What is the Dalai Lama 'suck my tongue' controversy all about?

What is the Dalai Lama 'suck my tongue' controversy all about?
Dalai Lama marks 87th birthday by opening library

The Dalai Lama has apologised after footage circulated showing him kissing a young boy on the lips and asking him to suck his tongue.

It is such a bizarre sentence it doesn't sound like a real story but the Tibetan spiritual leader did indeed cause the controversy and has now said he "regrets the incident".

This was not enough for Cardi B to forgive him who posted a cryptic tweet, appearing to label him a "predator".

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What happened with the Dalai Lama?

Footage shows the incident which appears to have taken place at the Dalai Lama's temple in Dharamshala on 28 February when he interacted with around 120 students who had completed a skills training programme organised by the philanthropic arm of real estate company M3M Group.

In the video which has circulated online, the unknown boy is seen asking if he can hug the Dalai Lama. The leader motions to his cheek, saying "first here" and the boy kisses his cheek and gives him a hug.

Then, while holding the boy's hand, the Dalai Lama motions to his lips and says "I think here also", and kisses the boy on the lips.

The leader then puts his forehead to the boy's forehead, before sticking out his tongue, saying "and suck my tongue". Some people laugh in the background and the boy sticks his tongue out before withdrawing.

After talking and hugging some more, the Dalai Lama tells the child to look to "good human beings who create peace and happiness".

Sticking out one’s tongue is a sign of respect or agreement and was in traditional Tibetan culture, according to the Institute of East Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, though sucking a tongue is not.

What did the Dalai Lama's apology say?

His office said he wanted to apologise to the child and his family "for the hurt his words may have caused".

"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.

​How have people reacted?​

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, a U.S.-based organization that supports the survivors of spiritual and religious abuse expressed their disgust on Monday following the release of the disturbing footage.

'We are as horrified as any viewer by the actions of the Dalai Lama. Our primary concern is with the innocent boy who was the subject of this disgusting request by a revered spiritual figure.

'Additionally, it is just as disturbing to read the minimizing statement released on behalf of Buddhist enlightenment,' the abuse support network SNAP said in a statement.

'An 87-year-old man asking a young boy to perform a blatantly sexual act in a public setting is very disturbing. We feel it is important that every single person who sees, suspects, or suffers child sex crimes, regardless of the level of crime, contact law enforcement to report it,' the statement read.

Prominent Delhi-based child rights group, Haq: Center for Child Rights, told CNN in a statement it condemns “all form of child abuse.”

It added: “Some news refers to Tibetan culture about showing tongue, but this video is certainly not about any cultural expression and even if it is, such cultural expressions are not acceptable.”

Rapper Cardi B also wrote: "This world is full of predators. They prey on the innocent. The ones who are most unknowing, our children. Predators could be our neighbors, our school teachers, even people wit money ,power & our churches. Constantly talk with your kids about boundaries and what they shouldn’t…"

What are the Dalai Lama's other big controversies?

The Dalai Lama apologised after a 2019 interview with the BBC, in which he said if a female Dalai Lama should succeed him, she “should be more attractive.”

And in 2018, he suggested Europe should be kept for Europeans, when speaking about African refugees entering the continent.

“The whole Europe (will) eventually become Muslim country? Impossible. Or African country? Also impossible,” he said, adding that it’s better to “keep Europe for Europeans.”

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