Watch CBS News

Dalai Lama, Tibetan spiritual leader, apologizes for asking boy to suck his tongue

New Delhi — The Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama apologized Monday after a video that 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.

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama touches foreheads with a young boy, whose identity has been obscured by CBS News, before addressing a group of students at the Tsuglakhang temple in Dharamshala, India, Feb. 28, 2023. AP/Ashwini Bhatia

The video is from an event in McLeod Ganj, a suburb of Dharamshala city in northern India, on February 28.

"His Holiness wishes to apologize 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 web page and social media accounts.

"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 apologize 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 recognized 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.

Along with Tibet's more than 3 million people, the Dalai Lama has been deliberately side-lined by China, which insists that Tibet is and always has been an integral part of the country. Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of wanting to split China, and has referred to him as a "wolf in a monk's robe."

Beijing has imprisoned Tibetans, diluted the Tibetan language with Mandarin Chinese and even made pictures of the Dalai Lama illegal — replacing them with pictures of Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Communist Party leaders, CBS News correspondent Ramy Inocencio reported in 2020, when he spoke via video link with the Dalai Lama during his coronavirus lockdown in 2020. 

Dalai Lama weighs in on Beijing's crack down on Hong Kong's protests 02:11

In 2019, the Dalai Lama apologized for saying that if his successor were to be a woman, she would have to be "attractive."

The comments, which were criticized around the world, were made in an interview with the BBC.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.