Dalai Lama's history of controversies

Who is the Dalai Lama and why is he seen as important? What other controversies have engulfed him?

  • The Dalai Lama was forced to apologise after kissing a young boy on the lips
  • In the past, he also said any female successor to him must be ‘very attractive’

The controversial video which emerged of the Dalai Lama kissing a boy is not the first time the prominent figure has been involved in controversy. 

The recent video emerged from a charity event he was attending in India in February 2023.  

From the most recent video to previously saying a female successor would need to be ‘very attractive’, he has been involved in an increasing number of polemic incidents in recent years.  

But did the Dalai Lama kiss a boy? What other controversies has the Dalai Lama been involved in? 

Read on below for all you need to know about the Dalai Lama’s previous controversies.  

The Dalai Lama has apologised after a unsettling video appeared on social media in which he kissed a young Indian boy on the lips before asking him to ‘suck’ his tongue

Who is the Dalai Lama? 

The Dalai Lama is a title given by the people of Tibet to the most prominent leader of the Gelug, or ‘Yellow Hat’, school of Tibetan Buddhism. 

He currently lives as a refugee in India having fled the Tibetan capital Lhasa during the 1959 Tibetan uprising.  

Representing Buddhist values and traditions, the Dalai Lama is seen as an important status for Tibetan independence. 

After winning the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize, he was the subject of great interest around the globe. 

However, the deluge of invitations to meet with world leaders and Hollywood stars has slowed, partly because the ageing leader has cut back on his punishing travel schedule, but also due to China’s growing economic and political influence.

Beijing accuses him of wanting to split China, and has referred to him as a ‘wolf in a monk’s robe’.

Did the Dalai Lama kiss a boy?

The Dalai Lama issued an apology after an unsettling video appeared on social media in which he kissed a young Indian boy on the lips before asking him to ‘suck’ his tongue.

Footage of the uncomfortable incident showed the moment the Tibetan spiritual leader invited the boy on stage during a charity event at his temple in Dharamshala, India in February 2023.

In the video, the boy asks the Dalai Lama ‘can I hug you?’, to which Tenzin Gyatso responds: ‘Okay – come!’

The spiritual leader first asks the boy to kiss him on the cheek, before pointing at his lips. He holds the boy’s face as they briefly kiss, then the pair press their foreheads together.

Just as the boy goes to pull away, the Dalai Lama instructs him: ‘And suck my tongue’ – prompting him to slowly inch forward towards the 87-year-old’s outstretched tongue.

What did the Dalai Lama say about women? 

This is not the first time the Dalai Lama has landed himself in hot water. 

In 2019, the spiritual leader was forced to issue an apology after he said that any woman who succeeded him as a reincarnation ‘should be more attractive’.

Each Dalai Lama is believed to be a reincarnation of their predecessor.  

After being asked about the possibility that his own reincarnation could be a woman, he said: ‘If female Dalai Lama comes, then she should be more attractive. 

He suggested that otherwise, ‘people I think prefer, not [to] see her, that face’. He also said in 2015 that a female Dalai Lama ‘would not be much use’.  

On the subject of comments made by the Dalai Lama at the time, his office said: ‘Responding to a question about whether his own reincarnation could be a woman, and suggesting that if she were she should be attractive, 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 Dalai Lama accused Donald Trump (pictured) of ‘lacking moral principle’ during his time as US President

Was the Dalai Lama involved in the NXVIM ‘sex cult’? 

Back in 2018, MailOnline exclusively revealed that the Dalai Lama was paid $1 million to travel to America and endorse a ‘sex cult’, which brainwashed and branded women. 

He was paid to speak at an 2009 event in Albany, New York, hosted by NXIVM, pronounced ‘nexium’, a self-help organization described by former members as a ‘sex cult’.

The plot involved wooing the Tibetan Buddhist leader’s American aide with expensive gifts, foreign travel and allegedly included a steamy affair with the heiress to a drinks fortune. 

The deal was set up by the Dalai Lama’s self-styled ‘personal emissary of peace’ to the U.S., Lama Tenzin Dhonden, who was later replaced amid accusations of corruption. 

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.

Raniere was subsequently convicted of human trafficking, sex offences and fraud in 2019, and was sentenced to 120 years in prison. 

Convicted criminal Raniere, 62, could transfer to one of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ two Communication Management Units (CMU) – known commonly as ‘Guantanamo North’ – which house some of the country’s most violent offenders, terrorists, and extremists. 

Raniere faces being moved to either the CMU in Terre Haute, Indiana or Marion, Illinois. The prison branches are designed to completely isolate prisoners from other inmates and the outside world.

On 13 April, 2009 the Dalai Lama also wrote and signed off the foreword for a book co-authored by Raniere entitled The Sphinx & Thelxiepeia. 

What did the Dalai Lama say about immigration? 

Previous comments by the Dalai Lama on immigration have also caused a stir. 

Commenting on immigration into Europe, he said that the continent should educate and train immigrants with a view to them returning home.

The 83-year-old said: ‘European countries should take these refugees and give them education and training, and the aim is – return to their own land with certain skills.’

‘Whole Europe eventually become Muslim country? Impossible. Or African country. Also impossible… Keep Europe for Europeans,’ he had said.

The new communique said that these comments ‘may have been misinterpreted’, saying that he ‘appreciates that many of those who leave their countries may not wish or be able to return’.

In September 2018, he said: ‘When refugees from other countries have come to Europe, it’s wonderful that Germany and other European countries have given them help. 

‘However, I think that most of those refugees think of their own lands as home, but just now there is lots of killing, bullying and suffering there.

‘That’s why they escaped. So, in the short term, European countries should provide them with shelter, and should particularly provide children with facilities for education and training, including mechanical training, for the young people’.

The Dalai Lama was forced to issue an apology in 2019 for saying that any woman who succeeded him ‘should be more attractive’

What did the Dalai Lama say about Trump? 

In a 2019 BBC interview, the Dalai Lama also accused former US President Donald Trump of ‘lacking moral principle’. 

This came in contrast to remarks he made about Mr Trump in 2016, when he said that he had ‘no worries’ about Trump becoming President of the US.  

He said that Trump’s emotions were ‘a bit too complicated’, before reprimanding Trump’s America First slogan, saying: ‘That is wrong. America should take the global responsibility.’ 

He also appeared to mock Donald Trump in a 2016 interview on Good Morning Britain by placing one hand on his forehead and using the other to mimic the movement of Trump’s mouth. 

Since the Tibetan’s comments on Trump, the ex-president appeared in court, where he pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records. 

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