Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has apologised after a video showing him kissing a child on the lips triggered criticism.
A statement posted on his official website said the 87-year-old leader regretted the incident and wished to “apologise to the boy and his family, as well as his many friends across the world, for the hurt his words may have caused”.
The incident occurred at a public gathering in February at the Tsuglakhang temple in Dharamsala, India, where the exiled leader lives.
He was taking questions from the audience when the boy asked if he could hug him.
The Dalai Lama then asked the boy to kiss him on the lips and stuck out his tongue.
“And suck my tongue,” the Dalai Lama can be heard saying as the boy sticks out his own tongue and leans in, prompting laughter from the audience.
The footage triggered a backlash online with social media users condemning his behaviour as inappropriate and disturbing.
“His Holiness often teases people he meets in an innocent and playful way, even in public and before cameras,” the statement from the Dalai Lama read.