The Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama apologised on Monday after a video which showed him asking a boy to suck his tongue triggered a backlash on social media.
The video, which has gone viral, shows the Dalai Lama (87) planting a kiss on the boy’s lips as he leaned in to pay his respects.
The Buddhist monk is then seen sticking his tongue out as he asked the child to suck it. “Can you suck my tongue,” he is heard asking the young boy in the video.
The video is from an event in McLeod Ganj, a suburb of Dharamshala City in northern India, on February 28.
“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,” said a statement posted on his verified Twitter account.
“His Holiness often teases the people he meets in an innocent and playful way, even in public and before cameras,” it added. “He regrets the incident.”
Twitter users slammed the video, calling it “disgusting” and “absolutely sick” after it started trending on Sunday.
“Utterly shocked to see this display by the #DalaiLama. In the past too, he’s had to apologise for his sexist comments. But saying – Now suck my tongue to a small boy is disgusting,” wrote user Sangita.
Another poster, Rakhi Tripathi, said: “What did I just see? What that child must be feeling? Disgusting.”
The Dalai Lama remains the universally recognised face of the movement for Tibetan autonomy.
But the global spotlight he enjoyed after winning the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize has dimmed and the deluge of invitations to hobnob 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 clout.
Beijing accuses him of wanting to split China, and has referred to him as a “wolf in a monk’s robe”.
In 2019, the Dalai Lama apologised for saying that if his successor were to be a woman, she would have to be “attractive”.
The comments, which were criticised around the world, were made in an interview with the BBC.