“Be a Hitler”

I have written many times about how there is a militant and bigoted group of Buddhists that includes Buddhist monks who feel that Sri Lanka should be a purely Sinhala Buddhist country and that every other ethnic-religious group does not belong. They have incited mobs to attack non-Sinhala Buddhists, most recently against the Muslim minority. Now a leading monk has gone to the next level, explicitly urging a presidential candidate to adopt Hitler as a model.

A senior Buddhist monk counselling former defence secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to emulate Hitler and establish a military dictatorship may have seriously hurt his bid for the presidency, according to close associates.

A chief priest of the Asgiriya chapter, Vendaruwe Upali, blessed Rajapaksa on his 69th birthday Wednesday by urging him to follow the German dictator Hitler and take over the country even if it means establishing military rule.

The monk, delivering a sermon at the private home of Rajapaksa, prayed that the youngest among the Rajapaksa siblings should be the next leader of Sri Lanka as the country needed a “Sinhala Buddhist leader.”

“As the clergy, we feel the country needs a religious leader… Some people have described you as a Hitler,” the venerable monk said referring to Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. “Be a Hitler. Go with the military and take the leadership of this country.”

“Be a Hitler”.

Now there’s a campaign slogan that one would never have expected to hear.

Mel Brooks’ film The Producers had the production of a parody stage play Springtime for Hitler as its main plot. The humor in the film was based on the absurdity of thinking that Hitler could have a resurgence. But Sri Lanka is just one of the countries around the world where developments have suggested that it is not so outlandish after all.


  1. Kimpatsu101 says

    What is Hitler’s recognition factor in Sri Lanka, Mano? A few years ago, a survey of South Korean high school students lead to them saying things like “he was a strong leader” and “he united the people”. When asked about the Holocaust, they replied, “What holocaust?”, so when asked, “Who was the big bad in WWII?”, they responded “Japan”. The same is true of Taiwan, etc. They know nothing of the war in Europe; to them WWII was about Japanese colonial ambitions and the fight to counter Japanese imperialist expansion. There’s even a restaurant in India called “Hitler’s Cross” because (as I suspect you already know), the manji (卍) is actually a Buddhist peace symbol.

  2. rgmani says


    The swastika is an ancient indo-Aryan symbol whose origins go back thousands of years. On the Indian subcontinent, its history goes back at least 5000 years and in some other parts of the world, archaeological evidence goes back even further. It has been an auspicious Hindu symbol for a very long time. The name swastika comes from two Sanskrit words su and asti which together mean “well-being”.

    Swastikas are very common in India. You’ll find them in all sorts of places and of course, they are ubiquitous in places of worship. There are also several companies with Swastik/Swastika in their names -- including a popular brand of soaps.Just look for swastika and India on google images and you will see tons of results.So -- I don’t think there is anything wrong with Hindus and Buddhists using the symbol -- particularly since their use of it long predates Hitler’s appropriation of it.

    However, using Hitler’s name is not forgivable. Most people who have heard of Hitler know at the very least that he is considered a very bad guy in many parts of the world. The problem is that in India, many of the right-wing Hindus see Hitler as some kind of role model in how to deal with irritating minorities such as Muslims. Interestingly, a lot of these people admire Israel for the same reasons :-). The cognitive dissonance involved in keeping both those ideas in my head would be too much for me to take. It would make a fine Monty Python sketch if it weren’t so tragic.

    -- RM

  3. Gops says

    Looks like “those who forgets the history is bound to repeat it” applies to this case, as well as the USA and India where right wing is very close to outright fascism.

  4. rjw1 says

    How very, very, depressing. Buddhism, as originally conceived, seemed to be a philosophical or psychological discipline rather than a religion. Of course some Buddhist monks are implicated in the murderous campaign against the Rohingya.


    Most Europeans know little about the catastrophic war in the Asia-Pacific, to them WW2 was entirely about the struggle against the Nazis. The Japanese also seem to have forgotten about their role in WW2 as well. Btw,the Nazi swastiks was bent to the right, they chose it because they believed it was an exclusively ‘Aryan’ symbol.


    I’d agree, the swastika was a Buddhist-Hindu symbol long before the Nazis misappropriated it.

    I remember “The Producers”, it was rather daring for its time and of course very funny.

    The rather grotesque aspect of modern Neo-Nazis is that some come from ethnic or religious groups despised by the Nazis, Slavs for example. They really have no idea.

  5. Kimpatsu101 says

    @rjw1: The ura-manji normally accompanies the omote manji on temple gates in Japan and China.

  6. Reginald Selkirk says

    rjw1 #5: Buddhism, as originally conceived, seemed to be a philosophical or psychological discipline rather than a religion.

    Not so. The “enlightenment” sought by the Buddha (Siddhārtha Gautama) was release from the cycle of reincarnation. I think that is an undeniably religious concept.
    Buddhism is sometimes called an atheist religion. The Buddha never claimed to be a deity nor the representative of a deity, and his path to enlightenment did not involve the intervention of any deities. On the other hand, the religion does not explicitly deny the existence of deities.

  7. Lassi Hippeläinen says

    Somebody should tell “the venerable monk” that Hitler supported Muslims. Because they killed Jews, but still. I’m not sure about his opinion on buddhists, but he tought all Asians were lower race. The darker, the worse.

    Buddhism lacks many features of typical religions, e.g. supernatural beings, creation myth, and eschatology. That is why many commentators say it isn’t a religion. But it can still be spiritual.

  8. Mano Singham says

    Holms Kimpatsu101 @#1,

    I have been away from Sri Lanka too long to answer your question. It would not surprise me if the situation is similar to South Korea where everyone has heard the name but the atrocities he committed are being glossed over

  9. Holms says

    Um. I think you meant Kimpatsu101? Easy typo, the keys are right next to each other!

  10. Ichthyic says

    religion poisons everything.

    does not matter which religion, as each keeps trying to outdo the other to prove Hitch was right.

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