In April, a video clip of the Dalai Lama interacting with a boy at an February event in India went viral, causing concern and outrage the world over. These responses varied from impassioned cries from Tibetans saying the Dalai Lama–and Tibetan culture more broadly–had been maligned through a highly edited clip of a much longer, completely innocent interaction. Yet, other commentators who viewed the longer, unedited video still felt the Dalai Lama had failed to respect the boy’s bodily autonomy and had even crossed the line into child sexual abuse. In this session, we will examine the interaction and the cultural context within which it occurred, what the Dalai Lama actually did and said, the boy and his family’s response, and the meaning of the apology offered by the Dalai Lama’s office. We will also examine the roots of the video clip and the impact of the framing, including the blurring of the boy’s face. This presentation will deepen our understanding of varied cultural notions of intergenerational humor, evolving notions of children’s bodily autonomy, the geo-political context in which this edited video arose, the perils of refugee existence, and the necessity of respected religious/moral leaders on the international stage to condemn the pandemic of clergy sexual abuse. We will also hear from Tibetans, Buddhist child sexual abuse survivors, and survivor activists who have personal relationships with the Dalai Lama. There will be ample time for q&a and honest, open hearted discussion.


sujatha baliga, Dr. Tenzin Mingyur Paldron

Area of Focus

Child Sexual Abuse