Following a wave of social media outrage sparked when video footage filmed in Dharamsala in February showing Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama hugging and kissing a young Indian student began circulating online, Buddhist leaders and Tibetan communities around the world have raised their voices in protest at what they describe as the misrepresentation of innocent interaction.
The incident, which reportedly took place at a public event at the Dalai Lama's temple in Dharamsala on February 28, attended by 120 students, family members and officials, went viral on social media earlier this month. As the video gained traction on media channels, the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama issued a brief statement on April 10 to apologize for any offenses committed and to clarify the innocent intent of the interaction.*
In a separate video interview following the Dalai Lama's public event in February, the Indian student and his mother both expressed their joy at their audience with the Dalai Lama and receiving his blessings. The student who had asked to kiss the 87-year-old spiritual leader observed, “It was amazing to meet His Holiness. I think it's really a great experience to meet someone with such positive energy. It's a really nice feeling to meet him, and you get a lot of that positive energy.
In a public response to the recent social media backlash, Penpa Tsering, the sikyong or head of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), which represents the Tibetan community in exile, came out to publicly defend the Dalai Lama, noting that the incident recorded at the public event simply demonstrated the innocent and loving nature of His Holiness.
Tsering said in his April 13 message that the Dalai Lama had been "unfairly labeled with all kinds of names that really hurt the feelings of all his followers", and that the "grandfather's innocent and loving attitude" of the 87-year-old man had been misinterpreted.
CTA also issued a written statement, which shared in part:
His Holiness is the embodiment of compassion. It is a well-known fact that whether you are a young person, an adult, an old person, or whatever your national origin, He never belittles the questions you ask Him or the requests you make of Him. On the contrary, He does everything possible to satisfy everyone to the best of His ability. On some occasions, knowing that he has developed a sense of camaraderie, His Holiness interacts with others in clearly playful ways, such as pulling their beards or touching their cheek or nose with theirs. And so, His Holiness adopted many different ways of informally interacting with people wholeheartedly.
(Central Tibetan Administration)
Full Statement from the Central Tibetan Administration
Voices of support poured in from the Buddhist world. Prominent American Buddhist author, educator, and founder of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies, B. Alan Wallace, who was ordained a monk by the Dalai Lama in the 1970s, shared the following public statement on social media:
Dear sangha and friends,
We could not remain silent in the face of the outrageous slander spread against His Holiness the Dalai Lama, someone who could not have a more impeccable moral code, ethics and values. His kindness, care and love for all mankind is unmatched.
We'd like to share a few videos that shine a light on what really happened, the cultural context of what happened, as well as the likely reason why it was taken out of context and spread virally the way the most despicable, especially when journalists are complicit, and don't take the time to report the facts but prefer to jump on the bandwagon to generate publicity. Lies often generate more viewers than the truth at this time.
It is no coincidence that when this event took place on February 28, not a word was said about it, there was no outrage, only a joyful young boy who had the courage to ask His Holiness if he could give him a hug. In fact, His Holiness needed his translators to explain to him what the boy was asking.
A month later, after His Holiness announced that an eight-year-old boy had been identified as the reincarnation of the 10th Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa Rinpoche, the spiritual leader of the Gelug lineage in Mongolia, the lies and twisted stories began to unfold. emerge. Those familiar with Chinese government policy and their desire to control the narrative around Tibetan Buddhism expected a strong backlash since the CCP will only recognize Buddhist leaders they approve of, such as the Panchen Lama who has been detained since 1995, when he was first recognized at the age of six. China then appointed another Panchen Lama without any evidence that this was the real reincarnation.
These are the facts and the timeline of what happened.
Please take the time to watch the videos below to come to your own conclusions, rather than the clickbait stories that are in the media and on the internet. For those of us who have witnessed His Holiness the Dalai Lama for many years and decades, and who have benefited from his wisdom and compassion, there is only one prospect, this young boy has had the opportunity of a lifetime that most people would be happy to have.
Of all of us at the Santa Barbara Institute, this is the only view that is accurate and true.
(B. Alan Wallace Facebook)
Meanwhile, respected American Buddhist scholar and author and founder of Tibet House US in New York, Professor Robert AF Thurman, also issued a public statement, which was shared on video, in which he describes the interplay between the Dalai Lama and the Indian student as “a traditional Tibetan expression of affection – not sexual affection; grandparent to the child's affection":
As the media frenzy grew, Tibetan communities in India and around the world took to the streets to protest what they describe as a misrepresentation of circumstances and manipulated video footage. Not the least was the protest in Dharamsala, home to the Dalai Lama's official residence and temple.
In the high altitude region of Ladakh in the far north of India, where a significant part of the population is Tibetan Buddhist, thousands of people took to the streets in the joint capitals of Leh and Kargil in solidarity with Sa Holiness. The protesters, led by the Buddhist Association of Ladakh, condemned "recent conspiracies" to defame the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and demanded an apology from media platforms for their role in defaming the spiritual leader.
Both Leh and Kargil observed closures on Monday to protest the Dalai Lama's controversial video, describing the Dalai Lama's interaction with the Indian student as one of compassionate love and deep kindness towards a devotee.
In the United States, Tibetan communities in several states have held their own public displays of loyalty. The Tibetan Association of Northern California led a march that ended with a peace rally in San Francisco.
Meanwhile, in London, British Tibetans have called on the BBC news service to "provide real coverage" of the Dalai Lama. Community leaders gathered outside BBC headquarters, where they read a joint letter on news coverage by the British broadcaster, as well as a recent statement issued by Tibetan leaders and activists around the world entire. The joint letter stated in particular:
"As a world-class, publicly funded media broadcast house, we were deeply appalled that the BBC paid so much attention to seconds of ill-intentioned 'tampered with' viral footage. . . .
"We are writing to bring to your kind attention that the Tibetan community has been deeply hurt by the BBC's recent media coverage of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, as well as his heartfelt and compassionate greetings and his interaction with an Indian student.
We would have expected that, as a respected world-class media house, the BBC would be proactively committed to ensuring credible, insightful and serious investigative journalism, rather than directing the story of the same way as a sensationalist wildfire, like the rest of the tabloids did. . . .
“As followers of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, we firmly believe in our spiritual leader and no one can create the division he wishes and hopes for. The truth will come out in due time. We condemn the perpetrators for their malicious act against our spiritual guru. (ANI)
* Dalai Lama apologizes for inappropriate conduct with young boy (BDG)