News and Views on Tibet

Opinion: The Dalai Lama through the lens of a degrading world

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Illustration/ Ben Boothman at Agency Rush

By Kunchok Gyatso

A video clip dated March 28, 2023 went viral after more than a month on April 9, 2023, wherein the Dalai Lama is seen sticking his tongue out to invite a boy (who requested a hug from him) to suck it, triggered much criticisms, many on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook accusing him of being a pedophile. It is understandable, with the cropped clip alone being the standalone basis of fact.  So many rushed dead, crazily hitting the social media to troll the Dalai Lama in all sorts of harshest vilifications.

Days later in another viral clip wherein the same supposed victim boy is seen saying, “It was amazing meeting His Holiness. And it was really great experience meeting somebody with such great high positive energy. It’s a really nice feeling meeting him and you get lot of that positive energy. It’s not just that. Once you get the positive energy, you are happier, and you can smile a lot. It was a really good experience”.

This revelation was met with silence. The supposed victim is seen praising and thanking the supposed perpetrator rather than thanking the supposed supporters who were accusing the Dalai Lama of abusing him. It happens when you judge things without research.  

In the following days, many who had earlier charged the Dalai Lama came out, acknowledging that their judgment on the Dalai Lama was wrong and apologized for not having done background check. Dr. Laura Berman and Akash from USA and India respectively are two instances among many.

Generally, sticking tongue out and inviting a kid to suck it may not be an accepted social norm in any cultural context, be it that of the east or the west. This standalone incident cannot be justified by any reason or logic that one employs, regardless of whatever cultural perspective you cite.  However, reviewing the same case by contextualizing the whole scenario with before and after sequences gives you a different picture.

This recent “Suck my Tongue” row of the Dalai Lama is one such interesting case that is worth exploring for both fun and correction.  The question that automatically arises to those who are accusing the Dalai Lama is – “why has the family of the boy not only complained anything negative against the Dalai Lama but has embraced the moment saying we are very blessed.” There are video footages of their testimonials, who are actually supposed to be the first hand victims! The boy’s family neither complaining against the Dalia Lama, nor thanking the social media trolls for their solidarity, is prima facie evidence that establishes the Dalai Lama’s action on that day to be not incriminating.  Have we ever seen a case where the victim and his family celebrate and thank the perpetrator instead of demanding justice?

An apparent thing that I observed is the two different reactions from the audience. Those who understand the Dalai Lama and those who don’t understand him. Those who understand him has never found this action of the Dalai Lama condemnable.  In some instances, some have even gone to the extent of saying ‘HOW LUCKY THAT BOY IS.” Another interesting thing we all noticed is the fact that no intellectuals have condemned the incident. This speaks a lot about what the truth is!

Therefore, one needs to understand the Dalai Lama first to reach correct judgement; in the context of who is he; what he does and has done in life; what are his principles and beliefs; what better minds of the world, scholars and intellectuals, has to say about him etc.  Then I am sure a good, responsible and morally conscious citizen of the world can never afford to malign the Dalia Lama simply on the basis of what was seen in the clip.

“A high degree of intellect tends to make a man unsocial”- Arthur Schopenhauer.

The Dalai Lama is not mundane like us. What we consider heinously disgusting are normal for him and a scholastic being like him looks at the world from the different perspective. I am not talking of the Dalai Lama only, it applies to all the genuine intellectuals. It a philosophical perspective indeed, a way of looking at the world. A two-legged man is ridiculed and rejected in the world of only single legged inhabitants, considering him an abnormality. This gap is apparent! They are strong and secure. We are delicate and weak. They are proactive, while we are reactive. Many of what we believe concerning and important are meaningless for them. Only those with a certain intellect can see through this case.

We all live in an echo chamber with all sorts of self-created illusionary insecurities, ready to burst in reaction even to a mild disturbing appearance. We are programed that way, predominantly more driven by defensive thoughts like “WHO MAY HARM US” than receptive thoughts like “WHO MAY HELP US”, because of so many unnecessary and invalids suspicions that we harbor. Every smile, every handshake, every ‘Hi’ and ‘Bye’ that people around tender us are judged with preemptive suspicion of some hidden and contaminated ill-intent to harm. That patently makes us incapable of judging the case in its naked truth. Raining, no matter how heavy, is not a problem for a man swimming in a pool. But the same rain certainly becomes a problem for a man standing on the land.

The supposed victim and his mother thanking the Dalai lama instead of accusing leaves no room for allegation. The boy’s statement legally imposes upon those trolls a formal apology to the Dalai Lama.

But still, I don’t blame anyone who charge the Dalai Lama, provided they are acting out of an honest motive. Their anger is justified. What I contest is that their judgement is wrong, although inadvertently and accidentally. Therefore, I request all the critics of this case to study the Dalai Lama little more and then revisit your judgement to check if you are arriving at your same conclusion or not. I dare bet that a morally conscious person of an average intelligent will never arrive at the same conclusion.

Our world has seen a few peace builders whom the humanity will remain indebted forever. Gandhi and Mother Teresa of India, Mandela of South Africa, Martin Luther King Jr. of United States, Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev of former Soviet Union, Desmond Tutu of South Africa – are some to be named of. And the Dalai Lama of Tibet is one among them. This is history which nobody can deny. History of mankind will not let anyone discredit his contribution in world peace building simply on the basis of a two seconds’ cropped clip used by the media. He alone is an institutional point of reference when it comes to the matter of peace. This is not a Tibetan claim. This is an international acknowledgement. His legacy as an ambassador of peace will be remembered for posterity.

The matter is not about the Dalia Lama as a person; rather it’s about the world requiring more peace and less violence. Many world leaders, if not all, listen to him and his principles. His thoughts and principles are valued all over the world, with the hope of handing over a better world to the coming generations. And most importantly, this is not a Tibetan claim again. This is an international acknowledgement.

Conferment of prestigious international awards like Nobel Peace Prize and more than 300 + plus honorary degrees by world’s renowned universities is not because he is rich and powerful, but a recognition of his contribution in world peace building. Millions of followers across the globe see him as a source of comfort and relief in the midst of this stressful so-called competition driven modern world today. Many wars, which otherwise would have occurred and cost many human lives, had avoided to peaceful settlement in the past because of his teaching and messages. – Writers rush to co-author books with him. Companies quote his words to endorse their brand. Universities confer degrees to establish their recognition. Scientists listen to add to their research thesis. – Posterity will not forgive us for the allegation that some have levelled against him. 

(The views expressed are his own)

The writer is a corporate legal counsel based in Bengaluru, India.

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