INDIA — Tenzin Gyatso, better known as the 14th Dalai Lama, has issued an apology after being accused of inappropriate behaviour.
In a viral video, the spiritual leader was seen kissing a young boy on the lips and asking him to “suck his tongue.”
The incident took place in late February at the Dalai Lama’s temple in Dharamshala, India, where he met with over 100 young students who had just graduated from the Indian M3M Foundation.
The foundation had uploaded photos from the event on social media in March. In the video, the boy is seen asking if he can hug the Dalai Lama.
The leader motions to his cheek, saying “first here,” and the boy kisses his cheek and gives him a hug.
Afterwards, the Dalai Lama gestures towards his lips and said, “I think here also,” before kissing the boy on the lips, while laughter can be heard in the background.
He then places his forehead against the boy’s and sticks out his tongue, saying “and suck my tongue.”
After embracing the boy once more, the Dalai Lama imparted some advice before letting him go. He encouraged the boy to look up to individuals who strive to cultivate peace and happiness in the world.
The viral video has drawn criticism from many people who consider the behaviour to be inappropriate and contradictory to the Dalai Lama’s image as a revered spiritual leader.
While the gesture of sticking out one’s tongue is indeed a traditional Tibetan greeting used as a sign of agreement or respect. However, it is not commonly used in group settings.
It is unclear why the Dalai Lama asked the boy to “suck his tongue” as this is not a typical aspect of the greeting.
🇮🇳 FLASH | Une vidéo du #DalaïLama fait polémique sur Internet. Il est filmé en train d’embrasser un garçon et d’essayer de lui toucher la langue lors d’une rencontre avec des élèves.
— Cerfia (@CerfiaFR) April 7, 2023
The Dalai Lama’s official Twitter page issued a statement on Monday (10 April), saying that the leader wanted to apologize to the child and his family “for the hurt his words may have caused.”
The statement also explained that the Dalai Lama often teases people he meets in an “innocent and playful way” and regrets the incident.
— Dalai Lama (@DalaiLama) April 10, 2023
The Dalai Lama is a highly respected spiritual leader and the head monk of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. Born on July 6, 1935, in northeastern Tibet, Tenzin Gyatso was recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama at the age of two.
In 1959, the Dalai Lama was forced to flee Tibet after the Chinese government crushed an uprising in Lhasa. He has since been living in exile in India and has been advocating for the autonomy of Tibet and the protection of Tibetan culture and religion.
In 2019, the Dalai Lama apologized for comments he made during a BBC interview in which he stated that if a female Dalai Lama were to be appointed, she should be physically attractive.