Dalai Lama apologizes after kissing boy, asking him to 'suck' his tongue

FILE - Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama speaks during the launch of the book Gandhi and Health @150’ which the Dalai Lama released at Mcleod Ganj on March 20, 2019, in Dharamshala, India. (Photo by Pallava Bagla/Getty Images)

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama apologized on Monday after a video showing him kissing a boy on the lips and then asking the child to "suck my tongue" sparked an outcry.

A statement posted on his official social media channels said the 87-year-old leader regretted the incident.

"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," the statement reads. "His Holiness wishes to apologize 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," the statement added.

The incident occurred at a public gathering in February at the Tsuglakhang temple in Dharamsala, where the exiled leader lives, according to the Associated Press. He was taking questions from the audience when the boy asked if he could hug him.

The Dalai Lama invited the boy up toward the platform he was seated on. In the video, he gestured to his cheek, after which the child kissed him before giving him a hug.

The Dalai Lama then asked the boy to kiss him on the lips and stuck out his tongue. "And suck my tongue," the Dalai Lama can be heard saying as the boy sticks out his own tongue and leans in, prompting laughter from the audience.

The footage triggered a backlash online with social media users condemning his behavior as inappropriate and disturbing.

The Dalai Lama has made the hillside town of Dharmsala his headquarters since fleeing from Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. India considers Tibet to be part of China, though it hosts Tibetan exiles.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. It was reported from Cincinnati.