The Dalai Lama has come under fire after a video showing him kissing a young child and asking him to ‘suck’ his tongue went viral, forcing him to issue an apology.
The clip of the Tibetan spiritual leader triggered criticism, including from the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, a US-based organisation that supports the survivors of spiritual and religious abuse.
The group expressed their disgust on Monday following the emergence of the disturbing footage, which showed the young Indian boy kissing the Dalai Lama on the lips as he came forward to pay his respects during a charity event at a temple.
The disturbing interaction occurred at a public gathering in February at the Buddhist Tsuglagkhang temple in Dharamsala, where the exiled leader lives. He was taking questions from the audience when the boy asked if he could hug him.
The incident has also brought some of the Dalai Lama’s past controversies back in to the spotlight. He has previously faced backlash for his comments on the possibility of his successor being a woman, about refugees in Europe, about Pakistan and India, on Donald Trump, and for being paid $1million to attend an event hosted by an infamous NXIVM ‘sex cult’.
Here, MailOnline looks at the biggest controversies to have hit the world’s most famous monk.
The Dalai Lama has come under fire after a video showed him kissing a young child and asking him to ‘suck’ his tongue went viral, forcing him to issue an apology
FEMALE SUCCESSOR ‘MUST BE’ ATTRACTIVE
In an interview with the BBC in 2015, the Nobel Peace Prize winner – whose given name is Tenzin Gyatso – recalled telling a French journalist ten years earlier that he hoped there would be a female Dalai Lama in the future.
This, he said, was because women had a greater ‘biological’ capacity ‘to show affection’ and ‘compassion’.
But, he said, there was a caveat. ‘I think female[s] should take more important role and then – I told the reporter – if a female does come her face should be very, very attractive,’ he told the BBC’s reporter.
Interviewer Clive Myrie pressed him on the matter. Asking whether a female Dalai Lama ‘must be’ attractive, the Buddhist responded: ‘Otherwise not much use.’
He reiterated his comments four years later, in 2019, saying a female successor would need to be ‘very, very attractive’ as she would be ‘not much use’ otherwise.
‘If female Dalai Lama comes, then she should be more attractive,’ he said, chuckling to himself.
The comments, again to the BBC, were questioned by the broadcaster’s interviewer, who asked whether being the Dalai Lama should be more about what was on the inside.
The Dalai Lama answered by saying that Buddhist literature taught that both inner and outer beauty mattered, while emphasising the importance of equality.
While some interpreted the comments at the time as the Tibetan leader making a joke – saying a female successor would be more attractive than him – it drew an angry response given that he has previously described himself as a feminist.
His office later issued a statement apologising for his remarks.
‘His Holiness genuinely meant no offence. He is deeply sorry that people have been hurt by what he said and offers his sincere apologies,’ it said.
‘For all his long life, His Holiness has opposed the objectification of women, has supported women and their rights and celebrated the growing international consensus in support of gender equality and respect for women,’ it added.
SLAMMING DONALD TRUMP
In the same interview with the BBC in 2019, the Dalai Lama drew the ire of fans of then-President of the United States, Donald Trump.
In a withering assessment of the former head of state, the Dalai Lama said Trump’s time in office had been defined by a ‘lack of moral principle’ – a change of tone from remarks he made in 2016 saying he had ‘no worries’ over Trump’s presidency.
‘When he became president he expressed America first. That is wrong,’ he said.
He pointed to Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement, as well as America’s treatment of migrants at the borders.
‘When I saw pictures of some of those young children, I was sad,’ he said of the issues at the US-Mexico border that plagued Trump’s time in the White House.
Trump and the spiritual leader did not meet during his time in office, a decision seen as a possible attempt to appease China on account of Beijing’s dislike of the Tibetan spiritual leader. He was made head of state in 1950, aged 15, the same year that China occupied Tibet – and is seen in Beijing as a troublemaker on the border.
Gyatso escaped to India in 1959 during the Tibetan uprising, and has been living there in exile ever since, while remaining Tibet’s spiritual leader.
The Dalai Lama said of Trump: ‘His emotions [are] also a little bit’… and wagged his winger near his temple. ‘One day he says something, another day he says something.
‘America, they should take the global responsibility,’ he told the BBC.
In a withering assessment of the former US president Donald Trump, the Dalai Lama said his time in office had been defined by a ‘lack of moral principle’
‘EUROPE IS FOR EUROPEANS’
In 2019, the Dalai Lama courted further controversy over his comments on refugees arriving in Europe, with millions having fled from the Middle East in recent years.
‘European countries should take these refugees and give them education and training, and the aim is – return to their own land with certain skills,’ he said.
When asked what should happen to those who want to stay in their adopted countries, he replied: ‘A limited number is OK.
‘But the whole of Europe [will] eventually become Muslim country – impossible. Or African country, also impossible.’
When the interviewer asked about his own refugee status, the Dalai Lama repeated his previous claims that ‘Europe is for Europeans’. He added: ‘They themselves, I think [are] better in their own land. Better [to] keep Europe for Europeans.’
He made similar comments a year earlier at a conference in Sweden. ‘Receive them [migrants], help them, educate them, but ultimately they should develop their own country. I think Europe belongs to the Europeans,’ he said.
He said that Europe was ‘morally responsible’ for helping ‘a refugee really facing danger against their life’ but implied they should return home.
People reacting at the time called him a hypocrite given his own situation.
He seemed to address this at the time. He said: ‘We Tibetans took shelter in India, but most Tibetans want to return to Tibet when the situation there has changed.
‘Each country has its own culture, language, way of life, and it is better for people to live in their own country. That is my view.’
His comments echoed those he made in 2016, in which he said that ‘Europe, for example Germany, cannot become an Arab country.’
He also said then that there were ‘too many refugees’ in Europe – despite himself leading thousands of refugees into India in 1959.
When discussing refuges, he also waded into the debate around Brexit – Britain’s exit from the European Union.
He told the BBC in 2019 that he was ‘an admirer of the European Union’ – pointing out that global partnerships are key to avoiding conflict.
In 2019, the Dalai Lama courted further controversy over his comments on refugees arriving in Europe, with millions having fled from the Middle East. Pictured: Migrants walk through the countryside after crossing the Hungarian-Croatian border near the Hungarian village of Zakany to continue their trip to the north on September 21, 2015
Migrants are rescued by crew members of the Abeille Languedoc ship after their boat’s generator broke down in French waters while they were trying to cross the Channel illegally to Britain, off the coasts of Boulogne-sur-Mer, northern France, on May 9, 2022
PAID $1MILLION TO ATTEND NXIVM EVENT
In another controversy involving the Dalai Lama, DailyMail.com exclusively revealed in 2018 that the monk was paid $1million to travel to America and endorse an infamous and controversial ‘sex cult’ that brainwashed and branded women.
The religious leader was paid to speak at a 2009 event hosted by NXIVM – a self-help organisation described by former members as a ‘sex cult’ – that resulted in its leader and other members (including actress Allison Mack) being jailed for crimes ranging from sex trafficking to forced labour, to visa and wire fraud.
The deal saw the Dalai Lama speak to 3,000 followers of NXIVM and place a khata – a traditional ceremonial Tibetan scarf – around the neck of the group’s founder, Keith Raniere – who was sentenced to 120 years in prison in 2020.
At the time, Raniere’s supporters described the visit by the Dalai Lama as a ‘victory’.
Former computer programmer Raniere founded NXIVM in 1998, as a ‘personal and professional development program’ which he sold as Executive Success Programs, alongside his business partner, ex-nurse Nancy Salazman. It is pronounced ‘nexium’.
DailyMail.com found its executives took extraordinary steps to further its own cause worldwide, including to convince the Dalai Lama to speak at an event.
The plot involved wooing the Tibetan Buddhist leader’s American aide; expensive gifts and foreign travel; an alleged steamy affair with the heiress to a drinks fortune, and claims of broken vows of celibacy.
DailyMail.com learned that the deal was set up by the Dalai Lama’s self-styled ‘personal emissary of peace’ to the U.S., Lama Tenzin Dhonden. He was replaced in 2018 amid accusations of corruption.
The Dalai Lama Trust removed Dhonden as its executive secretary, pending an investigation, following claims that the monk abused his position as a gatekeeper to the Nobel Peace Prize winner.
This is the moment the Dalai Lama met Keith Raniere, the leader of NXIVM, in 2009. It was the culmination of a $1 million gift to the Buddhist leader for his good causes and hailed as a victory by ‘sex cult’ NXIVM. Raniere is currently in prison in the US for several crimes
Pictured: The Dalai Lama is seen placing a scarf over the head of Keith Raniere, the leader of NXIVM, in 2009, in footage from HBO documentary ‘The Vow’ about the cult
ANGERING INDIA AND PAKISTAN
2018 also saw the Dalai Lama apologise over comments he made about India and Pakistan, in which he said the two countries would have stayed united at the end of British rule if not for the ‘self-centred attitude’ of the country’s first Prime Minister.
‘Jawaharlal Nehru’s self-centred attitude was the reason why Muhammad Ali Jinnah could not be appointed the prime minister of India,’ he said at the time.
The Dalai Lama said that Mahatma Gandhi had wanted Jinnah to become PM, and that if he had been, the 1947 partition of India would not have happened.
‘Now look at India. I think Mahatma Gandhi was very much willing to give the prime ministership to Jinnah. But Pandit Nehru refused,’ he said at the time.
‘I think it was a little bit self-centred attitude of Pandit Nehru that he should be the prime minister… Mahatma Gandhi’s thinking, if it had materialised, then India, Pakistan would have been united,’ he said.
His office later apologised for his comments.
‘TONGUE SUCK’ VIDEO
Following the emergence of the ‘tongue suck’ video this week, a statement posted on his official website said the 87-year-old leader regretted the incident.
It said he wished 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 video showed that the Dalai Lama had invited the boy up toward the platform he was seated on. He gestured to his cheek, which the child then kissed before giving the spiritual leader a hug.
The Dalai Lama then asked the boy to kiss him on the lips and stuck out his tongue. ‘And suck my tongue,’ the Dalai Lama can be heard saying as the boy sticks out his own tongue and leans in, prompting laughter from the audience.
Following the emergence of the ‘tongue suck’ video this week, a statement posted on his official website said the 87-year-old leader regretted the incident (pictured)
The footage triggered a backlash online with social media users condemning his behavior as inappropriate and disturbing.
SNAP, the US advocacy group for victims of clergy abuse, said they were ‘horrified’ by the Dalai Lama’s actions. ‘Our primary concern is with the innocent boy who was the subject of this disgusting request by a revered spiritual figure,’ the group said in a statement.
Sticking out one’s tongue was often used as a greeting according to ancient Tibetan culture, but is not commonly seen anymore.
‘His Holiness often teases people he meets in an innocent and playful way, even in public and before cameras,’ the statement from the Dalai Lama read.