This is April 27 2023. And I'd like to weigh in this morning on the incident with the Dalai Lama and the boy that happened this past winter, February, I think.
So I feel
compelled to do this, because the incident has been broadcast so widely. In fact, here where we're living now, even non Sangha friends of ours, not definitely non Buddhists have raised it gingerly asking what that's all about. And there's much more to it than than meets the eye as far as what is widely been reported. So, here's the deal. For those of you who don't haven't heard, or you need a refresher, in February 28 There was a video released of a, an interaction between the Dalai Lama and an Indian boy leaving many of the 6.7 million Tibetans across the world in distress and shock over the way their language and culture were misinterpreted.
The video which went viral, shows the Dalai Lama asking a kid to supposedly in the in the widely disseminated words to asking a kid to suck his tongue. And this led to public outrage and, and led to hundreds of Tibetans coming out and telling the world it's not what it sounds like. So in the video, I've watched it's about a five minute video, maybe less. I watched it a couple of times.
the boy is seen asking the Dalai Lama for a hug. And after that, the Dalai Lama blessed him and asked him to kiss him. And then the Dalai Lama stuck out his tongue saying suck my tongue. And this led to people across the world blaming the Dalai Lama for behaving inappropriately and even being a pedophile people are across the world every day are just itching to find things to be outraged about online.
some some of this, I'm reading from Vice World News that the meaning of this expression which the Dalai Lama kind of bungled in his broken English, the meaning of it is used to tease and teach children, and that it's completely lost in cultural interpretation. And it's English translation. The correct phrase and Tibetan for this little teasing joking thing is che lei Sangha which roughly translates to eat my tongue. The Dalai Lama didn't learn English, they say until he turned 48. He didn't start, he still hasn't learned at ease is quite limited. But he didn't start learning it till he was 48. So it's not by no means the first time that he would have misused the English language. Here's more about this Tibetan phrase Chile SA and I'm reading from the Tibetan rites, news or something like that. In Tibetan culture, it is common to see the old grandparents not only give a pop kiss to the small children, but also give a small candy or piece of food to children from their mouths, directly mouth to mouth. This may not be the norm of your culture that this is commonly done in Tibet. After the elder gives a pop kiss and the candy and there is nothing left in their mouth nothing left to give. They will say the phrase, okay now eat my tongue not suck as His Holiness misspoke due to his less proficient English. So that's been praises Charlie saw they say that as an I've given you all my love and the candy. So that's it, that's all I have left to I have to do is all that's left to do is eat my tongue. Okay. So that's the linguistic part of all this
there's another aspect of this that's that is where a certain US based Tibetan journalist told vice World News that in Tibetan culture, sticking out the tongue is a sign of respect or agreement. And it dates back to a legend around a cool ninth century King, who had a black tongue.
And the same Tibetan based US based Tibetan journalists said, since then, people have shown their tongue as a way of saying that they are not like this evil king. It's a sign of blessing. This journalist said, when a kid wants to hug an elderly, elderly man, the old man complies, and then gives a kiss as a grandfather or a father would and plays with a kid. Here's more on this this is a Tibetan feminist educator in India by the name of Kay song. She goes by one name just case on case on told vice World News that suck my tongue and Tibetan is also a game for the elders to deter cheeky kids from pestering them. The word suck in the Tibetan language is zip. And this is not a word that is sexualized in our culture. She said I guess we've established that it was sock is not correct, it's Eat eat my tongue, and that it's not sexualized. And this case on works on the prevention of child sexual abuse in the Tibetan and Himalayan communities and said that It's distressing to see an innocent expression in their culture being equated with an act of pedophilia.
It reads in this article that the Vice World News did not get a response from the child's family who run this certain foundation M three M foundation that organize this February meet and greet in Dharamsala. Dharamsala is the seat of the Dalai Lama's government in exile. But in an interview clip, released by voice of Tibet, a Dharamsala based media outlet that live streamed the event to when the reporter asks the boy how it feels to be hugged by the Dalai Lama. He said it was an amazing experience meeting the Dalai Lama and he experienced high positive energy from the interactions.
So let me paint more of a picture of what happened there as far as the very brief video clip that I saw. There are a lot of people in the room. The Dalai Lama is sitting on some kind of a Deus and he has a maybe eight or 10 people up there with him. Most of them ma'am. And and then for just just for a moment the camera turns to the the audience the audience are about it's a very tight frame but all that showed In this one segment of the audience, we're school children children from some kind of an academy. They had the mortar boards in their head so it's some kind maybe some kind of a little graduation thing at the Academy. And and it shows the boy starts the video starts with the boy standing at a microphone there before the Dalai Lama. And his exquisite little boy posture, just like little girl posture, were completely straight shoulders dropped and sang in the in the, in the, to the microphone saying, Can I give you a hug? And this left the Dalai Lama confused? He didn't understand the expression give you a hug. And so some 20 or 30 seconds goes by where the the people closest to him. And his left and his right are muttering I guess and maybe in Tibetan, telling the Dalai Lama what the boy has, can I give you a hug? And then as soon as the penny dropped and the Dalai Lama got it? He said, Yes, come on, come up here. And everyone laughed. I was all good fun. And then the kid bounded up to the, to the day except to the Dalai Lama and and gave him a hug the Dalai Lama. Put one arm around, the kid pulled him in close to a shoulder, and then the kid still standing there straight. They sort of separate for a minute. And the Dalai Lama, they're quite close, the heads are quite close. And then that's when the Dalai Lama has said, Now suck my tongue in my tongue. And, and he pulled up at the kid is Indian. So whether he knew about this Tibetan phrase, I don't know. But he's on board. And Dalai Lama pulls him in close his head and they touch first they touch for us. That's, that's something that is also very common in Tibet. I actually, when I was there, for a five day conference with the Dalai Lama, some 30 years ago, had his his, at his palace there. He did that with me for the forehead as he did with the other 20 or so participants, Western Buddhist teachers. And then, then with this in this video, the Dalai Lama. Let's see, what did he do? Then he stuck out his tongue. Remember, that's the gesture of goodwill. And, and then, and then there was a pause and they said, Nah, suck my tongue. And the boy very, very slowly came in. And I actually think he has the boys tongue never touched the Dalai Lama's tongue. Darren llama pretty much waited for the boy to come to him. And then there was just general laughter. And
that was it
there was a there was a little more, or the boys sort of turned to leave and, and the Dalai Lama sort of pulled him back and, and they hugged again. But there's another important aspect to all this, which is China. And I'll read again from this article and vice World News. A certain Tibetan filmmaker, and music composer, told vice world knows that there are immense geopolitical repercussions of the misinterpretation of that video. And he said, everybody knows China is behind this without giving an evidence that China was involved. It goes on to say that at a press conference on Thursday in Delhi, Pampa Tsering, a political leader of the exiled Tibetan government said their investigations showed pro Chinese sources being involved in making the video go viral. The political angle of this incident cannot be ignored. He said. Tibetan human rights groups have previously documented it online campaigns, aiming to discredit the Dalai Lama and paint occupied Tibet as a quote contented and idyllic Chinese province.
And goes on to the article goes on to say the most prominent campaign is called the 50 cent party. These are internet commentators who are paid Waldau or 5050 cents in the United States by Chinese authorities to Post Pro China messaging. In 2020, this army was linked to 7000 Troll attacks, and over 50,000 comments at a Geneva forum run by the Tibetan parliament in exile. The the session was on the persecution of religious minorities, Tibetan Buddhists Uighur Muslims, Christians and following Gong practitioners in regions under Chinese control in his YouTube video, saw and so linked the virality to a significant development last month. And excuse me, this article is dated April 14, yeah, this is when I came across it like quite recently a couple weeks ago. And so this was this incident and how it went viral last month is linked to the Dalai Lama naming a Mongolia born American boy as the third highest spiritual leader in Tibetan Buddhism. Now China has consistently asserted its role in choosing the next Dalai Lama, if you can believe that. It's outrageous, and to have this position enshrined in Chinese law. The ceremony the ceremony, which the Dalai Lama named a Mongolian born American boy is the third highest spiritual leader in Tibet shook them to speculate that they now retired Dalai Lama still still continues to remain a political religious force to reckon with across Buddhists nations including Tibet. The video surfaced literally a week after the ceremony with a Mongolian boy, the timing was once again like clockwork to sway the public's opinion about Tibet and his holiness.
His Holiness is the
is how Tibetan Buddhists all over the world typically refer to the Dalai Lama, we say the Dalai Lama, it's hard for me to say the phrase, His Holiness. When in Zen, we know that there was this, this, this encounter back in the sixth century between the emperor of China and Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen, where the, the Emperor asked Bodhidharma what is the first principle rather the essence of the holy teaching, and to which Bodhidharma famously replied, vast emptiness and nothing to be called holy? To which the Emperor having in his mind seeing Bodhidharma as holy, He said, well, then who is standing before me? To which Bodhidharma even more famously replied, I don't know.
So nothing holy.
And then this, this fellow, said that the, what he called horrifying accusations by trolls, media and influencers, are clearly led and paid for by China. China has successfully weaponized social media at an unprecedented scale. He said, The most successful propaganda is the one that doesn't pose as such. I have absolutely no doubt that China, China had a hand in this. His fingerprints are all over it. China has been trying to get rid of a Dalai Lama ever since he fled China in 1951. He is a A thorn in their side because as long as he is alive, he represents the independence as, as the government, the leader of the government in exile, Tibet in India, he is the living embodiment of a Tibetan people and their independence. Probably most of you know that after China took over Tibet in 1951, they have in those 70, some years they have done everything they can to subjugate the Tibetan people to, to incorporate to try to incorporate Tibet into China. And I don't know I haven't been tracking it for quite a few years. And at one point, they resorted to interbreeding where they found a way to compel Tibetans to mate with Chinese as a way of just diluting the whole Tibetan culture it's it's it's pretty ghastly what they've been doing
so aside from China's role in this most likely of his problems probable role in this let's let's let me just say what, what I can weigh in on the likelihood that there is anything anything
seriously inappropriate about what the Dalai Lama did. A few things. He's, he's famous, he has been his whole life for being playful. Here's another thing as I said, it was a room full of people. This is obviously nothing underhanded here. His I mentioned his broken English with the word sock instead of the proper word to eat my tongue. And most of all, he is, as most of the world will attest that he's someone of just absolutely Sterling moral character, and reputation. He's a true monk. He's, he took vows of lifelong celibacy. And I've never heard that those are ever broken.
And the other hand is 87.
Men tend to get disinhibited at that age, in their 80s, or even seven days and can say things or do things that they wouldn't have earlier. And now with the with the advantage of, of hindsight, or Monday morning quarterbacking, I think it's fair to say that the Dalai Lama, if you see the video, the Dalai Lama was not perfectly faultless in this encounter. And then this is all I mean, is that he, if you see him bringing the boy back in after the thing with the tongue, and the boy seemed he seemed finished, the boy was starting to turn away, and the Dalai Lama pulled him in again and against his shoulder and, and held them still for quite a while, like 10 seconds or so. The boy seemed okay, from what the camera showed. He just held him there. And my impression right or wrong, my impression is that the guy llama may have been a little cleaning.
And that too, I can
can kind of understand. I mean, he's looking at this beautiful, beautiful child as all children are. The children is looking straight into his face just inches from his face, wide eyed in the center, as all children are. How old was the boy maybe? Seven? I don't know, about a guessing ages. But I can. I mean, imagine coming up as A cian, those of you who've been to seven day sesshin ins and looking at a child it's it's it sublime. And especially in here, I'm going to cut him some slack here. He's been carrying the weight of the whole Tibetan nation, the whole Tibetan culture on his shoulders for 70 some years now, and to have a little interlude there, where this beautiful boy is just simply asking for a hug and just standing there no agenda. You know, all is magnificent simplicity this child, and I can understand why the Dalai Lama was kind of in thrall to the boy. And I'm sure that for the first time, Guyana loves children. But yeah, I do wonder whether there was a Dalai Lama's part there was a little bit of a lack of the sense of the fineness of things as Roshi Kapleau is a phrase I picked up from Roshi Kapleau A lack of a sense of the fitness of things that he may not have been picking up on the boys were the boy was that the boys seemed finished before the Dalai Lama was finished. Boy seemed ready to go back to his seat. There was no corrosion. It just seemed a little clean you there. So there, that's that's all. That's all I have to quarrel with about to pick at with the Dalai Lama's behavior. I think though, on the whole, I would defend them every day of the year as to as to what happened there. He did issue an apology. We're told someone here as well, why or if he's was so innocent, it was all just this linguistic mix up and, and so forth. And why did he apologize? Well, I think one thing that we've learned in seeing politicians get into dust ups here or there is the fastest way to get beyond that and have people stop chewing on it is to apologize. When in doubt, apologize. You see this all the time in, in international relations and in government? And I think it's a smart thing to do. He may have been him who knows maybe the Dalai Lama later felt Yeah, I mean, with with his level of self awareness, which is off the charts surely have once heard the Dalai Lama does he start each day with six hours of meditation has a lot of self awareness. So so who knows I'm just speculating here. Of course, maybe he did. Later think I was. I was a little clingy there. And anyway, he just wanted to put it behind him. He's, he's a, he's a consummate diplomat, the Dalai Lama. He's a world leader. He knows how these things go. And I can easily see him either on his own or at the urging of his advisors just just apologize, and let's move on.
But I think there's a bigger and bigger thing here bigger Dharma point that I would like to make, which is that in going back to the Dalai Lama, the Dalai Lama's age and tendency among men to get disinhibited
that there is no fixed person there.
This is this is the Dharma. This is the essence of the Dharma that that the Dalai Lama on a Tuesday is not the same Dalai Lama as on a Monday.
This is the teaching of no self.
This is what Bodhidharma meant, when he said vast emptiness and nothing to be called holy. The Dalai Lama himself, has many times said, I'm just a simple mock. And he allows the the this term this term, His Holiness, because that's the tradition that's been going on for centuries and I can understand that, but all of my contact with the Dalai Lama directly or indirectly, I would very strongly assume that he knows there's no self there. And, and so yeah. Let's not put them in a box. Let's not think that there's, there's any substance there. There's no little man in there. It's unchanging from year to year. And I think that's what we can take from this is that to the small degree, that what he did was a little inadvisable the way he held the boy two or three times. Let's let's see that as just further evidence of the Dharma, there is no unchanging person there as there is nowhere with us, we so we're so eager to or are habituated, that's a much better. We're so habituated to fixing people, ourselves, of course, but also those close to us and politicians and others as unchanging. And that is relatively true mean we don't change drastically from week to week. But the truth is that we're never the same completely exactly the same. From from day to day. This phrase from one of the koans, in the Blue Cliff Record, has springs to mind. No Holy One, to be seen in the Emerald palace or the Dalai Lama's palace. We don't need to make them holy. He's he's equally endowed with this True Self that is no self same as as we have. We are no less so than he is no more so than we