Dalai Lama’s biggest controversies, from ‘attractive female successor’ to asking boy to ‘suck his tongue’

Spiritual leader has faced criticism for various comments that have stoked controversy over the years

Sravasti Dasgupta
Tuesday 11 April 2023 07:42 BST

Dalai Lama tells child to suck his tongue in controversial resurfaced video

The Dalai Lama is facing widespread criticism after a video of him kissing a child on the lips at a Buddhist event went viral, prompting him to issue an apology.

The video showed the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism kissing the boy on his lips as he came forward to pay his respects.

The Dalai Lama can be heard saying in the video “can you suck my tongue” and sticking out his tongue.

In a statement on Monday, the Dalai Lama’s office said he “regrets the incident”.

“The Dalai Lama often teases people he meets in an innocent and playful way,” the statement said.

“His Holiness wishes to apologise to the boy and his family, as well as his many friends across the world, for the hurt his words may have caused.”

This is, however, not the first time the spiritual leader has faced backlash for his comments.

Here’s a look at all his past controversial comments:

‘If a female [successor] does come her face should be very, very attractive’

In a 2015 interview with the BBC, the faith leader had said: “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.”

His comments came while recalling remarks made a decade earlier to a French journalist that there must be a female Dalai Lama because, he claimed, women had a greater “biological” capacity “to show affection... compassion”.

Female successor needs to be ‘very, very attractive’

In an interview with the broadcaster in 2019, the Dalai Lama reiterated his 2015 comments that a female successor would need to be “very, very attractive”, as otherwise she would be of “not much use”.

“If female Dalai Lama comes, then she should be more attractive,” he had said.

The spiritual leader was asked whether his statement could be seen as objectifying women and whether taking on the mantle of the Dalai Lama should be about who a person is on the inside.

“Yes, I think both,” he had replied.

His office had later issued a statement offering an apology for the 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,” the statement said.

Trump lacks ‘moral principle’

Also in the 2019 interview with the BBC, the spiritual leader criticised former US president Donald Trump for his “lack of moral principle” over the US administration’s treatment of young children at the US-Mexico border.

“When I saw pictures of some of those young children, I was sad,” he said.

“America... should take a global responsibility.”

Jawaharlal Nehru’s ‘self-centred attitude’

In 2018, the Dalai Lama stoked another controversy after he said that India and Pakistan would have stayed united after the end of British colonial rule if not for the “self-centred attitude” of the country’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

“Jawaharlal Nehru’s self-centred attitude was the reason why Muhammad Ali Jinnah could not be appointed the prime minister of India,” he said.

His office later apologised for the comment.

‘Europe belongs to Europeans’

In 2018, the Dalai Lama had sparked anger over his comments on refugees in Europe.

“Receive them, help them, educate them... but ultimately they should develop their own country,” he had said when speaking about refugees.

I think Europe belongs to the Europeans.

The Dalai Lama is considered by Buddhists as the manifestation of the Buddha or Bodhisattva who choose to reincarnate to serve others.

The current Dalai Lama has lived in India since his self-imposed exile from Tibet after the arrival of Chinese troops in 1959.

In 1989, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for peace.

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