Dear Dalai Lama, your views are misogynistic, regressive, racist, and unacceptable
Turns out, nobody is perfect.
The Dalai Lama was in conversation with the BBC last week, when he made a comment stating that in case a woman succeeds him, she should be “attractive, otherwise it’s not much use”. This was a remark he had first made in 2015, which BBC asked him to comment on again. While laughing, the Tibetan spiritual leader said, “If a female Dalai Lama comes, she should be more attractive”. He then went on to make an expression of distaste, saying if the female Dalai Lama were unattractive, “people, I think prefer not to see her, that face”.
You can watch this part of the interview in the video below:
This was perhaps the most surprising moment in the interview. I asked the Dalai Lama if he stood by his earlier comment that if his successor was female, she should be attractive.— Rajini Vaidyanathan (@BBCRajiniV) June 27, 2019
He said he did. Watch here:#DalaiLama #BBCDalaiLama. pic.twitter.com/QAy0EFDZTT
I guess we’re lucky the Dalai Lama saying this is, himself, the impeccable epitome of beauty. Thank the stars he’s so attractive because if we weren’t attracted to him, why else would we go see him for spiritual guidance that has nothing to do with his looks?
Here’s the thing - the Dalai Lama has issued a statement of apology. “His Holiness genuinely meant no offense. He is deeply sorry that people have been hurt by what he said and offers his sincere apologies,” his office said in a statement to CNN on Tuesday.
Being sorry for saying things that hurt people is great - but it doesn’t erase a consistently held misogynistic view. It doesn’t take away from the damage that has been done. His message has always been about the health of the soul being more important than the physical body - but does this not apply to women?
Attractive Inside or Out?
Breaking down the real meaning of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s “attractive” for people who jump to conclusions without knowing the whole context. And yes first watch the interview. #DalaiLama #BBCSuchALetDown pic.twitter.com/c9VTFCmLlT— Tenzin Khando (@LaKhando) June 30, 2019
Let’s give him some leeway and suppose that he meant, if a female Dalai Lama were to come, she would have to be pleasant, welcoming, attractive in the spiritual sense. Do these standards not apply to men? Why is approachability the first thing that comes to mind when confronted with the idea of a female Dalai Lama, rather than the miles she could go for female empowerment, Chinese negotiations, and Tibetan self governance?
The Dalai Lama's problematic views from the BBC interview don’t stop there. On discussing the global immigration crisis, he warned that the whole of Europe could become ‘Muslim or African’ unless migrants are returned to their home countries. "A limited number is OK, but the whole of Europe [will] eventually become Muslim country, African country - impossible," he said. The irony of these statements coming from the most noteworthy political refugee in the world, is not lost on anyone. His fundamentalist views were underscored by his point that “Europe is for Europeans”.
The BBC notes that while the Dalai Lama is “a spiritual figurehead, he is also a politician with views and opinions like everyone else”. This humanisation of an idolised leader with celebrity status is important - but it does not create room for forgiveness. You cannot hold the kind of position he does, and still be granted the same leeway as regular politicians. Public perception of him in the past week has reflected this view. According to Sanjana Dhawan, a legal academic focussed on Asian conflict studies, "When you're in a position of power, you simply do not have the luxury of messing up. The standards that we hold our spiritual and political leaders to are high, because they dictate the conversation around which our attention swirls. There can be no question of absolving responsilbility with an easy apology from thier representatives."
Oh well. At least he had the presence of mind, in the same interview, to recognise that Donald Trump has “no moral principle”. Maybe some day he will recognise that they share views on women and immigration, and might eventually start to see Trump as a peer.
I suppose Harvey Dent was right - You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.