Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh is calibrated irritant in Sino-India relations. Photo: Reuters
Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh is calibrated irritant in Sino-India relations. Photo: Reuters

Frankly speaking, it requires a great deal of ignorance and sexism to objectify women in response to a question asked by a female interviewer – especially when it is not your first time. Mr Lhamo Thondup, more famously known as His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, is a master of throwing sexist remarks at women, and then easily getting away with it.

When he was first asked in a 1992 interview by Vogue’s Paris editor about the possibility of a female Dalai Lama in future, he responded, “Certainly, if that would be more helpful,” but added that she should be attractive. Again in 2014 in an interview with Larry King he recalled what he had said in 1992, and to reinforce that, he made awkward facial expressions to show how an unattractive woman looks to him.

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In 2015 to the British Broadcasting Corporation he said a female Dalai Lama would not be of “much use” if she was not good-looking. And finally in 2019 – last week – he repeated the same sort of comments as he said that for human beings “the appeal is also very important,” and therefore “the people will not see that face” of a future female Dalai Lama if she is not attractive.

Preaching the message of equality, love, compassion, justice and “the importance of inner beauty,” but not being willing to accept what he considers an unattractive woman as his successor, is pure hypocrisy. But for many, “His Holiness” was trying to be a little humorous with his four-times-repeated sexist remarks, and therefore they should be overlooked; after all, he is preaching the lessons of humanity and equality at the same time. “Buddha on the first day totally rejected the caste system … and [he] treated equally male and female,” he said after laughingly articulating the importance of attractiveness for a female Dalai Lama – presenting you, ladies and gentlemen, the first-ever “paradoxical Dalai Lama.”

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Whether you like it or not, in general, repeating the same mistake more than thrice is not a mistake, but simply shows that you are “not beautiful from inside,” no matter how attractive your hair is, or how shiny your bald head is.

His latest comments sparked outrage on social media, and to cool it down, his office issued a clarification on his official website. It says, “He is deeply sorry that people have been hurt by what he said and offers his sincere apologies.” Does it work like that? You keep doing the same thing over and over again and then try to get away with it by offering a “humble” apology?

Not this time, sir. You think that women must be attractive if they are to preach the message of love, humanity, compassion and equality, as if they are somehow intellectually or spiritually weaker than men, and to acquire the same position as men do, it is important that they possess a nice face. All human beings are equal, and no discrimination should be made on the basis of gender, attractiveness, caste, culture, religion, or sexual orientation.

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For the last 60 years Mr Thondup, aka the Dalai Lama, has been living as a refugee in India. He has set up the Government of Tibet in Exile in Dharamshala, but no one is asking him to leave the country. India accepted him with open arms, and after this long period, he and his followers are living happily there. And yet he has this characteristic of not practicing what he preaches; in the same interview last week, he said Europeans should keep Europe for European people, and after getting an education and acquiring skills, the refugees must return to their homelands and make contributions for their development.

With a burst of laughter – as if the refugee crisis and migration are a joke to him – he said that because Europe has a cold climate, migrants from Africa, Afghanistan and the Middle East are better off in their own homelands. For him, migration could eventually turn Europe into a Muslim land, or an African land. Following his logic, one might conclude that the whole state of Himachal Pradesh will turn into a “Tibetan Buddhist Himachal Pradesh” if the Dalai Lama and his followers do not return to their homeland, Tibet.

Living as a refugee in India, he must have acquired a lot of education and productive skills; so when he is going back to Tibet to contribute to its socio-economic development?

Ali Salman Andani

The writer is a journalist and economic and political analyst and columnist for Asia Times and various online and print media outlets. His analysis focuses on economic, political, social and cultural issues, especially those related to corruption, human rights violations, the global market economy, foreign policy, and environmental crises. Find him on Twitter @an_alisalman

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