The Dalai Lama has issued an apology after a controversial clip emerged on social media showing the spiritual leader asking an Indian boy to “suck his tongue.”
The incident took place at an event in the Tsuglagkhang temple in the northern Indian city of Dharamshala in late February, although the footage went viral only recently, triggering outrage among some social media users.
The clip shows an Indian boy approaching the Tibetan spiritual leader and asking him: “Can I hug you?” After inviting the boy onto the stage, the Dalai Lama points to his cheek and says “first here.” After the boy kisses it, the Dalai Lama then kisses him on the mouth and laughs. After a brief pause, the guru sticks out his tongue and tells the boy to “suck” it.
In Tibetan culture, poking out your tongue is considered to be a gesture of expressing respect.
The spiritual leader’s office has attempted to downplay the incident following the social media outcry, releasing a statement on Monday which read: “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.” The statement added that the guru “often teases people he meets in an innocent and playful way.”
— Dalai Lama (@DalaiLama) April 10, 2023
It’s not the first time the Dalai Lama, who won the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize “for advocating peaceful solutions based upon tolerance,” has found himself embroiled in controversy. In a 2019 BBC interview, the spiritual leader said that should he be succeeded by a woman, she would have to be “very attractive, otherwise not much use” – a remark which was widely regarded as offensive.