The Dalai Lama has embarrassed or angered millions of his followers and women activists by saying that any female successor to his role must be “very attractive” to do the job, agencies say.
The Tibetan spiritual leader shocked a senior BBC interviewer Clive Myrie by saying that a woman aspiring to be his successor would not be the suitable choice if she is ugly.
“That female must be attractive, otherwise it is not much use,” he said.
The interview took place during Dalai Lama’s nine-day visit to London as part of a drive to spread the message of compassion and considerate bahavior.
His latest remarks may disappoint many of his female followers.
The interviewer asked him whether a woman can possibly take over his role when he turns 90. He said there is nothing wrong in a woman taking the role and recalled an interview he gave to a French woman reporter years ago.
He had then said that a woman Dalai Lama was ideal “in our troubled world”, as she would have “biologically more potential to show affection and compassion.”
Leaning forward to the BBC interviewer, he added with a smile: “Then I told that reporter: ‘If it is a female, the face should be very attractive.’”
When Myrie asked him whether he was joking, the Dalai Lama said he was not.
He then joked that his own success is largely due to his attractiveness.
A visibly embarrassed Myrie then quickly changed the subject to his “role as a religious rock star”.
In a BBC website article that summarised the Dalai Lama’s broadcasted remarks, his comments on women were excluded.
Instead, it focused on his appeal to Europe not to shut the door on refugees fleeing the Middle East.
The spiritual leader has drawn criticism from women’s rights groups and social media observers since making the surprising comment.
“You’d think that as someone who’s all about learning and enlightenment he’d have figured a few things out,” read one posting on the feminist blog Jezebel.com.
Senior advocate and women rights activist in India Abha Singh denounced Dalai Lama’s comment.
“I condemn the Dalai Lama’s statement and request him to apologise to the women of the world because he doesn’t belong to a country, but to the whole world,” Singh said.
Indian social activist Sudha Ramalingam described Dalai Lama’s comment as subjective and atrocious.
“I welcome the fact that women can also become the Dalai Lama, but the fact is that he also speaks of the beauty of a person i.e. the physical beauty, that is atrocious. I think beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. It is a very subjective matter and he should not be commenting like this,”
”I don’t want to impute motives to anything, may be he is right in common parlance, but definitely not politically right,” she added.
During an earlier interview with CBS host Norah O’Donnell, he had expressed his weakness for beautiful women.
When O’Donnell asked him about his weakness for beautiful wome, he said: “Seeing– beautiful women, yes. Oh. So beautiful. But then, as a monk, thinking — the children.”
In an interview he gave to American journalist Claudia Dreifus in 1993, his response to a question about his weakness was blunt.
“Other weaknesses are, I think, anger and attachments. I’m attached to my watch and my prayer beads. Then, of course, sometimes beautiful women. . . . But then, many monks have the same experience. Some of it is curiosity: If you use this, what is the feeling? [Points to his groin],” he said.
“Then, of course, there is the feeling that something sexual must be something very happy, a marvelous experience. When this develops, I always see the negative side.
“There’s an expression from Nagurajuna, one of the Indian masters: “If you itch, it’s nice to scratch it. But it’s better to have no itch at all,” he said.
“Similarly with the sexual desire. If it is possible to be without that feeling, there is much peace. [Smiles.] And without sex, there’s no worry about abortion, condoms, things like that,” he said.
The Dalai Lama, whose real name is Tenzin Gyatso, is now 80. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, and is feted by activists and celebrities in the West for his advocacy of independence for Tibet and other causes.
According to Tibetan Buddhist tradition, when he is aged around 90, he will decide with other Buddhist leaders whether a successor – a “reincarnation” -should take on the role of being the 15th Dalai Lama.