The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, apologized on Monday after a video surfaced online showing him kissing a boy on the lips at a public event earlier this year and then saying to the child, “Suck my tongue.”
In the video, which was taken in February in the hill town of Dharamsala, in northern India, the Buddhist leader, 87, speaks briefly to the boy in front of an audience before kissing him and then pulling him close to his outstretched tongue.
The apology issued by the Dalai Lama’s office said only that the boy, who was not identified, had asked the spiritual leader if he could give him a hug, making no reference to the kiss or the extended tongue. It said that the Dalai Lama’s actions had been lighthearted.
“His Holiness often teases people he meets in an innocent and playful way, even in public and before cameras. He regrets the incident,” his office said, adding that the Dalai Lama wished to apologize “for the hurt his words may have caused.”
Tseten Samdup Chhoekyapa, an official in the Dalai Lama’s office in Dharamsala, did not answer calls seeking additional comment.
Tenzin Gyatso, also known as the 14th Dalai Lama, fled Tibet for India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. In India, he was allowed to set up a government-in-exile in Dharamsala, and at 54 years old he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. He is expected to announce his successor when he turns 90.
The February event was organized by the M3M Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the M3M Group, an Indian real estate company.
In the video online, the boy stands in the audience before the Dalai Lama and says into a microphone, “Can I hug you?” As the boy approaches him, the Dalai Lama points to his cheek and says “first here.” The boy gives him a kiss and then embraces the Dalai Lama, smiling widely.
Then the Dalai Lama points to his own lips and says, “Then I think finally here also.” He pulls the boy’s chin and kisses him on the mouth, to laughter and applause from the audience. Seconds later, the leader says “and suck my tongue,” poking his tongue out and resting his forehead against the boy’s.
The Tibetan leader also apologized in 2019 over remarks he made in an interview with the BBC, in which he said that any future female Dalai Lama “should be more attractive.” His office later said he was sorry that people had been hurt, and that he had been joking.
He has also drawn criticism for public remarks in recent years, including in 2018, after large numbers of refugees had traveled to Europe from North Africa and the Middle East.
He said in a speech that year that refugees to the European Union should eventually return home, and that “Europe is for Europeans.”He later told the BBC, “European countries should take these refugees and give them education and training, and the aim is return to their own land with certain skills.”