The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama has issued a public apology after video began circulating online showing the 87-year-old Buddhist leader kissing a young boy on the lips and asking him to “suck my tongue.” The reported incident took place in February in Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama lives, at an event hosted by the M3M Foundation, a charity connected with an Indian real estate group.
Once the video reached social media it spread rapidly, with some commenters describing it “scandalous,” “disgusting,” and “abusive.” (NPR) Sangyal Kunchok, a reporter for Radio Free Asia-Tibet, defended the Dalai Lama, showing a picture of him similarly puckering his lips in greeting famed South African religious leader Desmond Tutu.
In the recent video, the Dalai Lama can be seen with the boy, who had requested to hug the Dalai Lama. Once the boy was on the stage with him, the Dalai Lama pointed to his cheek and said, “First here.” After the boy embraced him and kissed him on the cheek, the Dalai Lama then pointed to his lips and said, “Then, I think, finally, here also,” pointing to his lips. The Dalai Lama stretched out his lips and took the boys chin in his hand pulling him in until their lips met, as the audience clapped and the Dalai Lama and the boy laughed.
The Dalai Lama then took the boy’s chin again and leaned in to touch foreheads, which lasted a few seconds. Then, as the boy stood looking forward, the Dalai Lama backed up and said, “And suck my tongue,” sticking out his tongue and leaning slowly forward. The boy again leaned his head forward until their foreheads met and, as the boy began to stick out his tongue, the Dalai Lama pulled back quickly and tapped the boy on the shoulder, laughing.
The Dalai Lama then took the boy’s hand in his and said, “Thank you, thank you,” as he brought the boy’s hand to his cheek for several seconds. Finally, the Dalai Lama said, “We are the same, human brothers and sisters,” and again embraced the boy in a lengthy hug.
The Dalai Lama then said, “Now, you should look [to] those good human beings who create peace, happiness. [You] should not follow those human beings who [are] always killing other people, you should not look [to] these people.” The Dalai Lama embraced the child in another hug, this time reaching around and tickling him in one armpit. As the boy pulled away, the two were again laughing.
Many videos circulating on social media show only a portion of the interaction. One showing the entirety of the interaction is just over two minutes in length.
After social media responses to the video took off on 9 April, the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama issued a brief statement:
A video clip has been circulating that shows a recent meeting when a young boy asked His Holiness the Dalai Lama if he could give him a hug. His Holiness wishes to apologize to the boy and his family, as well as his many friends across the world, for the hurt his words may have caused.
His Holiness often teases people he meets in an innocent and playful way, even in public and before cameras. He regrets the incident.(His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama)
In response to claims that this behavior reflected Tibetan cultural tradition, the New Delhi-based child rights group Haq: Center for Child Rights issued a statement saying: “This video is certainly not about any cultural expression, and even if it is, such cultural expressions are not acceptable.” (RFA)
The Dalai Lama apologizes for asking a young boy to suck his tongue (NPR)
Statement (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama)
Dalai apologises after clip of him ‘teasing boy’ sparks row (Times of India)
Dalai Lama apologizes after video shows him asking boy to ‘suck my tongue’ (RFA)
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His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama: No one is sucking anyone’s tongue