Can someone explain this to me? "Dalai Lama Kiss & Tongue Controversy"

This was my first thought. Few other religions in the world have a single individual who is recognized as the leader of a church. The Pope is the best example of a leader of a church with worldwide recognition. But few other Christian denominations have a sole individual who attracts so much attention around the world. The same can be said for other religions. Were it not for the global fame of HHDL the news media would not have picked up on the incident in question, which is not to minimize the actions, but merely to observe that they would have gone completely unnoticed had they been made by virtually any other religious leader in the world, the ubiquity of digital media notwithstanding.


The old man probably has dementia.

He is not holier than anyone and this sad event is one of many unfortunate byproducts of a historical mistake made by Tibetan religious aristocracy he represents and heads.

He should be treated in a nursing home and have a professional aged caretaker assess the circumstances before he is put in direct contact with children.

I don’t rule out lust as I cannot see where he had the boys hand placed at in his lap.

I’m mostly disgusted and will only reiterate to those around me that this man and most of the Tibetan religious aristocracy “in exile” do not represent the Buddha, his Teachings and the Sangha of his Noble Disciples.

The Vinaya vibhanga is a great reference for a clear cut set of boundaries that once crossed make someone not even worth being called a bhikkhu or bhikkhuni.

And, in this case, SuttaCentral is a neutral and priceless reference point for those really interested in getting an idea of what Buddhism really is, at least from the perspective of the Early Buddhist community and their memory of what the Buddha taught.

Anything else, including Tibetan messy religious aristocraty ideology, is just noise, Mara’s creative ways of smearing suffering and ignorance across the tragicomic phenomenon of conscious life.

My words may not be welcome, but when it comes to a surreal situation as this we need to take the chance to set out things clearly and in the open.

If you disagree, it is okay. And if there is any legal framework in India to have this case investigated and actions taken, they have my full support. :pray:


Yes, sticking the tongue out is a form of a greeting in Tibetan culture, but not sucking the tongue. Sucking the tongue is not part of the greeting. It is inappropriate to ask that while your tongue is sticking out. There probably was not any lust involved, but still inappropriate, in my opinion.

I don’t care who did that to me, celebrity person or not; I would not suck the tongue, nor would I allow anyone to do that to my child (if I still had young children present with me).


My life experience has taught me that it is uncommon for most people to do the right thing when it is their leader in the middle of wrongdoing. I think it is just human nature and very hard to overcome, even by otherwise good people. So, I am not shocked by the reactions of his followers. I’ve seen too many examples of behavior corrupted by power or being sheltered. I think both apply to the Dalai Lama. I’m not shocked it happened.

I never read any of the Dalai Lama’s writings. I have read some of Thubten Chodron’s writings and liked them, so I was disheartened to see her video on YouTube trying to white wash away the Dalai Lama’s behavior.

For what it is worth, one person claiming to be Tibetan on the Internet told me that it is not fine in their culture to kiss a child on the mouth nor to ask them to suck your tongue. The incident took place in India, which like Europe has many cultures.


Many people think the Dalai Lama is the Pope for Buddhism.

Explain to them that he is not.

Buddhism is divided into three schools:

  • Theravada - the oldest surviving school
  • Mahayana - the largest school and the most varied school
  • Vajrayana - often called “Tibetan Buddhism”. This school has about 6 major subschools, of which the Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader for just one.

The internet ushered in a new era of the bold contrarian who will be sure to hedge against the majority even in the most extreme situations. It is an investment, often with the hope that when the dust settles they emerge as the one who kept a measured view when everyone else lost their composure.

I don’t think that applies to Thubten Chodron or her video response.

I think the best course for a wrongdoer in these situations is to say the least, so you can’t hang yourself. She may have been asked to do a response.

Regardless, I think she forgot herself and ended up grasping at straws to defend someone she loves. I think her mocking of the responses of shock likely originates from a source similar to what let the Dalai Lama do what he did – being in a feedback bubble. Both people are habitually praised ( rarely criticized ) for being joyful/friendly so it likely didn’t occur to either of them “that this shit is real, time guide my behavior and how I talk”.

1 Like

That’s good to hear.

I don’t think she should be free of deserved criticism for her response.

Hmm … Yeah, I would probably take this as an opportunity to reiterate how the Buddha refused to even put Sariputta or Mogalana in charge of the Sangha, let alone anyone else.

Power isn’t just dangerous for those at the bottom, it also corrupts even the most sincere people at the top.


I finally had the time to watch her response. Sad. It would have been better she said nothing than what she did say.


Thank you Ayya Suvira for your skilful response! It’s so important to say that the Dalai Lama’s behaviour was fundamentally unsafe for the child!


Thanks everyone for their contributions.

That’s true so far as it goes, although the Thai forest tradition is not without its own scandals. But I think its oranges and apples. With the Tibetan leadership, we see what they are all like since they were expelled from their country. With the Thai forest tradition, we see only a tiny slice of Thai Buddhism. If we were to compare the behaviors of Tibetan leaders with all Thai monks, it would be a different story. I’m just saying that corruption isn’t a Tibetan thing, it’s a human thing.

Yes, you’re right.

Indeed he did say that. He also said:

Since you have recognized your mistake for what it is, and have dealt with it properly, I accept it. For it is growth in the training of the Noble One to recognize a mistake for what it is, deal with it properly, and commit to restraint in the future.

I’m not worried about protecting the Dalai Lama—after all, he’s been under relentless attack by the CCP for decades; he doesn’t need my protection. He did apologize, although IMHO not adequately, as he did not specifically acknowledge his actions.

What I am worried about is what happens to humanity when the internet turns everyone into an instant expert, judge, jury, and executioner. There is a place for scrutiny and a place for forgiveness, and if we lose sight of that, we lose our moral perspective.

Indeed, and in multiple cases I have in fact done this. There is, or should be, a suitable process to deal with such things and determine an appropriate response, if any. But I’m not aware of a case where the judgment of strangers on the internet is part of such a process.


It was has been a difficult time discussing this with my peers, but luckily it hasn’t really pulled anyone close to me away from the Dhamma. My friends seem to be understanding and see it as an unfortunate incident as well. Thank you everyone for helping me frame this situation in a manner that is aligned with the teachings.


I think it is crucial that we hold one another to a high standard of remaining measured in our criticism - such as when you politely confirmed my admitted lack of expertise when it comes to any likely vinaya offenses - but doing so does not require offering an equal and opposite response to temper criticism we don’t agree with. Too often, that is what we find in these discussions, and unfortunately we got plenty of it from Thubten Chodron, who was clearly at a loss for how to handle the matter. What I’m truly appreciative of in this thread is members willingness to see it from multiple angles without trying to excuse what occurred. That is as complete a discussion as we are likely to get from this.

In the end, we keep a moral perspective when we don’t forget to include the matter of conduct in the discussion. Such “meta-discussion” can be valuable when it comes to delicate matters.


I couldn’t agree more, I am very proud of the different responses I see here, and the good faith in which people have discussed a difficult issue.


This seems to me a really important point. While the conduct complained of on its face seems harmful and outrageous, it’s also difficult to understand what might have been going on in HHDL’s mind when the impulse struck to act this way. He’s known to enjoy joking and being playful, and it might be true that at 87 years and no history of sexual acting out, he may have just said and done some peculiar things without any sexualized intention. It’s creepy, inappropriate, but as I learned in my 1st year of law school, the idea of mens rea needs to be taken into account in determining culpability.

Mens rea has to do with the state of mind of an actor, such that we can determine whether the conduct was sanctionable, or not. Perhaps in HHDL’s 87 year old mind, he was being silly or playful, but in 2023, a man asking a child to “suck his tongue” seems to be void of any innocent explanation. But, we don’t know his state of mind, and as Bhante points out, our tendency to judge, convict, and exercise cancel culture is all too much part of what makes large parts of society so angry and vindictive these days.

Part of what we try to do in practice is to calm ourselves and meditate in order to gain insight into some truths. This practice runs contrary to the quick and harsh judgments often exercised today. Perhaps with some reflection there will be a better understanding of what drove HHDL to do what he did. We can evaluate his stated intention, and consider the kammic weight of his actions. Regardless, the world has now seen some disturbing behavior, and has passed some level of judgment, and its likely few will mention HHDL now without some painful memory of this event.


He’s not the head of Mahayana, see above:

He’s the head of one of the six schools of Vajrayana Buddhism.

With regard to who is and who is not a stream enterer, who are we to make judgement?


Thank you sir for correcting me!

Yes you are right. We are not right in making such claim. Thank you for correcting me. I stand corrected and probably it would be better if I remove my above post.

1 Like

As was sharing the video on the internet (and indeed this forum) without making sure that the child was rendered completely anonymous. I imagine that the subsequent actions by us all may cause more damage to the child than the original action has. But that’s just my personal experience. Maybe as a community it would’ve been better for us not to share the dramatically edited click bait video?