The Dalai Lama is “deeply sorry” about comments he made about women in a recent BBC interview, his office said in a statement on Tuesday (2).
The Tibetan spiritual leader made no apology however for saying that US president Donald Trump had a “lack of moral principle” and “complicated” emotions.
“(In) responding to a question about whether his own reincarnation could be a woman, and suggesting that if she were she should be attractive, His Holiness genuinely meant no offence,” the statement said.
“He is deeply sorry that people have been hurt by what he said and offers his sincere apologies.”
The comments, which attracted criticism around the world, were made in an interview with the British broadcaster aired last week from the Nobel peace prize winner’s exile in Dharamsala in northern India.
“If female Dalai Lama comes, then she should be more attractive,” he had said. “If female Dalai Lama, oh, oh… that people, I think prefer, not see her, that face.”
“His Holiness, a monk now in his mid-eighties, has a keen sense of the contradictions between the materialistic, globalized world he encounters on his travels and the complex, more esoteric ideas about reincarnation that are at the heart of Tibetan Buddhist tradition,” the new statement said.
“However, it sometimes happens that off the cuff remarks, which might be amusing in one cultural context, lose their humour in translation when brought into another. He regrets any offence that may have been given.
“For all his long life, His Holiness has opposed the objectification of women, has supported women and their rights and celebrated the growing international consensus in support of gender equality and respect for women,” it added.
It said that the original context of his referring to the physical appearance of a female successor was a conversation with the then Paris editor of Vogue magazine.
“She asked if a future Dalai Lama could be a woman. His Holiness replied, ‘Certainly, if that would be more helpful,’ adding, as a joke, that she should be attractive. He was at least partially responding to the unfamiliar ambience of working with a team whose prime focus was the world of high fashion,” the statement said.
– Trump’s emotions –
On Trump, the Dalai Lama, 83, had said: “One day he says something, another day he says something… But I think (there is a) lack of moral principle.”
“When he became president he expressed ‘America First’. That is wrong. America they should take the global responsibility,” he said, adding that Trump’s emotions are “also a little bit… too complicated”.
The statement from his office made no reference to these comments.
In the BBC interview he had also reiterated his views on immigration into Europe, saying that the continent should educate and train immigrants with a view to them returning home.
“But whole Europe eventually become Muslim country? Impossible. Or African country. Also impossible… Keep Europe for Europeans,” he had said.
The new communique said that these comments “may have been misinterpreted”, saying that he “appreciates that many of those who leave their countries may not wish or be able to return”.
“His Holiness regularly cautions against allowing the divisive idea of ‘us’ and ‘them’ to flourish.
“He suggests that a solution to many of the problems we face in the world today is to remind ourselves that as human beings we are all brothers and sisters belonging to one human family, and that together we can take action to address the global challenges that confront us.”