The Dalai Lama, the foremost spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, has apologized after a video of him kissing a young boy and asking him to “suck my tongue” has gone viral on social media.
The young boy approached the Dalai Lama during a public event in late February at the Dalai Lama’s temple in Dharamshala, India.
More than 120 young students who had just graduated from the Indian M3M Foundation reportedly attended the event, during which one of the students spoke into a microphone to ask the Dalai Lama for a hug.
Tenzin Gyatso, the 87-year-old spiritual leader, then told the boy to come up to the platform and motioned to his cheek, where the child then kissed him.
“I think here also,” the Dalai Lama said, referring to his lips.
In the viral video, the spiritual leader is seen planting a kiss on the child’s lips before laughing and asking him to “suck my tongue.”
While the audience laughs, the boy reportedly sticks his tongue out and moves away while the Dalai Lama laughs and pulls the boy in for a hug.
The Dalai Lama then advised the boy to follow those who create “peace and happiness” and not to follow “human beings who always kill other people” before giving him another hug.
The footage has garnered millions of views across social media, with many users condemning the Dalai Lama’s “inappropriate” and “disgusting” behavior.
On Monday, the backlash prompted the office of the Dalai Lama to apologize for the act that they categorized as “innocent and playful.”
He fled to India in 1959 when Tibet was annexed by China. The Nobel Peace laureate has worked to draw global support for linguistic and cultural autonomy in his remote homeland. He currently lives in a compound next to a temple in Dharamshala.
The Dalai Lama has previously been involved in controversies that have prompted him to publicly apologize the past, including when he suggested that if the Dalai Lama returned as a woman “she should be more attractive” during an interview with the BBC in 2019.