SNAP Reacts to Concerning Video of the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet

SNAP - Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests [Chicago IL]

April 10, 2023

By Zach Hiner

One of the world’s most influential religious leaders was forced to apologize following a viral video showing him apparently asking a young boy to “suck his tongue.” This story is another stark reminder of how powerful men can use their positions of power to benefit themselves at the expense of others, a thread that is all too common in cases of clergy sexual abuse.

The 14th Dalai Lama’s apology follows a social media backlash against his behavior when a video of the incident, which happened at a gathering in the mountain city of Dharamshala in February, was shared on social media. In the clip, the child asks the Dalai Lama if he can give him a hug. The 87-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader then invites the boy on stage and points to his cheek and says, “first here,” prompting the boy to give him a hug and a kiss. After a few seconds, he then says, “suck my tongue,” poking his tongue out.

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. “His Holiness often teases people he meets in an innocent and playful way, even in public and before cameras. He regrets the incident.” We would like to know how many other such “playful” acts have occurred between the Dalai Lama and unsuspecting visitors.

In a sexual abuse case involving a Buddhist teacher in Europe in 2018, the Dalai Lama denounced the teacher’s behavior as “irresponsible.” We wonder why he did not apply this same standard to his own inappropriate request. But the larger question is this, is this apology simply because the video was widely condemned, or is the Dalai Lama truly sincere?

Either way, 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. That is the best way to protect other children, expose wrongdoing, and start healing.