Dalai Lama’s reprehensible act | By Sultan M Hali


Dalai Lama’s reprehensible act

THE self-exiled Tibetan leader Dalai Lama, the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, is at the centre of controversy for his recent interaction with a young boy. Reportedly, on 28 February 2023, he indulged in a reprehensible act at a temple in Dharamshala. Its outrageous video went viral on social media and has reportedly been viewed over a million times on Twitter. In the video, the Dalai Lama can be heard asking the boy to kiss him on his cheek and then his lips after the boy asks if he can give him a hug. The leader then put his forehead to that of the boy’s, before sticking out his tongue, saying “and suck my tongue”.

The video sparked international criticism with some right’s activists saying that the spiritual leader’s actions amount to child abuse. Global celebrities, many of whom are parents, are speaking out against the Dalai Lama’s actions and subsequent apology. Actress and podcast host Sara Foster slammed the Dalai Lama in an Instagram story, writing “I don’t care who you are or how regarded you are. This is absolutely disgusting. Any adult who asks a child to suck his tongue needs to be put on an island never to be heard from again.” In addition to a grossed-out emoji, the mother of two added “#protectourchildren” above a news article noting the response to the Dalai Lama’s actions.

This month, the Global Buddhist Summit (GBS) was organised by the Union Ministry of Culture and the New Delhi-based International Buddhist Confederation (IBC) on April 20-21. Although the Indian Prime Minister presided over the event, the Dalai Lama, who had been heavily criticized for his alleged act of child abuse in media, tried to stay away to avoid controversy. The organizers of the conference were interviewed by media persons. To the question, as to why was this conference held in India and what was its message and purpose, the organizers responded that its first purpose was to better discuss the philosophy of Buddhism so that people can understand its usefulness in the present age. Second, with the reformation of the followers of the Buddhist faith, their soul and inner being can be purified. Another important thing is how the problems of the present world and society can be improved with the help of Buddhist philosophy.

It was responded that as far as India is concerned, Buddhism originated from here, but its followers in India are very few now. One of the objectives of holding this conference in New Delhi was to highlight the relationship between Buddhism and India so that local people can understand the importance of this philosophy. To another question as to who is considered as the best preceptor, or leader, of Buddhism worldwide, the response was the highest spiritual guide and Buddhist leader is His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who holds the highest position in terms of piety and virtue and is respected across the world.

It was pointed out by the interviewer that the Dalai Lama is quite a controversial figure, and his video, of kissing a teenage boy and then asking him to suck his tongue, has been condemned on social media and commentators have also chastised the spiritual leader for his indiscretion. The respondent stated that it was a very small matter and minor thing and defended the Dalai Lama, stating that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is quite cheerful and playful and he makes such jokes during meetings with his followers. It’s a one-of-a-kind event and nothing else.

The interviewer highlighted that his style and the way he behaves in the video, has angered lots of people and many people have censured him demanding action against him. The interviewee replied that since people were angry, the Dalai Lama apologized and asked for forgiveness. Incidentally, the apology has been rejected by a majority of the people worldwide, who remain grieved. Owing to fear of further stoking the controversy, the Dalai Lama skipped the inaugural session of the IBC but appeared briefly the next day.

In his speech, the Dalai Lama spoke about the philosophy of Buddhism and the present society. Emphasizing the adoption of religious education, he instructed the devotees to purify their inner souls. Since he has sought asylum in India, after fleeing from Tibet, where he failed to organize a resurrection against China, he mentioned Tibetans and their struggle in his speech, besides talking about global issues regarding Buddhism.

This is not the first time that the Dalai Lama has ruffled feathers. In 2016, the Dalai Lama gave an unflattering impression of the-U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in an interview with ITV’s Good Morning Britain, making fun of his hairstyle and small mouth. He courted controversy in 2019, when in an interview with the BBC he said that any future female Dalai Lama should be “attractive”. His office later apologized for his remarks.

The current Dalai Lama, who is the 14th in lineage, fled Tibet in 1959 but despite his religious personage, has not refrained from fomenting trouble for China. According to an article titled “Dalai Lama Group Says it Got Money from C.I.A.” published in “The New York Times” of 02 October 1998, it was revealed that “With the aim of launching guerrilla operations against the Chinese, the Central Intelligence Agency funded the Dalai Lama’s administration with US$1.7 million a year in the 1960s.

In 2001 the 14th Dalai Lama ceded his partial power over the government to an elected parliament of selected Tibetan exiles. His original goal was full independence for Tibet, but by the late 1980s he was seeking high-level autonomy instead. He continued to seek greater self-sufficiency from China, but Dolma Gyari, Deputy Speaker of Parliament-in-exile, stated: “If the middle path fails in the short term, we will be forced to opt for complete independence or self-determination as per the UN charter”. For far too long, the Dalai Lama has let himself be used to provoke censure of China but this time he is in the eye of a storm of a shameful controversy.

—The writer is a Retired Group Captain of PAF, who has written several books on China.

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