Penpa Tsering, the Sikyong (political leader) of the Central Tibetan Administration in exile, has defended the Dalai Lama against allegations of impropriety in a video in which he appears to ask a young boy to “suck his tongue“.
In an interview conducted on Thursday (13 Apr), Tsering claimed that the clip had been “tailored” and misinterpreted, and that the spiritual leader had been unfairly labelled with hurtful names.
“Maybe for the people who are giving these names, it’s an individual perception, but his Holiness for us, is The Reincarnation of “Avalokitesvara”, the lord of compassion, and his compassion and his love, extends beyond all this.”
“That (accusation) really hurts us, please understand this. We are hurt by the insinuations,” he said.
Penpa Tsering stated that in his view, the 87-year-old Dalai Lama displayed an “innocent grandfatherly affectionate demeanor” towards the young boy, and that when he asked the boy to “suck his tongue,” it was meant to be “amusement”.
He emphasized that the incident took place in the presence of the boy’s mother and that neither she nor the boy lodged any complaints.
Instead, he asserted that Dalai Lama was the victim of unfair labeling and hurtful insinuations.
Furthermore, he claimed that their preliminary investigation suggested that “pro-Chinese sources” were responsible for making the video go viral, and that the political implications of this incident should not be disregarded.
Dalai Lama apologised for incident
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
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 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