We are all quite fond of the Dalai Lama. He looks Kung Fu Panda level cute, exotic, and vaguely intellectual, all at once, and he gives damn good bang for the buck. Matlab, a photo op with him when holidaying in Himachal adds a dash of international glamour to one’s Instagram feed, when one is photo-dumping pics of what could otherwise be dismissed as just a cheap desi holiday. He’s even got a bit of pull on the online-dating sites, where a profile pic with him (while not as sticky as a pic with puppies or babies) might get one a few more matches, comments or second glances. Not any more, huh.
The video of the man asking a young boy to suck on his tongue is downright shocking. At the surface level, the optics are disturbing—a wrinkled old man with slack skin and wet pursed lips, pulls a small child toward him as two masked attendants and huge crowd of devotees watch on impassively—and at a deeper level, it makes us wonder that if this is what the Dalai Lama gets up to in public, with a massive crowd watching and cameras rolling, then what does he get up to in private?
His minders insist he gets up to nothing—in a glibly worded apology they claim on his official Twitter handle that he is a simple childlike man who likes to “playfully and innocently tease” the people he meets and that is what he was doing in the video. A statement that clearly gaslights us into thinking that we are the ones with the dirty unwholesome minds imagining all kinds of filth when none exists in the Dalai Lama’s pure soul. They add that he wishes to apologise for the hurt his words may have caused.
Some argue that the Dalai Lama, born in 1935, is merely a dinosaur. This is the reason he goes around making problematic statements like “sure, the next Dalai Lama could be a woman but she should be an attractive one” and asking little boys to kiss him on the lips with tongue. They say the world is full of innocent, playful old grandpas like him who show affection in odd ways and don’t mean any harm and are too old to be teachable so we should just put up with them till they die.
Some are even claiming that asking little boys to suck the tongue of old men is part of Tibetan culture. Uh, it is not.
Either the Dalai Lama thinks he can get away with such a brazenly public display, or he is clueless. Both options disqualify him from holding the post and the moral high ground he occupies.
My biggest problem with religion is that people who practise it zealously claim to be answerable to a higher, more righteous authority than merely the laws of the land they live in—or, in the case of the Dalai Lama, the laws of the country that has given him refuge for more than six decades. Lamas, mullahs, gurus, granthis, padres—there are cases of sexual abuse, paedophilia, tax avoidance, land grab, fraud and murder registered against the holy men of all faiths—and yet they set themselves above the Constitution and their followers willingly blind themselves into believing the “rumours” are the work of haters, or Satan himself.
Sure, spend your life seeking God, if you happen to believe in one. And, sure, respect the old folk in your families and your communities. It is a free world. But don’t surrender your good sense or your decency in the process.