Everything in this man’s disposition radiates the peaceable philosophy so widely associated with gentle Buddhism.
But Rev. Iththbekande Saddhatissa is a radical, accused of spreading xenophobia, religious intolerance and Sinhalese domination over Sri Lanka’s minority Tamils.
He preaches politicized Buddhism.
He organizes rallies aimed at suppressing Tamil aspirations for autonomy in the north of a deeply divided island nation.
He embodies Sinhalese chauvinism.
He has the ear of a government that has embraced a version of fundamentalist Buddhism unrecognizable elsewhere on the planet — and the state’s official faith in a country where Buddhists comprise 70 per cent of the population.
He is secretary general of the small and extremist but disproportionately influential National Organization for Ravana Balaya, named after the mythological 10-headed king of ancient Lanka.