain referred to in the myth, as Toriyama Sekien, the author of the Senagikyo (which incidentally is a Japanese transliteration of the name Shanhaijing) in which he is featured, describes it as a mountain located near the Arctic Ocean. It seems that Shokuin was one of many yokai that were originally lifted from Chinese mythology, with many of their myths borrowed from their Chinese counterparts and names translated from Chinese to Japanese.

Shokuin also appears in the first volume of a text called the Konjaku Hyakki Shui (or “Supplement to The Hundred Demons from the Present and the Past”, also authored by Toriyama Sekien), in which he is described as the god of a mountain called Shōzan (likely a variant of Mount Shō), which is located in “the regions beyond the seas”.


Serpent of the morning star?

Zhulong’s many names are of interest here. Guo Pu’s commentary on the Classic of Mountains and Seas refers to him as “Enlightener”. The name Zhulong means “torch dragon”, though the name Zhu can also mean “illuminating”, “bright”, or “shining”. The name Zhuyin similar means “torch shadow”, but as Zhu can also mean “bright” and yin can mean “darkness”, we find that Zhuyin can mean “bright darkness”. This meaning is retained in the Japanese names Shokuin and Shokuryu. The reason I chose Zhulong for my return to writing Mythological Spotlights is because of an interesting coincidence that this presents.

Now, when you consider this in relation to the fact that Zhulong is described as having ligthed up the underworld, it strikes me that there is a similarity between this figure and the way that Lucifer, or his predecessor Athtar, are described. Lucifer, you may recall, is the bringer of light, and either fell or descended to the underworld. His Canaanite predecessor, the god Athtar, stepped down throne the throne of Mount Sapon in order to rule the underworld, and it just so happens that a torch is one of the items associated with this god. In a sense, Athtar much like Zhulong brought light to the underworld. Both also tend to contain both light and darkness within them, with Ahthar freely travelling between the heavenly Mount Sapon and the underworld, and Zhulong’s very name denoting him as being associated with both light and darkness. It is tempting, then, to consider Zhulong a rough Chinese counterpart to Lucifer. The image of a red-coloured serpent who resides in a darksome abode bringing light with a torch also certainly hits the right notes.

However, the general consensus regarding the myth is that Zhulong does not represent the morning star, and certainly lacks the connection to the planet Venus that Lucifer would have, and that instead Zhulong represents the phenomenon of auroras, specifically the Aurora Borealis. However, there are other scholars that suggest that it was a metaphor for an active volcano. The Japanese myth gives us some indication that the aurora borealis or the northern polar lights might be the main inspiration, given his immense size, his bright red colouration and the location of his home near the Arctic Ocean. In addition, the myth of Zhulong was very obviously developed in isolation from the Levant, and so it cannot have a clear relation with the myth of Athtar.

His connection to Pangu, a god whose body becomes the whole universe, might render him loosely comparable with beings like Tiamat, whose destruction begets the creation of the cosmos and mankind, as does a tradition within Chinese mythology that mortal beings inherit the powers of dragons, but in a rather distant sense.



Although Zhulong doesn’t have any intrinsic connection to Lucifer, he can be posited as expressing similar principles to the Lucifer archetype, on the grounds that he, like Lucifer, is an illuminating figure. In any case, though he seems to have been overshadowed by other deities in Chinese mythology, he serves as a fascinating link between early Chinese myth and later Chinese myth, specifically in the context of Pangu and Hundun, and is an interesting representation of the unity of the yin and the yang in the form of an enlightening serpent. He deserves quite a bit more respect than he gets.

The Happy Science cult

Recently I’ve been hearing about a Japanese cult that goes by the name of Happy Science, a religious movement that many consider to be a cult that also has notable presence in right-wing politics. Not one to resist the chance to look into weird developments in Japanese society and religion, I decided to take a look at them. The results of my inquiry, well, they’re quite something.

Known as Kofuku-no-Kagaku in Japan, the Happy Science movement was founded in 1986, which incidentally is about two years after Aum Shinrikyo was founded. In fact, much like Aum Shinrikyo, Happy Science began life as a company that published books that were penned by its founder, in this case Ryuho Okawa. Actually, it’s worth noting that, prior to forming Happy Science, Okawa was a businessman who studied finance in New York and later apparently had a position at a trading company, which from the outset makes me think that Happy Science is probably just a business venture he thought of during his studies. At the core of Happy Science’s doctrine is the belief that Okawa is the physical incarnation of a god named El Cantare, who the group believes to be the ruler of heaven and earth. His wives are also believed to be the incarnation of various goddesses. His first wife, Kyoko, was believed to be the reincarnation of the Greek goddess Aphrodite and “the bodhisattva of wisdom and intellect” (you mean Manjushri?). After Ryuho Okawa divorced Kyoko in 2011, Happy Science announced that she was expelled from the group for “besmirching the name of Lord El Cantare”, and he got a second wife, Shio, who Happy Science believes is the reincarnation of the goddess Gaia. The group also appears to believe that extreterrestrials are planning to invade Earth, that all humans have guardian spirits, and that the physical universe is just a “foreign school visited for a period of time for spiritual training”, which our true home being “the Spirit World” (that last part sort of reminds me of Gnosticism). The movement also claims to derive its spiritual teachings from a wide range of people: they cite Jesus Christ, Moses, the Greek god Zeus, Socrates, Confucius, Lao Tzu, Prince Shotoku, Immanuel Kant, Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, Isaac Newton, Helen Keller, William Shakespeare, Margaret Thatcher, Walt Disney and even Barack Obama among others as inspirations for their belief system, and Okawa claims to be able to channel all of these people (even Obama, despite the notable handicap of Obama not having departed from this world yet). Wow, quite a lot of stolen valor going on here. There’s also a bit of elitism going on here, with the proclamation in one of their lectures that “there is only one who can teach the highest Truth for all the people”. This plays in very nicely with the standard definition of cult, being based on the word of a single individual and his word being absolute over all.

I’m sure some of you are wondering just who is El Cantare, the central deity of the Happy Science group? Although the presence of “El” in his name might suggest some fairly direct link to the Canaanite deity El, it seems that El Cantare doesn’t appear in any belief system outside of Happy Science. So who is he? According to the Happy Science website El Cantare is the creator of the universe, identifiable with the “Primordial Buddha” or the “Primordial God”, a being in whom God and the Buddha are united, somehow. This would mean that El Cantare is both God and the Buddha according to Happy Science doctrine. The group’s teachings also identify El Cantare with Elohim, the God of the New Testament, and Allah, which suggests that he is to be treated as identical to the God of the Abrahamist texts, which suggests that El Cantare is just their made up name for God, and they also believe that El Cantare is the leader of a host of spiritual beings that include not only angels, bodhisattvas and tathagatas, but also the spiritual leaders and teachers of various religions and philosophies, including Jesus, Muhammad, Moses, Confucius and even Socrates. The group believes that El Cantare has incarnated (or reincarnated) himself at numerous points throughout human history, which for me opens up quite a few questions about how or why the supreme being is capable of reincarnation. This line of reincarnation is believed to go from a figure named Ra Mu (who they believe appeared in the fictional continent of Mu 17,000 years ago but beyond that I nothing about him), to the Egyptian god Thoth (who they believe appeared in the fictional city of Atlantis 12,000 years ago), to a figure named Rient Arl Croud (who they believe appeared in the Incan empire 7,000 years ago but other than that I have no idea who he is), to a being named Ophealis (who they believe appeared in Greece 6,500 years ago and is apparently also supposed to be the Egyptian god Osiris), to the Greek god Hermes (who they believe appeared in Crete 4,300 years ago), to Siddartha Gautama, and finally (of course) to Ryuho Okawa. While obviously absurd, the amusing thing about the implications of this belief is that, according to Happy Science doctrine, Jesus, Moses and Muhammad all answer to the Buddha, since El Cantare is the primordial Buddha and Siddartha Gautama is one of his incarnations. It also seems like they’re trying to tie the lore of Hermes Trismegistus into it, since two of his incarnations are Thoth and Hermes.

In any case, what we are looking at is a movement centered a man who claims to be an incarnation of God himself who is also the Buddha, whose teachings are supposedly inherited from all of the major spiritual and philosophical teachings of human history, which also seems to believe that aliens are either trying to communicate with us or trying to invade us and that we’re just spiritual beings who temporarily are born on Earth for training purposes (training for God knows what), and that only the leader Ryuho Okawa can save the world through his teachings. Having gathered all of that, it seems quite clear that we are dealing in something that could accurately be described as a cult in a conventional sense. From what I understand, however, the cult hasn’t yet been implicated in any major abuse yet. Instead this particular cult is more known for its political ventures (which we’ll get to later on), as well as some business ventures and some pretty nutty protests. In 1994, Happy Science staged a protest event in Tokyo where members marched from Shibuya to Yoyogi Park in order to protest against the fact that pubic hair was displayed on porn magazines and elsewhere as part of a campaign they called “Stop the Hair Nudes” – yes, apparently their main issue wasn’t pornography (although supposedly the whole thing was meant to bring attention to pornography mags being sold at corner shops and read openly at that time) so much as the fact that you can see pubic hair in it uncensored back in the day. Around the same time Happy Science also apparently staged a protest against a small publishing company named Kodansha for publishing an article that was apparently critical of Ryuho Okawa. More recently, in 2012 Happy Science reserved a stadium in Uganda that was intended to be used by Olympic athletes in order to hold their first African lecture. Happy Science also has its own high school establishment called Happy Science Academy, which is basically just a boarding school for junior and senior high school students that exists to inculcate its students in the teachings of the Happy Science cult, as well as a “university” called Happy Science University, a private college with a similar aim of teaching its students Happy Science doctrine for the goal of creating “a new world civilization”, plus some entrepreneurial skils (really honing in on Okawa’s business school roots I see).

One curious detail about Happy Science, which honestly I think is to their credit, is the fact that they were also very vocal about their opposition to Aum Shinrikyo, though there was also an element of weirdness to it – for instance, in one of his lectures, Okawa even claimed he knew the location of the missing Sakamoto family, who were believed to have been abducted by Aum Shinrikyo in 1989. Though it is good that they stood against Aum Shinrikyo, it’s also possible that Happy Science simply saw Aum Shinrikyo as a rival movement, standing in the way of their growth as a movement.

It is also worth noting that the cult’s activities are not confined to Japan, and in fact Happy Science has a presence throughout the world. In Australia, which by the way Okawa believes is destined to become a global superpower 300 years into the future, Happy Science has been active for less than 15 years now, having set up shop in Sydney back in 2005, and as of 2015 has garnered up to $1.5 million in donations. They are particularly active in Melbourne and Sydney and present themselves as a charity. They also appear to have branches in Canada, France, Brazil, and several branches based in the United States of America.

The Happy Science movement also seems to have wet its beak in various Japanese entertainment media. The cult has produced numerous films and anime in order to promote their cause, and they have their own anime TV series called The Laws of the Universe. They are also known to own three television studios: New Star Production, ARI Production, and HS Pictures Studio. They even have their own pop idol band, a band named anjewel which is composed entirely of young girls who also happen to members of Happy Science. The band released a single in July 2017, an have even released POV videos where they pretend to go on dates with the viewer, which to be honests represents for me the ultimate synthesis of religious cult proselytism and Japanese sexual alienation. The band was formed in 2016, and is currently still active, however they never really took off internationally unlike many more popular idol groups (such as AKB48 or Babymetal). The movement also seems to have some celebrity influence. In 2017 the actress Fumika Shimizu joined Happy Science shortly after a film she was in called The Dark Maiden was done filming, and in tandem with this she declined to appear in promotional events for the film and apparently announced a temporary retirement from acting. She has since made public appearances wherein she sings on behalf of her religion, although throughout her hiatus she still seemed to be very active on social media.

The cult also has a foothold in Japanese politics by way of the Happiness Realization Party, which is the political wing of the Happy Science movement and, like the Happy Science organization, is headed by Ryuho Okawa. Founded in 2009, the party is described by both itself and external commentators as a right-wing conservative party, and the party adopts numerous positions that place it firmly in the camp of the reactionary milieu of Japanese politics. These positions include fairly bog standard neoliberal-conservative policies such as cutting taxes, reducing immigration controls (with the intent of increasing the national population), and encouraging woman to have more than three babies, but also some very conspiscious nationalist policies such denying that the Nanking Massacre happened, denying that the Japanese military used Korean women as sex slaves, altering Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution in order to undo the pacifism that has been enshrined into law since World War II in order to allow for Japanese military expansion, constructing a nuclear deterrent for Japan (which in itself wouldn’t be shady without the context that the Japanese right wants to go to war with its neighbours), and calling for China to be expelled from the United Nations Security Council. That last part is very peculiar because it seems to come up a lot for Okawa, and even bleeds into his spirituality in that the people he claims to have channeled seem, as if by coincidence, to support his positions on China. He claims that the spirit of Nelson Mandela told him that there would have been no apartheid in South Africa if Japan had won in the Pacific, and that the spirit of Margaret Thatcher told him that Japan should not hesitate in fighting China, which she reportedly described as “the red empire”. It also bleeds into Happy Science’s entertainment propaganda, such as how in one of their anime films, The Mystical Lover, China is straight up depicted as a Nazi-esque regime, complete with swastikas, hell bent on invading Japan and dominating the world, though the film attempts to obfuscate this as well by casting Nazi China as a fictional empire called the Godom Empire. The same anime film also appears to depict Japan as a nation that has been browbeaten by political correctness, being told by the Godom Empire (of China) that they can no longer call themselves Japanese (which to me sounds eerily similar to some right wing conspiracy theories about how Britain/Europe/America is in danger of no longer being British/European/American). And it’s not just China that the party is mad about either. During the 2009 general election, the Happiness Realization Party promised that, if they were elected, they would declare war on North Korea. Happy Science also appears to support the anti-extradition protests in Hong Kong, which seems good on its own until you remember that, in the case of Happy Science, this is likely tied in with their militaristic agenda against China rather than for genuinely pro-democratic reasons. Much like the cult itself, the party’s political influence is not limited to Japan, and in fact the Happiness Realization Party has even managed to forge links with the American right. In 2012, the party attended the Conservative Political Action Conference (or CPAC), with Jikido Aeba, who is also the chairman of a trans-Pacific conservative think tank called the Japanese Conservative Union, serving as basically the Japanese embassador of the Republican National Commitee. Through CPAC, the party met with a few American conservative ideologues with the aim of figuring out how to export American conservatism to Japan. The party attended CPAC again in 2016, where Aeba gave a speech on behalf of the Japanese Conservative Union on the subject of spreading conservatism across the world, and then again in 2017, where Aeba served as the replacement speaker for Milo Yiannpoulos (who was disinvited from CPAC after the Reagan Battalion dug up his Drunken Peasants appearance from the year before in which he apparently talked about pederasty).

All in all, I’m kind of impressed at how absurd this cult appears to be, and I’m definitely surprised to learn just how far reaching they are as well. I assumed at first that this was just a regular old Japanese quasi-Buddhist/New Age cult that was making the rounds in Japan that was similar to Aum Shinrikyo but not as prolific, given that Aum Shinrikyo tends to be at the center of discussion of cults in Japan (for very obvious reasons pertaining to terrorism, of course). But no, instead I got treated to a high-end entrepreunerial cult less interested in doomsday shenanigans and more interested in spreading their tendrils in right-wing politics in the USA and waging propaganda war (not to mention actual war) with China. The particular detail about their right-wing political alignment is rather fascinating to me in particular. The only other East Asian cult I remember with a similar agenda would have to be the Unification Church (better known as the Moonies), who in 1982 founded and ran a conservative news outlet called the Washington Times and has apparently been forging alliances with conservative evangelical Christians for years. Although the cult is not ostensibly harmful in the sense that we haven’t seen any major stories about sexual abuse, physical abuse or terrorism, and I must say they’re being awful clever with their brainwashing since we don’t know much about that on their part, but their political clout and the fact that they have quite a few international branches and also basically some indoctrination centers laying around tells me that they might be worth keeping an eye on because they could potentially present some threat to secularism in the long run.

Ryuho Okawa, never shy to depict himself as a divine being

The BJP’s holy war

So, we’re here it would seem. This past week we’ve seen a historic escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan that will probably, though some would say not assuredly, lead to war between the two countries – a decidedly grim prospect for the region and perhaps beyond considering both countries possess an arsenal of nuclear weapons. Before we get into the main angle I had in mind for this post it’s worth going over just what happened, and it’s worth keeping in mind several developments had been occurring on Tuesday alone.

Ever since the partition of India from the British Empire in 1947, there has been conflict between India and Pakistan at the borders of the two countries, with particular attention paid to the Kashmir territory, but the last few weeks have seen major conflagration on the India-Pakistan border. In February 14th when a Deobandi Islamist terror group named Jaish-e-Mohammed attacked Indian convoys in Pulwama. The Pakistani government denies being involved in the attack, and the group is not obviously connected to the Pakistani government (although the Indian media frequently claims the opposite), in fact the group is officially banned in Pakistan. However, that didn’t stop India from sending its jets over the border in order to strike Pakistani territory, claiming that they were attacking a terrorist camp. In response, Pakistan began firing shells at India, and is even beginning to hint about the use of nuclear weapons.

This, I think, should be a concise enough summation of the surrounding events. Now, then, we can get to the angle I want to postulate – that India is the primary aggressor in the recent standoffs, and that the intent behind this is to wage holy war with Pakistan.

For starters, while the Indian government claims it was striking Jaish-e-Mohammed in Balatok, Pakistani locals tend to say that no damage was done to Jaish within the area. This raises the question of just what India attacked if not a Jaish base. That they attacked Pakistan in response to Jaish-e-Mohammed’s attack suggests that they consider Jaish-e-Mohammed to be an ally of Pakistan or a proxy of Pakistan. Although there is no real evidence that Jaish-e-Mohammed is backed by Pakistan, some scholars and the Indian media like to claim that Pakistan funds them. It is possible that the Indian government assumes this as well, and that this was the rationale to strike at Pakistan in response to being attacked by Jaish forces.

Oh, and speaking of the Indian media, One key thing to remember is that Indian media on the subject of Pakistan, especially right now, is about as untrustworthy as American media is on countries they either don’t like or think should be invaded by the US. In fact, the Indian media is in full spin generating falsehoods about Pakistan’s role in the recent standoff in order to cultivate manufactured consent for war in the Indian population. One Indian Express article for example claims that Pakistan used F-16 aircraft to attack Indian bases, without actually presenting any evidence (despite having “here’s the proof” in the headline). It is entirely possible in my view India is seeing the same type of disinformation campaign that presaged the American invasion of Iraq in 2002.

But why I do I suspect a big religious angle to the coming conflict? Why holy war? Well, the first thing that stuck out for me is how, hours after the airstrikes launched at Pakistan, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a metro journey in Dehli from Khan Market to East of Kailash in order to visit the ISKCON Temple (also known as the Glory Of India & Vedic Cultural Centre), as well as apparently unveiling a giant Bhagavad Gita at an event held there. More starkly, in that same event he gave a speech following the air strikes wherein he said this:

“The power of God is always with us to save the Earth from the enemies of humanity. We are attempting to spread this message with complete authenticity to the evil spirits and asuras. Today is very significant.”

Judging from the context of this speech, it’s very clear that Modi is referring to the nation of Pakistan and its people as demons, as Asuras (the enemies of the Devas) and as enemies of humanity, from whom the Earth is to be saved. This is very explicitly not only a prelude to conflict within the region and a sign of India’s intent to fight Pakistan but also a clear invocation of the Hindu religion in support of the coming war.

It is also worth noting that a major goal of Hindutva ideology is the creation of the Akhand Bharata (or “Undivided India”), an irredentist project aimed at bringing together the whole Indian subcontinent under the rule of India. This of course would require the subjugation of Pakistan by India so that it may come under its rule.

But what is the angle on the part of the BJP for such holy war? In my view, the answer may lie in good old-fashioned political maneuvering. There is to be a general election in India this year, expected to be held between April and May, and from what I understand Narendra Modi has been declining in popularity. In August 2018 his popularity slipped below 50% for the first time, and by the end of the year many Indians began to consider that their lives have worsened under his tenure as Prime Minister. However, the recent strikes against Pakistan have been a source of hope for the BJP, as Indians have been taking to the streets to celebrate India’s attack on Pakistan – which has been interpreted as a sign that Modi’s popularity may be set to grow again just a few months ahead of his potential re-election.

So, while I have no doubt Pakistan is pretty dangerous in this situation as well, I suspect India is acting as the primary aggressor in this mess, seeking to engender a holy war in the region in order to crush Pakistan so that Modi can stay in power for a little longer in order to flex on Islam. Kind of a petty way to send millions of people to their deaths if you ask me.

The rise of Hindu nationalism in India and beyond

This month, the Indian Science Congress Association held its 106th annual summit, as it traditionally does on the first week of January. In this summit, a number of Indian scientists have come out against the theories of Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton, who form part of the axis upon which modern scientific observation and understanding of the universe are based, while claiming that ancient Hindu religious texts are the actual basis of modern science. In one case, the head of a university based in south India actually claimed that stem cell research was already practiced in India thousands of years ago and was described in ancient texts. Another academic, G Nageshwar Rao, claimed that the Kauravas, the descendants of a king named Kuru according to the Mahabharata, were created via stem cell research as test tube babies. He also claimed that the astra and shastra, mythical weapons used by the gods in Indian mythology, were actually pre-modern guided missiles that had been used in India thousands of years before guided missiles were actually developed, and that the demon king Ravana was not only real but also possessed 24 types of aircraft and a network of landing strips in Sri Lanka. One scientist, Kannan Jegathala Krishnan, claimed that Einstein’s theories were “misleading” and that Newton “failed to understand gravitational repulsive forces”. A supposed paleontologist named Ashu Khosla claimed that dinosaurs were created by the deity Brahma, who he also claimed documented such creations in Indian religious scriptures. Essentially, the conference became a platform for Hindu creationism and attempts by religious ideologues to claim the history of modern science as the ancient history of India. There was also a naked appeal to base nationalism, as Krishnan even went so far as to suggest that gravitational waves should be renamed “Narendra Modi Waves”, after the current Prime Minister of India, and that the gravitational lensing effect should be renamed the “Harsh Vardhan effect”, presumably after the Indian politician of the same name.

As absurd as this must seem, and rightfully so, such developments are unfortunately not new to the Indian scientific community or to Indian society at large. In 2017, the junior education minister Satyapal Singh, who also happens to be in the BJP, claimed that planes were first mentioned in the Ramayana and that the plane was first invented in India eight years before the Wright Brothers by Shivakar Babuji Talpade. Such claims, however, remain unverified. The same man also claimed that there existed trees in the kingdom of Ravana (presumably referring to Sri Lanka, I guess) that didn’t need to be watered because they contained a mythical elixir named Chandramani, and that Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection was incorrect. Of course two years before that a man named Anand Bodas claimed in that year’s Indian Science Congress that a Vedic sage named Bharadwaja invented the world’s first plane and that ancient planes had 40 engines. The home minister Rajnath Singh (another BJP politician) claimed that the principle of quantum uncertainity, which was theorized by Werner Heisenburg in 1927, is actually based on Vedic scripture. Rajashtan education minister Vasudev Devnani (yet another BJP politician) claimed that cows are the only animals that inhale and exhale oxygen in order to add “scientific significance” to the belief that the cow is a sacred animal. A BJP lawmaker named Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank at one point claimed that astrology is superior to science, literally calling science “a dwarf before astrology”, that a sage named Kanad conducted the first nuclear test one lakh year (that’s about 100,000 years) ago, and that ancient Indians had the knowledge of performing transplants. Another BJP MP named Shankarbhai Vegad, in his push for a ban on cattle slaughter, claimed that the urine and feces of cows are capable of curing cancer and other ailments. Even Narendra Modi himself once claimed that the Hindu deity Ganesha was the result of the literal attachment of an elephant’s head onto the body of a human boy, supposedly an ancient form of plastic surgery.

Narendra Modi depicted in “‘Chai Pe Charcha” with Ganesha

It’s tempting for me to look at this and be reminded of a sort of popular cult around Hinduism that’s been around for decades now, even among supposedly skeptical, scientifically-minded atheists. In fact, Carl Sagan himself described Hinduism as “the only religion in which the time scales correspond to those of modern scientific cosmology” and in one of his books he said that the Nataraja, the famous icon of the deity Shiva dancing the universe into destruction, represents an ancient understanding of what we now refer to as the Big Bang. He also talked about Hindu cosmology in one episode of his TV series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. In my day I have seen the idea of Hinduism as an especially scientific religion is often spread by New Agers, as well as Hindus seeking to big up their religion, and I definitely see there being a sort of popular exotic fascination with Hinduism among spiritualists, occult circles, people who don’t believe in Christianity but look for other beliefs, pagans, some agnostics, a few atheists and almost certainly fellow travelers of the Left Hand Path. Indeed, historically I have not been above such exotic fascination myself, and I still see myself reading about Hinduism to this day even though I don’t ascribe myself to the religion, and I certainly don’t endorse any of the creationism and pseudoscience coming from Hindu circles.

However, the phenomenon we are seeing in India is not like the kind of exoticist obsession of Hinduism found in the West. Instead, it’s very likely that the kind of pseudoscience, creationism and revisionism we’re seeing is the product of the influence of Hindu nationalism, which is currently a very powerful movement in India represented by the ruling party.

You may have noticed it already, but there’s a pretty strong link between this broad trend of religious historical revisionism and the Bharatiya Janata Party, all the way up to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who leads the party in the Lok Sabha (the lower house of parliament) and serves as its chairperson in parliament. As many people in India have noticed, this is far from a coincidence. The BJP is a conservative nationalist party, and one of their main flanks appears to be an ideology known as Hindutva. The term Hindutva refers to a particular form of Indian nationalism and Hindu conservatism that stresses the singular importance of the Hindu religion in Indian politics and public life. Like pretty much all nationalist movements they tend to think of the cultural body as the defining body of the nation (a la Andrew Breitbart’s axiom “politics is downstream from culture”), and they believe that Hindu culture and Indian culture represent the same entity. Consequently they frequently pressure the Indian government to push for policies intended to “protect” Hindu culture from perceived threats. This would explain why BJP is so hellbent on introducing a version of scientific truth that aligns with Hindu myth and religious tradition.

It also lends to a particular hostility towards Christians and Muslims, whether they are born, raised and integrated into Indian society or not, because Christianity and Islam represent foreign religions in India, which according to Hindutva ideology represent a threat to the Indian nation. Judaism and Zoroastrianism are also excluded from the Hindutva milieu as foreign religions, while Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism are welcomed because they see them as extensions of the Indian Dharma or religion – the fact that those three religions contradict Hinduism in various areas doesn’t seem to be a problem with them, due to the fact that they all originate in India. This characteristic lends itself to a sense of ethnocentrism on the part the Hindutva movement, with religious identity being an extension of ethnic identity and opposing foreign peoples through their religious identity. Because of this, many commentators have compared Hindutva to the alt-right, and right-wing online movements sometimes embrace Hindutva.

The religious fundamentalism and nationalist agenda of Hindutva has already had a major effect on Indian society for some time now, and the BJP have already set about perverting the Indian education system in order to condition the public to their agenda. In 2001, a BJP MP named Murli Manohar Joshi managed to get astrology taught as a course in Indian universities as part of the national curriculum. But if that wasn’t enough, the BJP managed to get history textbooks altered to suit their political agenda. In 2016, public schools in Rajasthan released new social studies textbooks that removed all information about India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and which renamed the Indus Valley Civilization to the Sindhu-Saraswati Culture, presumably named after the Hindu goddess Saraswati, despite the fact that Hindu culture as we know it did not emerge until some time after the Indus Valley Civilzation. Many Rajasthan textbooks even outright glorify the Modi government. In Maharashtra, new textbooks altered the preamble of the Indian Constitution, replacing the words “dharma nirpeksh” (meaning “religion neutral”, thus implying secularism) with “panth nirpeksh” (meaning “sect neutral”) in order to paint the country as based on a national unity of Hindu sects rather than a secular democratic nation, and the state education board has even gone so far as to remove references to the Mughals from their history textbooks.

The fact that the world famous Taj Mahal was built by a Mughal emperor doesn’t seem to bother Hindutvas for some reason.

It’s here that we see in Hindutva some striking parallels with two other right-wing movements in different parts of the world. First, there is the state sponsorship of psuedoscience and religious fundamentalism, which has strong parallels with the American religious right and their tendency to side with creationism (the current Vice President Mike Pence is on record with his belief that evolution is “just a theory”) and evangelical fundamentalists, not to mention climate science denialists. Second, we have rampant historical revisionism, which is comparable to similar textbook controversies in neighbouring Pakistan based on Islamic nationalism (often to the point of removing references to minority religions), but also more pertinently to the Japanese conservative/reactionary organization known as Nippon Kaigi, which produces and distributes history textbooks written to reflect Japanese national pride at the expense of historical accuracy, particularly when it comes to World War 2 and the Nanking massacre.

But there’s another twist to the Hindutva movement. Historically, the Hindutva movement has also been sympathetic to 20th century fascism, as suggested by the appraisal of German and Italian fascism by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the progenitor of the Hindutva idea:

“Surely Hitler knows better than Pandit Nehru [the first prime minister of India] does what suits Germany best. The very fact that Germany or Italy has so wonderfully recovered and grown so powerful as never before at the touch of Nazi or Fascist magical wand is enough to prove that those political ‘isms’ were the most congenial tonics their health demanded.”

In fact, the BJP as a party is said to have emerged from another organization named Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (or RSS), a right-wing paramilitary volunteer organization also based in Hindutva ideology widely viewed as the ideological inspiration for the BJP. Their main goal is to establish India as a Hindu nation, rather than a secular one. This group is probably famous for encouraging the drinking of cow urine, claiming that it has the ability to cure diabetes and about 80 other diseases – another pseudoscientific claim likely meant to be tied to Hindu religious beliefs. However, this group seems to have been enamored with fascism. An example of fascistic sentiment within the group can be found in the writings of Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, the second leader of RSS, who espoused many beliefs that could be characterized as fascistic. For example, in his book We, or Our Nationhood Defined he stressed the supposed importance of preserving the racial-cultural purity of the Indian nation, citing Nazi Germany as an example of racial pride to draw lessons on racial and cultural unity from:

“To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic Races – the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well nigh impossible it is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by. Ever since that evil day, when Moslems first landed in Hindustan, right up to the present moment, the Hindu Nation has been gallantly fighting on to take on these despoilers. The Race Spirit has been awakening.”

In Bunch of Thoughts, he described democracy as “to a very large extent only a myth in practice” and he believed individual freedom was merely a high-minded concept that for him “only meant the freedom of those talented few to exploit the rest”. That last point is worth noting as it could easily be interpreted as a critique of capitalism in a sense, however this was decidedly not from a socialist perspective considering both the rejection of democracy and his antipathy towards communism, which along with Christianity and Islam were the main targets of his condemnation who he believed had sinister designs for the Indian nation. Stated rejection of both capitalism and communism is very much a position found in many fascistic movements, with fascism often representing the “third position”.

The movement even had some ties with Savitri Devi (born Maximiani Portas), the infamous French fascist occultist who combined Hinduism and New Age spiritualism with Hitlerian ideology and who remains a powerful inspiration to modern esoteric fascist movements. During the 1930’s, Devi coordinated with RSS along with several other radical nationalist and fascist movements in India in order to promote her ideas about Aryanism to an audience she believed would be adopt them with open arms. At the time, those groups were heavily invested in resisting the influence of Islam in the country, considering Islam to be a threat to the nation. Devi believed the Indian Hindus were the only people on Earth who still worshiped the gods of the Aryan race (which of course would mean that the Nazi master race were devout Hindus) and could end the influence of the Jewish race in the world, and it was after meeting with Srimat Swami Satyananda (then president of the Hindu Mission in what was known as Calcutta) that she came to believe that Adolf Hitler was a mortal incarnation of the deity Vishnu. Indeed, this idea seems to have been surprisingly widespread among wealthy Indian Hindus in Kolkata, as well as in Nagpur where he apparently remains an idol to some Hindu nationalists.

In fact perhaps it’s worth mentioning at this point that Adolf Hitler and his writings, for some reason, don’t have the same stigma in India that they rightly do here in the West. For example, Hitler’s writings and Nazi memorabilia have attracted the attention of young Indians in the not too distant past, with Mein Kampf at one point being a bestseller in the country. In fact just the name Hitler is so uncontroversial there compared to the West that it even appears as the name of various businesses, such as the infamous Hitler’s Den in Nagpur and a clothing store named Hitler in Ahmedabad. It’s even becoming something of a comic trope in Indian politics, as last year an Indian MP named Naramalli Sivaprasad dressed up as Hitler and impersonated him in parliament while demanding more economic assistance to the state of Andhra Pradesh.

Naramalli Sivaprasad, dressed as Hitler for some reason

The RSS movement remains active and powerful within Indian politics, working to promote the BJP in order to get their political interests fulfilled in the halls of Indian power. In fact Narendra Modi himself got his start as an RSS activist before eventually moving on to working as an MP for the BJP. The RSS has also boasted about being involved in the Gujarat riots of 2002, in which up to 2,000 people were killed, most of them apparently Muslims. In 2017 one of their leaders, Kundan Chandrawat, claimed in a public tirade that “Hindu society” killed 2,000 Muslims in Gujarat as vengeance for the Hindu pilgrims who died in a train burning near a railway station of Godhra, and also stated that he would reward whoever brought him the head of Pinarayi Vijayan, chief minister of Kerala, a payment of one crore rupees (that’s approximately $140,000 or about £107,000). He also claimed that communists and Kerala’s Left Front government were responsible for murdering their comrades in Kerala, and he went so far as to say the following in his speech:

“You have killed 300 pracharaks and activists, we will present Bharat Mata with a garland of 300,000 skulls in return.

Leftists, beware.”

What may be the most surprising thing you’ll learn about Hindutva is that Hindutva movements are not only active in India, and in fact they have an extensive network of organizations active in the United States. According to a 2014 report entitled Hindu Nationalism in the United States: A Report on Nonprofit Groups, there are several groups spawned from the RSS and many other Hindutva groups active within the United States of America spreading their nationalist ideology. RSS has a subsidiary group named Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (or HSS), which is active in the US and many other countries. There’s also VHP of America, VHP meaning Vishwa Hindu Parishad – another Hindutva organization, which is also accused of being involved in the Gujarat riots of 2002. The parent organization, VHP, is also considered a religious militant organization by the CIA and is also active in Canada, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. VHPA claims to have established their first chapter in New York, following the relaxation of the laws concerning Asian immigration to the US during the 1960’s. Both of them are associated with RSS and serve the purpose of mobilizing young Hindus living outside of India, presumably with the intent of having them become loyal acolytes of Hindutva ideology. VHP is also the cultural wing of Sangh Parivar, serving the function of supplying “the pure spirit of the Hindu way of life”. Sangh Parivar in the US promotes textbooks that stress strict emphasis on the Vedas and upper-caste values, contain stories and quotations from their own leaders, lionized stories of the life of Chhatrapati Shivaji Bhonsle (a 17th century Indian monarch who promoted Indian tradition) and his supposed conquest of Islam, and claims that the increasing mistreatment of women in India can be blamed on “Muslim rule” in India. As of 2014, 140 HSS chapters have been identified in the United States. VHPA also runs several family camps in the US, with 16 chapters established nationwide.

Related to VHP is a group named Bajrang Dal, a radical Hindutva group responsible for carrying out attacks on Christian churches because of the alleged defaming of Hindu gods, getting involved in the 2002 Gujarat riots in which many Muslims were killed, and even attacks on ordinary people for celebrating Western holidays such as Valentine’s Day. There is apparently no tax-exempt equivalent to this group in the US, and they are recognized as extremists by the US State Department. They run a website named, which is registered to a New York address and apparently hosts a black list of people judged to have committed “crimes against the Hindu people” ranging from Osama bin Laden to the Pope, as well as various journalists, academics and human rights activists, including Angana Chatterji (an anthropologist and feminist activist who has spoken out against Hindutva groups) and Biju Matthew (an Indian-American Marxist activist who co-founded the Forum for Indian Leftists). The website was banned by the Indian government in 2006.

Bajrang Dal members seen burning a cross-shaped effigy, possibly being used as a symbol for Valentine’s Day

Like what the BJP have been doing in India, Hindutva affiliated movements have attempted to alter school textbooks to suit their agenda, thus placing them at the center of academic controversy. In 2005 two Hindu advocacy groups known as the Hindu Education Foundation and the Vedic Foundation, both of them backed by the Hindu American Foundation, attempted to push for changes in California’s sixth grade history textbooks, arguing that they maligned the Hindu religion by misrepresenting Hindu attitudes towards women’s rights, class (or in this case the caste society), the Aryan conquest of northern India and other subjects. They sought to sanitize or even rewrite history in various ways. The Hindu Education Foundation wanted to sanitize the history of the caste system by removing as many references to class antagonism as possible, especially concerning the Dalits (or untouchables), whitewash the history of women’s rights by replacing “men had more rights than women” with “men had different duties and rights from women”, homogenize Hindu belief by trying to conflate modern Brahmanism with the older Vedic religion, rewrite the history of the Aryan conquests in order to downplay the invasion, and even tried to claim that chariots were invented in India (when in fact they weren’t). The Vedic Foundation meanwhile sought to outright remove any references to Hinduism as a heterogeneous religion containing differing schools of philosophy and the religions affect on the status and labour of people in Indian society, replace any references to polytheism with monotheism, replace “Brahman” with “God” and “unity with Brahman” with “God realization” and also whitewash the caste system. At first, many changes they requested were accepted by the Curriculum Commission in a classic fit of capitulation to religious sensibilities, opposed only by a handful of indologists. However, in 2006, the special committee of the California State Board of Education voted to overturn most of the changes that were submitted.

So what do these groups have to do with Hindutva exactly? Well, the Hindu Education Foundation is a project of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA, the American branch of HSS, which is itself a subsidiary of RSS as was already established. The Vedic Foundation is linked to VHP, which as we’ve also established is another pro-Hindutva group. The Hindu American Foundation, which backed both groups, is also tied to a number of Indian nationalist groups. The group’s founder, Mihir Meghani, was a member of RSS and on the governing council of VHPA. HAF leaders have also served as board members of the Vivek Welfare and Educational Foundation, which donated $10,000 to VHP and $4.2 million to the Hindu University of America, a subsidiary of VHPA. One of HAF’s directors, Sheetal Shah, attended a rally organized by the Forum for Hindu Awakening and a nationalist group named Hindu Janajagruti Samiti. HAF co-founder Aseem Shakula has also written a piece defending Narendra Modi over his visa denial and the group itself lobbied in opposition to said visa denial. Basically, the 2005-6 textbook controversy in California was Hindu fundamentalists who were allies or proxies of Indian nationalist groups looking to spread their ideology in the United States. This is a salient example within living memory of Hindutva groups attempting to spread their ideology outside of India, through dark money as is the tradition of the United States.

But Hindutva is not without approbators within the United States. David Frawley, an American Hindu teacher and writer of several books on yoga and Vedic scripture, recently claimed that people who oppose Hindutva but not Hinduism itself are dishonest because they “have rarely defended Hinduism from Marxist, Missionary or Islamist criticisms or projected any positive image of Hinduism in India or the world”. Of course, this is not such a strange statement on his part when you consider that he often endorses pro-Modi sentiment on his Twitter, and he himself has praised Narendra Modi’s election in 2014 and supports his re-election this year. Frawley also considers groups like Sangh Parivar to be comparable to Native American and Aboriginal interest groups, which given their own post-colonialist ontology does not actually do wonders for them in my view at least – post-colonialism, after all, is essentially just reactionary politics but for minority groups and because of that it’s dressed up in the veneer of progressivism. In September last year, Democratic lawmaker Raja Krishnamoorthi attended the World Hindu Congress, alongside RSS leaders and the Vice President of India, in order to preach the philosophy of Vivekananda, who was himself an ardent Hindu nationalist.

This of course brings us rather nicely to a blue elephant in the room known as Tulsi Gabbard, who this month announced her bid to run for President of the United States in 2020. Gabbard has garnered a mixed reputation in the US: one the one hand seen as one of the few authentically progressive politicians in the country, and on the other seen as a paleoconservative in disguise for her anti-Islamic stance and anti-interventionism (the latter of which is mostly treated as a positive thing). She does have some progressive credentials to her name, it must be said. She supported Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the presidency in 2016, is a supporter of universal healthcare and marijuana legalization, opposes the TPP, supports a $15 minimum wage and is in favor of renewing the Glass-Steagall Act. She also opposed the war in Iraq and US intervention in Libya, wants the US to pull out of Yemen, Afghanistan and Syria, and is opposed to the US providing foreign aid to Saudi Arabia. But she also has numerous problematic positions, such as her support for Israel, her soft stance on torture (in fact, at one point she said that when pressed she would likely approve torture), has an inconsistent position on the Iran deal, her anti-interventionist stance ultimately being contradicted by her hawkish stance on the war on terror (including her willingness to use drones in Middle Eastern countries where she deems necessary), the fact that she opposed same-sex marriage and worked with her father’s anti-homosexual campaigns until 2012, her coordinations with right-wing nationalists like Steven Bannon and, most importantly for this post, her support for Narendra Modi. Gabbard supports establishing close ties between the US and India, and has praised Modi as an inspiration to elected officials. She criticized the US government for denying Modi’s visa to the US over his apparent oversight or involvement in the 2002 Gujarat riots, which she has tried to downplay saying “there was a lot of misinformation that surrounded the event in 2002”. She congratulated Modi’s election in 2014, and she along with the Overseas Friends of the BJP organized his first trip to the US.

Tulsi Gabbard seen presenting Narendra Modi with a copy of the Bhagavad Gita as a gift

But her support for Modi is not her only connection to Hindutva. Although she is styled as one of the few candidates who doesn’t take corporate money, Gabbard has actually received thousands of dollars from a group called the Hindu American Foundation, which as was already established earlier is pro-Modi and has numerous ties to Hindutva-related groups. She also planned to attend last year’s World Hindu Congress with the likes of Mohan Bhagwat, current chief of RSS, but was forced to withdraw on the grounds that it would be a “partisan political event” after significant protest and threats of boycott by progressive South Asian activists. She also has close ties to Sangh Parivar, apparently through sympathetic donors. As such, Tulsi Gabbard can be seen as something of a proxy for Hindutva interests, most likely tied to her geopolitical interests concerning US alliance with India, as well as mutual hatred of Islam. Also, as something of a side-note, it’s worth mentioning that many Hindu nationalists share support for Israel in common with Tulsi Gabbard, and Narendra Modi himself considers Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be a close friend. Thus, in a broad sense, we may consider that the unlikely event that the 2020 election were to come down to Trump versus Gabbard would amount to nothing more and nothing less than a contest between the interests of Christian and Hindu nationalisms.

Hindutva’s foreign acolytes and allies are not limited to the US, either. The French journalist Francois Gautier has also openly expressed his admiration for Narendra Modi, claiming that he was a great ecologist who “wanted to make Gujarat the greenest, most investor-friendly state of India”, and is generally a strong supporter of Hindutva movements. He has also claimed that India has been weakened by Buddhism as well as foreign religions, and has attacked the pacifism and liberalism of both Gandhi and Nehru. Gautier even likes to spread the dubious claim that the Kaaba stone in Mecca is actually a Shivalingam. Canadian conservative pundit Tarek Fatah participated in a number of summits hosted by BJP-linked organizations, is beloved by the Indian right-wing for his strident attitude towards Islam and Indian Muslims, and sometimes echoes talking points similar to Hindutva ideology through his Indian ancestry. He even goes so far as to claim himself to be of Indian identity, while attacking his opponents as being affiliated with Pakistan despite being born in Pakistan himself. The Belgian indologist Koenraad Elst is also a noteworthy supporter of Hindutva, and has received praise from the BJP for his book Ram Janmabhoomi vs Babri Masjid, where he apparently attempts to make a case for Ram Janmabhoomi being the actual birthplace of the mythical Rama, thus strengthening ideas of an authochthonous Hindu tradition and of Hindu revivalism.

Furthermore it’s possible that some Hindutva ideas may even have spread to Norway, inspiring the terrorist Anders Breivik. In Breivik’s manifesto, 2080: A European Declaration of Independence, India is referenced in 102 pages – that’s out of a total of 1,518 pages, but you could argue it’s still more than you might have expected. He accused the Indian government, at the time ruled by a liberal coalition referred to as the United Progressive Alliance, of relying on appeasing Muslims, Christian missionaries and communists, praised Hindu nationalist movements who rioted and attacked Muslims (while reflexively deeming such behaviour counter-productive), said that the goals of the Hindutva movements are “more or less identical” with his own, and cited India was one of a number of countries where he hoped his successors would carry on his mission – the others being Russia, the Philippines, China and Thailand. He also listed a number of websites for numerous Hindu nationalist groups. The groups listed are Bharatiya Janata Party (the current ruling party), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the National Volunteers’ Organisation, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Breivik also cites the works of authors like Shrinandan Vyas, who claims that Muslims killed millions of Hindus in religious genocide, and Kishori Saran Lal, who is often accused of being a spokesperson for RSS (to which he responds, rather conspicuously, by accusing his critics of having a left-wing bias), in order to advance his narrative of Muslims being a genocidal threat to India and the West. Breivik even ordered a badge of his own design (a crusader’s sword piercing a skull marked with the symbols of Islam, communism and Nazism) from India.

The badge that Anders Breivik ordered from India

So what does all of this mean? Well, broadly speaking, it means that Hindutva is nowhere near the insular force that, to the average Westerner, it may seem. Ironically for a nationalist movement, one centered around India no less, Hindutva is not simply an idea confined to India. In fact, it can arguably be said to be a global movement at this point in time, albeit one centered around the interests specific to the Indian nationalist movement, one that has its eyes set on Hindu diaspora across the world and will come out against anyone who dares criticize the Modi government. The foot soldiers of Hindutva are present in the United States in the thousands, and there’s the very real prospect that one of their proxies could become President of the United States. Given Tulsi’s harsh stance towards Pakistan, this could have major implications for India-Pakistan relations, and may even affect the possibility of confrontation going forward. But in a broader sense, it represents a current of radical conservative nationalism with a global presence, or even fascism – the latter being rather hard to deny considering both the RSS’ Hitlerian inspirations and in turn their influence on Anders Breivik.

Hinduism is being used as a vehicle by religious fundamentalists, the Indian bourgeoisie, various petty-bourgeois forces, and reactionaries (and their network of think tanks) for their political purposes, possibly as just another effort to stop any kind of socialist or even social-democratic movement from gaining power in a time characterized by widespread economic instability in the world, but also India’s possible transformation into a new global superpower. It would be wise to keep tracks of the Hindutva movement as India undergoes this transformation, not least due to its infiltration of American society.

The phenomenon and ideology of devil worship in India

It appears that that India is seeing more cases of alleged devil worship and black magick within the last few years, leading to reports of “Satanic cults” springing up within the country. Because of this it is of some value to take a look at what exactly these cults believe. Do they actually represent a form of Satanism as is being reported, or is it simply a form of edgy spiritism that utilizes Satan for its own ends? Are we dealing with a serious philosophical or spiritual tradition here, or just something that a few deranged individuals do for fun?

To start with, let’s take a look at the extent of the phenomenon in question. It’s not clear, but there has been increasing coverage of stories of devil worship since at least 2013, centering around the regions of Kerala and Nagaland. At one point the Vatican news outlet Agenzia Fides claimed that Nagaland was host to around 3,000 teenage devil worshipers in the summer of 2013. In 2014, in the Christian majority region of Meghalaya, the local government has started carrying out night patrols in an attempt to police so-called Satanic activities, with particular attention being paid to graveyards based on the belief that devil worshipers gather in graveyards in order to conduct their rituals at night. Particular concern is often paid to Kerala, where apparently a number of bizarre ritualistic crimes have taken place over the years, sparking concern of a rise of so-called Satanism in the region. Notable activities reported within Kerala include theft and/or desecration of communion bread for the purposes of performing a Black Mass, desecrations of churches, and even murders. What is interesting to note about Kerala is that it is considered the most literate and progressive state in India, which suggests that the rise of black magick and devil worship isn’t confined to the poor and religiously and socially backwards parts of the country.

But just what does this phenomenon represent as a broad system? Media reports on the subject will often talk of it in the context of “Satan worship” or “Satanic cults”, but having scoured said reports, I am unsure what this is based on. VICE actually did an article on the subject a few days ago in which Zeyad Masroor Khan investigates one group of people engaged in some sort of black magick in the city of Aligarh, located in the state of Uttar Pradesh. For Khan, the supposed “Satanism” described in India . In fact, here is what Khan makes of the overall philosophy of the group:

“The philosophy of the “blood brothers” is based on a combination of ideas derived from Satanic literature, religious texts, paganism, the popular art and fortuities—the sign that they say universe keeps throwing to them about the existence of forces that created it.”

In other words, it’s a hodge-podge of what appear to unrelated concepts, brought together by either the vague sense of a search for esoteric knowledge and power, affinity with darkness (not to mention dark music such as black metal), and possibly a proclivity towards superstition. It also seems to be more decadent than the Satanism you find here in the West, with members of the black magick group frequently taking illicit drugs whilst studying their philosophy.

Some members of the group have a different interpretation than others. Here is what is described of the conception of Satanism held by one of the members of the Aligarh black magick group, who goes by BlackLeg.

“For him, Satanism is not “a religion”. “In its essence, it’s about worshipping yourself,” he said. He said there’s no conflict between his beliefs and those of his religious girlfriend.

BlackLeg’s philosophical view of Satanism contrasts with some of the things V said his group participated in. “We did everything,” V told me, “from desecrating holy books to asking people to stand on the Quran, to test their devotion. Some of us did that, while the weaker ones refused.””

Apparently some members of the group are more inclined to the LaVeyan, philosophical angle of Satanism, while others (possibly the majority) are into actual black magick coinciding with a vague of theistic worship of the infernal pantheon – I say vague because I know most theistic Satanists I know actually have a guiding spiritual philosophy or ideology underpinning their belief system, and because of the lack of information surrounding their actual beliefs.

This, of course, is just one group, in what might be the only article I’ve seen that actually attempts to go into detail as to what the Indian devil worshipers believe. The rest of the articles I’ve come across make no real attempt to articulate the kind of “Satanic” belief system they think they’re dealing with.

For instance, in the case of a 2013 UACN article titled “Satan worshippers suspected in theft in Kerala church“, the main source of suspicion of Satanism on the part of by local church authorities is the disappearance of communion bread, which is suspected to be proof of Satanists using it to perform a Black Mass. To be fair, it does sound like something the Church of Ahriman would do (though they ultimately returned the communion wafer they stole in order to avoid a lawsuit by the Oklahoma City Archdiocese), but on its own this is not much evidence of Satanism, and we have only a plausible guess to the motives of the incident. Another UACN article, dated to 2012, claims that Satanists attacked a church in Mizoram. What does this attack have to do with Satanism you might ask? Apparently because police found a stack of burned Bibles and, I shit you not, a large A sign signifying anarchy. Yep. It’s that lame. Any Satanist worth their salt will tell that this does not necessarily equate to an actual Satanic ritual. Ironically, the article points out the advice of experts who implicitly hint that the activities of these youths are not influenced by a coherent Satanic philosophy, but largely by Western pop culture, particularly horror moves. Unfortunately, this is also interpreted from the Christian lens as being the influence of celebrities who, allegedly pray to Satan in order to gain fame, wealth and power – which, let’s face it, is about as sensible as Paul Joseph Watson’s claims about Pizzagate and the Illuminati.

In a 2017 article from Firstpost, the main subject is a man murdering his family members so as to “detach” their souls from their bodies, supposedly to free them. The man was also said to be involved with astral projection, which police suspect to be tied to Satan worship. In no way is it actually established what connection there is to Satanism or even Satan worship at all. The only thing vaguely related is the discussion of the communion bread theft incident from earlier. Also discussed is the selling of consecrated hosts stolen from churches. The fact that it seems that it is Christians who are selling the hosts suggests that the connection to Satan worship is not quite so clear cut. The article brings up the concept of “Satan worship” several times but does not seem capable of attaching to the various crimes to any coherent phenomenon of Satanism. In fact, within the same article you can find similar black magick practices within Hindu cults which suggest that what Indian media refers to as “Satan worship” is actually just a kind of Hindu black magick that has been around for centuries, just that I guess some people decided to dress it up in some vague diabolism lifted from horror movies. Perhaps the only thing actually connecting these things to Satanism or Satan worship is either the general loose conception of black magick, long held to be part of the doctrine of Satan, or the blasphemy associated with some of the actions, such as the stealing and selling of consecrations, which surely are the sign of Satanic activity according to India’s Christian population.

Sometimes even the police in India have trouble believing the whole angle of “Satan worship”. In the case of a murder committed by Cadell Jeansen Raja, police doubted his claim that he was a Satan worshiper and had him referred to a psychiatrist, who noted his interest in paranormal beliefs and concepts and suspects him to be living in his own reality, but otherwise the interrogation was said to be ongoing. Police also suspect that his murder was actually motivated not by supernatural belief, but instead by revenge. They say that Raja’s stories about his beliefs regarding astral projection, Satan worship and the paranormal were fabrications, and that his real motivation was his desire to avenge a long period of neglect by his family and a personal suspicion that his father was cheating on his spouse with other women. Raja is currently admitted to a mental hospital in Oolampara.

In an ironic twist, there is something that, in a loose sense, you could interpret as “demon worship” that occurs in India that is also entirely part of the expansive Hindu religion! In the small village of Peringottukara, located within the Thrissur district of Kerala, locals worship a deity named Kuttichathan through special and costly pujas and sacrifices overseen by holy men in order to gain prosperity and dispel black magic. The name Kuttichathan means “little ghost”, sometimes interpreted as “little demon” or “little imp”, and he does sometimes get interpreted as a demon. However, Kuttichathan also seems to be the name of a deity named Vishnumaya, a deity of wealth, magic and illusions. Vishnumaya is held to be a son of the deity Shiva, born of carnal union between Shiva and a human woman named Kulivaka, and he acquired his name because he took the form of the deity Vishnu using his magic. The closest thing to “devil worship” in India is Hindu worship centered around a demigod born from one of the supreme deities, though it is suspected by some that the pujas devoted to him are part of a money-scheming by religious ideologues preying on the gullible.

So, there you have it. The phenomenon of “Satan worship” in India is not a coherent movement of Satanism, but the appropriation of folk black magick for either rebellious or criminal ends, and in at least one case it’s just a convenient pretext to hide someone’s real motives for committing horrible crimes. In one case it’s a strange intersection of gothic and extreme metal subculture, occult philosophy, Indian black magick, drugs and general teenage rebellion. Many cases are mysterious acts of blasphemy that have less to do with authentic Satanism and more to do with youthful rebellion. There is no guiding ideology behind this phenomenon. I suspect the charge of “Satan worship” is an invention of both Indian media and Christians.

A man dressed up as Kuttichathan as part of a theyyam (a kind of ritual performance)

Who are Aum Shinrikyo and why would anyone want to join them?

The Japanese doomsday cult known as Aum Shinrikyo has been back in the news this month, with the execution of its leader Chizuo Matsumoto (a.k.a. Shoko Asahara) on July 6th and his successors now fighting for his ashes to be scattered into the Pacific Ocean. I have covered weird religious phenomenon before, let alone from Japan, but I’m surprised to have never covered this particular cult on my website despite their infamy. Here, I hope to rectify this by providing a basic outline of their beliefs, the atrocities the cult committed, and some reasons why some people still fall into this cult well into the 2010s.

Aum Shinrikyo began in 1984 as essentially a yoga club, at the time going by the name of Aum Shinsen no Kai. Three years later, Matsumoto changed the group’s name to Aum Shinrikyo, and two years after that the group was officially recognized as a religious organization/corporation under Japanese law. By this time, Chizuo Matsumoto changed his name from his birth name to Shoko Asahara. It is said that, between 1984 and 1987, Matsumoto appeared in various spiritualist and occult magazines claiming to be capable of levitation, established a publishing firm named Chōnōryoku no Kaihatsuhō to distribute his teachings to a wider audience, and claimed to have encounters with supernatural beings, including the Hindu deity Shiva, informing him of his divine mission.

The doctrine of Aum Shinrikyo can best be summarized as an apocalyptic form of Buddhism mixed with doctrines from Christianity, Hinduism and New Age belief systems, centered of course around the personality cult of Chizuo Matsumoto. One of the main aspects of the doctrine is its interpretation of the Vajrayana Buddhist doctrine of powa, or phowa. In Vajrayana Buddhism, Powa refers to a specific ritual performed on behalf of the deceased by a Lama or a guru in order to transfer the consciousness of the deceased into a spiritual location known as a “pure land”, the abode of a Buddha or bodhisattva. This ritual is performed in order to aid the deceased in his or her journey towards spiritual liberation. In Aum Shinrikyo, however, Powa refers to the act of killing someone on behalf of Chizou Matsumoto or Aum Shinrikyo in order to stop them from accumulating negative karma through their opposition to Aum Shinrikyo or by acting in a way that undermines their interests. For example, when in 1989 a member named Taguchi Shuji decided to leave the movement after the accidental death of another member named Majima Terayuki and threatened to go public about Terayuki’s death, Chizuo Matsumoto ordered that Shuji be killed in order to protect Aum Shinrikyo’s reputation. It was believed that had Shuji informed public about the death of Terayuki within Aum Shinrikyo, Shuji would acrue eons worth of bad karma and suffer countless negative reincarnations as a result. By killing him, in accordance with the perversely interpreted doctrine of Powa, his soul could be saved from such a fate while protecting the organization. This interpretation of Powa would also go on to serve as a justification for the atrocities that were to be enacted from then on.

Matsumoto and adherents of Aum Shinrikyo also believed that the end of the world was coming imminently, with “materialism” running rampant and people having forgotten how to practice Buddhism. In East Asian forms of Buddhism, the history of Buddhism is divided into three stages: The Former Day of the Law, The Middle Day of the Law, and The Latter Day of the Law. For convenience we will use their Japanese names – Shobo, Zoho, and Mappo respectively. Shobo refers to the age of the true dharma, where said dharma was practiced by the disciples of the Buddha and flourished as such, Zoho refers to the age of copied dharma, dharma that resembles the true dharma but does not accurately reflected, and Mappo refers to the age of degenerated dharma, wherein the essence of dharma is forgotten and thus cannot be upheld properly. The concept also dovetails nicely with the Hindu concept of the Four Yugas, in which after the Satya Yuga (basically the golden age) Man strays further from God until finally Man reaches the Kali Yuga, the time in which Man is farthest from God. Typically it is held that the Mappo age is to be abolished and the Shobo age restored by Maitreya, the Buddha who is yet to be. For Aum Shinrikyo though, the duty of restoring the Shobo age falls upon them. Chizuo Matsumoto technically gave himself the role of Maitreya through his claiming to be Jesus Christ in the flesh. This of course fits into the theme of holy war, a war between the saved and the unsaved, between those who believed in Aum Shinrikyo and those outside of the cult who were held to be trapped in materialistic urges and bad karma, an idea that very much echoes the sentiments found within the Book of Revelation concerning holy war between the believers and the non-believers. Indeed Matsumoto would eventually begin referring to the concept of Armageddon by name in the run up to the sarin gas attack committed in 1995, even believing that America wanted to hasten the arrival of this event by triggering World War 3 with Japan (in true religious conspiracy theorist character).

Another notable feature is that, besides Matsumoto himself being the messiah, there is a central deity within this sect, namely Shiva, the Hindu deity of destruction, recreation and transformation. Indeed, some say Matsumoto’s messianic title refers not to him being Jesus Christ, but an incarnation of Shiva. While Hindu sects venerate Shiva as a positive figure, representing not simply destruction, let alone necessary destruction, but also the rebirth of the universe and the transformation into new forms, thereby natural and positive change, as well as a creative force in the cosmos, not to mention also venerating him as the Godhead who does battle with demons and sometimes performs self-sacrificial acts to protect the universe from premature destruction, the Aum Shinrikyo veneration of Shiva most likely stems from an obsession with the deity’s destructive aspects, dovetailing with their theme of apocalyptic salvation, destroying the world in order to “save” it. It is said that Aum Shinrikyo had a secret chapel containing a large statue of Shiva, inaccessible to all but the chosen few within the cult.

One very interesting aspect of the cult is its incorporation of bizarre paranormal technology. Members of the cult would wear headsets that connected electrodes to their heads. The idea behind this device was supposedly to allow devotees to telepathically communicate with their guru Chizuo Matsumoto by having them receive his brainwaves or synchronize their own electrical impulses with them. Another piece of technology they made was an electronic device known as an “astral teleporter”, which would purportedly pick up vibrations from Matsumoto’s meditations while he recites his mantra and transmit them to his disciples. That’s not even getting into their development of chemical weapons, and their liaisons with international networks for the purposes of acquiring them and other weapons of mass destruction.

Over the years, the cult became infamous for the various crimes and atrocities they have committed, most notably in 1995 where the cult unleashed sarin gas in a Tokyo subway, killing thirteen people and injuring many more. Following this attack, police uncovered evidence of the cult’s laboratories dedicated to producing drugs and chemical weapons. Prior to the attack, the cult perpetrated a number murders on people who opposed the cult as well as cult members who they perceived as a threat. Known victims included lawyer Tsutumi Sakamoto, along with his wife and son, fellow cultist Taguchi Shuji, another fellow cultist Tadahito Hamaguchi, and notary Kiyoshi Kariya, who died under their confinement. In the years after the 1995 sarin gas attack, the Aum Shinrikyo cult would split off into two spin-off cults – Aleph, not to be confused with yours truly, and Hikari no Wa, the latter of whom claims to want to shed the influence of the old Aum Shinrikyo and its leader. As of July 6th, Chizuo Matsumoto and six other cultists have been executed by the Japanese government for the atrocity committed in 1995, with another six still awaiting execution.

Despite the cult’s infamy, particularly following the sarin attack in 1995, the cult continued to attract membership well into the present decade. Apparently by 2016 the cult gained thousands of new members from, of all places, Russia, as evidenced by the arrests of new cult members from Russia, as well as Belarus, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. It seems that Aum Shinrikyo had set up operations in Russia shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, by which time The Japan Times reckons the cult acquired blueprints for their sarin gas attack from Russia. Russian experts suspect that the appeal of the cult is similar to that of New Age movements and even that of ISIS for young Muslims prone to radicalization – that is, those who join Aum Shinrikyo do so because they see in Chizuo Matsumoto a source of unified truth and in his cult a source of brotherhood, in much the same way some people ultimately see absolute truth and fellowship in other violent religious extremist movements (like ISIS or one of those American Christian militias). In 2016, the Russian government banned the Aum Shinrikyo cult from being practiced because it was, unsurprisingly, seen as a terrorist organization. I can only assume that this decision was made by the Russian state upon its discovery of Russian followers of the cult, lending itself to fears of a religious terror cell operating in Russia.

In Japan, Aum Shinrikyo’s spin-off cult Aleph has attracted numerous young followers despite the atrocities committed by Aum Shinrikyo. For example, in the case of an anonymous man one Kuchikomi writes for Japan Today:

Mr S was in junior high school when the sarin affair exploded on the national consciousness. He recalls being more interested than appalled, and anyway, all that was a long time ago. If anything, the connection to so dramatic an episode made his present experience all the more titillating. Moreover, he says, by then he’d spent some 40,000 yen on the training, and he was unwilling to admit that it was money down the drain.

And so he graduated into hard-core Aleph training, heavy on recorded sermons by Aum guru Shoko Asahara, currently on death row.

His awakening, when at last it came, was a strange one. It was in response to an Aleph teaching to the effect that a man who has sexual relations cannot attain enlightenment. Strange, thought Mr S – Asahara has children. “Yes,” he was told, “but the Master is no ordinary man.”

To the surprise of just about anyone, including myself who missed this development entirely when it came up, Aum Shinrikyo has been been growing in the twenty years since the sarin gas attack of 1995, with new generations in Japan developing a perverse fascination with the cult for various reasons including the good looks of some of the cult members, the absurdity of their cultish activities, the sense among sympathizers that their murderous acts were motivated not out of malice but out of obedience to their guru, and broad empathy with the cult and its leader for standing against a society that frustrates them.

That last part needs to be looked at rather carefully, especially given how apparently Aum Shinrikyo literature is known for emphasizing contempt for contemporary society. The fact that such a reprehensible cult known to the public for committing atrocities, ones that have had a significant negative impact on the national consciousness of Japan, can still attract a number of converts to me says something about the widespread alienation within Japanese society. I mean think about it: this is the country that actually has its own word for working yourself to death, itself testament to a horrendous work culture where you just tough it out until you die. A country known for its notoriously high suicide rates. A country where one bad day might turn you into a complete and total shut-in. A country whose social attitudes are defined by deference to authority or the social group above almost anything else including the individual. And to top it all off, like many East Asian cultures, the elder generations are never to be put at fault on pain of violating long-embedded Confucian virtue towards respecting your elders, and criticizing authority in general is considered anathema in Japanese society, so everything bad about Japan can be shafted to the younger generation (admittedly not too dissimilar to attitude baby boomers have towards millennials here in the West), who are socially and economically powerless.

The more you learn about Japanese society, the more you understand how profoundly dysfunctional it is. This is especially relevant when dealing with young converts of the cult. If you have a society that a generation of people has come to see is against, they might well go off towards anything that can stand against it. For some of these people, it seems, the Aum Shinrikyo cult is one avenue by which to actively resist the social order because it appeals to their alienation and the sense of a lack of purpose, or they just fall in love with criminals because they see them as attractive bad boys. Like with a lot of cults, people facing alienation and other social ills will often gravitate towards whatever suits them best, including totalitarian cults. Just ask anyone who’s ever been in groups like the Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, Yahweh Nation, ACMTC or Scientology.

On the whole, damn, I can’t believe I didn’t cover this subject much sooner. Learning about the cult has definitely yielded some surprises on my part. A perverted Buddhist doctrine fighting to bring about the end of days, believing this will save the souls of the mass dead from accumulating bad karma, in the name of a self-proclaimed reincarnation of Jesus Christ, and to that end amassing and developing weapons of mass destruction, mind controlling drugs and paranormal technologies, and killing those who oppose them or don’t believe in them, and now potentially hiding out in Europe after the arrest of their leader and other cultists. In a sane world, this would be the stuff of movies, video games and thriller novels, and I guess manga as well (this is Japan after all). To be honest, I’ll be disappointed if Chizuo Matsumoto’s execution is the last we hear from them, considering the cells that are likely hiding outside of Japan.

Chizuo Matsumoto (Shoko Asahara) in an animated promo video for Aum Shinrikyo

A shady cult may be influencing the South Korean government

A couple of weeks ago I heard an interesting story from South Korea that I think is worth sharing due to is interesting quasi-religious dimensions. At any rate I like a good story of that nature coming out of Asia.

Anyways, apparently the current president of South Korea, Park Geun-hye, is at the centre of a peculiar scandal surrounding her involvement with a close confidant named Choi Soon-sil. Park is being accused of being directly influenced by the younger Choi, particularly allowing her to edit some of her speeches and granting her access to confidential government information. Why is this a big deal? Because Choi Soon-sil’s father is Choi Tae-min, who happened to be the leader of a shady shamanistic and pseudo-Christian cult.

The cult in question is known as Yeongseygo, also known as the Eternal Life Church. Yeongseygo was started in the 1970’s by the elder Choi, and is said to combine elements of Christianity, Buddhism and shamanistic beliefs –  specifically a Korean system of shamanistic beliefs known as Cheondoism, which emerged in the 1900’s and is characterized by a belief in God as being present in everyone and everything at all times. The premise of the cult itself is that Choi Tae-min is the “Future Buddha” (a.k.a. Maitreya) and a messenger of God and that he had the ability to communicate the dead and with God, produce magical protective objects and act as a spiritual liaison for believers. Even stranger, the elder Choi claimed that, unlike ordinary Koreans, his blood was white instead of red. Both Choi Tae-min and Choi Soon-sil claimed that they had prophetic powers as well. For instance, the younger Choi reportedly told Park that North Korea would fall within two years. Opposition politicians think that Park may have been captivated by the younger Choi and the cult by her claims of prophetic powers.

Choi Tae-min served as the spiritual mentor of Park Geun-hye until he died in 1994, and there is suspicion that he used this role to secure bribes and gain political influence in the South Korean government. By convincing her that they had the ability to communicate with the spirit of her deceased mother, Yuk Young-soo, who was assassinated in 1974, the Chois were able to close to Park and exert their influence over her. This has lead to Choi Soon-sil being treated by the Korean press and public as a Rasputin-like figure – referring, of course to the fact that Grigori Rasputin was both an alleged mystic and faith healer and the trusted friend of one of the last Czars of Russia. There were even rumors that he had essentially complete control over Park Guen-hye during his time as her spiritual mentor, and those rumors seemed to be among the myriad of diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks. In addition to this, it is claimed that the Chois have been able to amass large amounts of money from not only the government, but also charitable organizations through embezzlement. It is believed that the influence of the elder Choi on Park Gyen-hye continues through the younger Choi, and so his cult continues to have great wealth and power via the South Korean government.

The entire affair has severely damaged the reputation of Park Geun-mye, with her polling numbers dropping. The South Korean public is now very resentful of Park, with some calling for her to resign or even for her to be impeached. There is deep concern among opposition politicians and citizen that the South Korean government is effectively run with theocratic influence, as well as in a somewhat dictatorial fashion. Given that South Korea has presidential elections next year, I can guess it does not look good for her party, though she herself is not running for election. Not only that, the North Korean media seems to be loving this development. North Korea hates Park Geun-mye, partly because of her hawkish stance on the North and plans by the South Korean government to reduce the capital, Pyongyang, to “ashes” should they attack the South, and the media even claims that she will meet the same fate as her father and mother.

A protester holding up a sign depicting Park Geun-hye as the puppet of Choi Soon-sil
A protester holding up a sign depicting Park Geun-hye as the puppet of Choi Soon-sil

What is the government of Bangladesh doing!?

Recently I had heard that another person in Bangladesh had been murdered on the basis of atheistic or humanistic beliefs by religiously-motivated fanatics. Nazim Uddin Samad was a law student at Jagganath University in Sadarghat before he was hacked and shot to death by members of Ansar al-Islam, who are actually a branch of al-Qaeda, all because he posted a criticism of Islamic religious fundamentalism on his Facebook. It was yet another senseless act of violence, one that was appallingly familiar to me (two years ago I heard about a guy called Thaba Baba who was killed in the country for much the same reason). Now, when you have such a senseless brutal murder on your hands, you might ask, what does the government do about this? Well guess what? Bangladesh’s Minister of Home Affairs, Asaduzzaman Khan, decided to assert that bloggers should “control their writing” and decided that the government needed to “scrutinize” his writings to see if he wrote anything objectionable about religion.

I actually have a few words for Asaduzzaman Khan: what the fuck are you talking about!? That Nazim wrote anything “objectionable” towards religion is not the point! You should know damn well that Nazim was murdered by people who wanted to impose their fanatical religious beliefs on others through violence, and through that violence induce fear and terror with the obvious purpose of forcing others to observe their beliefs and destroying the right to freedom of speech. The problem isn’t that he offended certain religious beliefs, it’s that an innocent man was killed for expressing his opinions and the government is not only doing fuck all to stop it, but has actively decided that people expressing their opinions is the problem rather than people being killed by goddamned terrorists! In my opinion, that you’re warning bloggers to be wary of “hurting the feelings of religious people” is a sure sign that you don’t want to protect freedom of speech or freedom of belief, that you have no intention of stopping religious extremists from doing the wrong thing. You’re condemning innocent people to die and you don’t even know it, because you don’t treat these terrorists who kill innocent people as criminals, which is the way they should be treated in the fucking first place!

That is disgusting! It’s abominable, and no one should stand for it!

Nazim is far from the only person to be murdered for criticizing Islamic extremism. Two years ago I mentioned in one of my posts a guy called Thaba Baba (aka Ahmed Rajib Haider), who was killed in 2013 by Islamists. But Thaba Baba is not the only one either. Last year, five other secular atheist bloggers were also murdered: Avjit Roy, Faisal Arefin Dipan, Anant Bijoy Das, Washiqur Rahman Babu, and Niloy Chakrabarti were all hacked to death on separate occasions. Some of them, like Arif Noor and Asif Mohiuddin, manage to survive their injuries. Often times, when the bloggers aren’t being attacked and killed by Islamists, they’re receiving death threats from these people. Ananya Azad, for instance, was told that he would be next after nine other bloggers out of a hit list of 84 were murdered. Another blogger, Maruf Rusal, had received several threatening calls from Islamists, some of whom offered to “buy [him] a coffin”. And sometimes, the government of Bangladesh arrested atheist bloggers, including Asif Mohiuddin, for violating Bangladesh’s apparent “blasphemy laws”. Although Mohiuddin was eventually released, let the word be known: Bangladesh’s supposedly secular government arrested bloggers for writing against Islamic extremism, and all instead of punishing whose who want to kill people simply for not believing in their interpretation of Islam. In Bangladesh, the threat of being killed for speaking out as an atheist, secularist, or humanist very is real, and people in Bangladesh are justifiably terrified of such a thing happening to them, while the government does fuck all to stop it.

In fact, before he died, Nazim wrote a criticism of the current ruling government, writing this (originally in Bengali):

The situation of the country, deterioration of law and order in the country, speak that maybe you cannot stay long in power.

Quite obviously Nazim was aware of people being killed for doing nothing more than , and he seems to have observed that the government in Bangladesh, despite its supposed commitment to delivering justice, has done nothing about it. And now, after his death, the government has decided to warn the victims not to speak their minds, instead of warning the terrorist religious fundamentalists that they will face justice for their crimes. And it’s true what Nazim said isn’t it? If religious fundamentalists can kill innocent people and a supposedly secular government hasn’t done much to stop it or even discourage it, then that is a deterioration of law and order, a sign of the takeover of religious extremism, and a sign that the government of Bangladesh is giving up its legitimacy as a government because it won’t defend its own people  – a sign that a country is going straight to shit!

What the fuck is happening in India?

You won’t believe what I’ve heard of recently out of India. In a village in the Baghpat district of India, a girl named Meenakshi and her younger sister have been “sentenced” to rape by an all-male council who seems to be operating outside of India’s legal system. They’ve ordered that the girls be raped, their faces blackened, and that they be paraded naked, apparently as “punishment for their brother eloping with a married woman from a higher caste, and the two girls in question are fleeing the village and pleading for protection from India’s Supreme Court.

There’s absolutely everything wrong with what’s going on here. The most obvious of these things is that sexual violence is apparently something people use to punish people, which no civilized or well-ordered social system would ever allow. The fact that it’s an all-male council ordering this also clearly reeks of misogyny. Then there’s the fact the council claims it is enforcing an “eye-for-an-eye form of justice”, which seems wrong to me for at least two reasons: (1) the principle of lex talionis (eye for an eye justice) doesn’t apply if you’re “punishing” someone who didn’t commit a crime instead of someone who did commit the crime, and most crucially (2) why the fuck is adultery considered a criminal offence, let alone one that can be punished with the sexual violence the council describes? But what’s really striking is that these village councils are operating completely outside the legal authority of the Indian government, which would make their rulings entirely extrajudicial in nature. According to Amnesty International, who are running a petition in order to ensure that the girls are protected, there are a number of village councils (referred to as Khat Panchyats) across India that are unelected and operate outside of India’s legal system, and are often run by older men from dominant castes who prescribe rules for social behavior and interaction. India’s Supreme Court condemns these councils as “kangaroo courts” and their rulings are deemed illegal, but apparently that doesn’t mean much because these councils continue to operate in rural areas of India and continue to carry out their decisions outside the legal authority of India’s government, and to me this means that India’s government is more powerless to do anything about these councils than it should be.

An Indian cartoon illustrating pretty much what is going in parts of India.

This is something that can’t be allowed to continue, and the worst thing about it is this not the only time something like this has happened in India. In January of last year, a village tribunal in West Bengal decreed that a 20-year old woman be sexually assaulted by 12 people as “punishment” for falling in love with a man from outside of the community and then failing pay a fine of 50,000 rupees imposed by the village council. Four years earlier, in the same area, village elders ordered a young woman to strip naked and walk before large crowds for having relations with a man from a different caste. In July that same year, a village from the state of Jharkhand ordered the rape of a 14-year old girl after her brother was accused of assaulting a married woman. As a matter of fact, sexual violence in general is a serious problem in India, one that gained major exposure after an incident in 2012 where a young girl was gang-raped and left to die in Dehli, and unfortunately one that India’s government has been accused of having a poor track record of dealing with. Despite promising to crack down on rape and sexual violence and despite strengthening rape laws, the Indian government hasn’t done a lot to prevent women from having to fear for their lives, especially in rural villages where the government doesn’t seem to be doing a lot about the village councils who operate outside the legal authority of the government. In the case of the latter, the problem is that these councils operate on old forms of tradition that view women not as individuals, but as representations of the “honor” of a man or a community, a horrible view that seems to have gone unchanged in rural parts of India.