The Dalai Lama has apologised after footage emerged showing him kissing a young boy on the lips and asking him to “suck my tongue”.
The Buddhist spiritual leader’s office said he wanted to apologise to the boy and his family “for the hurt his words may have caused”.
It said the 87-year-old “often teases people he meets in an innocent and playful way” but he “regrets the incident”.
The footage was taken from an event on 28 February when the Dalai Lama addressed a group of students at the Tsuglagkhang temple in Dharamshala, northern India.
In it, a young boy can be seen approaching a microphone and asking the Dalai Lama: “Can I hug you?”
The Nobel Peace Prize winner invites the boy on stage, saying “first here” and pointing to his cheek, which the boy kisses, before he says “then I think finally here also” and points to his lips.
He then pulls the boy’s chin towards him and kisses the child on the lips.
Laughter and clapping can be heard on the video.
They then touch heads, before the Dalai Lama says “and suck my tongue” and sticks out his tongue.
When the pair embrace later in the video the Dalai Lama tickles the young boy under the arms.
‘He regrets the incident’
In a statement the Dalai Lama’s office said: “A video clip has been circulating that shows a recent meeting when a young boy asked His Holiness the Dalai Lama if he could give him a hug.
“His Holiness wishes to apologise to the boy and his family, as well as his many friends across the world, for the hurt his words may have caused.
“His Holiness often teases people he meets in an innocent and playful way, even in public and before cameras. He regrets the incident.”
Sticking out one’s tongue is a form of greeting in the Dalai Lama’s native Tibet.
It is not the first time the Dalai Lama has caused controversy.
In 2019 he apologised for saying if his successor were a woman “she should be more attractive”.
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, was born in Tibet and has been living in India as a refugee since 1959 after he fled his home country following a failed uprising against Chinese rule.