Natural Dharma Fellowship affirms, first and foremost, that we stand with survivors and believe in naming misconduct when it is identified. NDF also stands in solidarity with the Dalai Lama amid the misleading news coverage of an exchange, taken out of context, between His Holiness and a young Indian student. What has been misconstrued as an inappropriate sexual advance was actually intended as a gesture of playfulness that was welcomed by the student and his parents.
In a world replete with actual scandals and falls from grace of religious leaders, it’s easy to assume misconduct. The content of the video clip, in and of itself, could understandably trigger concern for the welfare of the student and judgment of the Dalai Lama. Those of us who have survived abuse or been affected by the fallout from scandals are understandably vigilant.
However, context is nuanced, and a fuller picture of what led up to the interaction and what followed yields a subtler understanding. The interaction occurred at a public talk by His Holiness in February. Curiously, it was not until five weeks later that a doctored video clip of the incident surfaced and went viral. The clip’s metastasis over social media occurred when the CCP (Communist Party of China) was seething over the Dalai Lama’s recent recognition of an important reincarnate lama, and while China was conducting three days of war games to intimidate recent movements toward Taiwanese independence.
In complex situations such as this, it is essential to employ discriminating awareness to discern what happened. While we believe this interaction has been overblown and harnessed for political reasons, we believe that an informed response is a wise response. So we would like to share the following statements, articles, and videos from reputable sources.
Short statements for a quick summary of the situation:
- Statement on Misconstrued Video Clip of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, by Lobsang Tenzin Negi, Executive Director of Emory University’s Center for Contemplative Science & Compassion-Based Ethics (April 18)
- Addressing the Slander of His Holiness the Dalai Lama—a statement from the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies, of which B. Alan Wallace is the Founder and President (April 17)
- An Unwavering Commitment to Compassion—Statement from Susan Bauer-Wu (President) and Thupten Jinpa (Board Chair), Mind & Life Institute (April 24)
Medium-length articles for more context:
- Statement by Lobsang Tenpa, translator and faculty member, Tibet House US (April 14)
- Opinion: We Need to Think About the Dalai Lama’s Actions Very Carefully—Tricycle Buddhist Review (April 17)
Videos for deeper exploration of the nuanced cultural and geopolitical context:
- HH Dalai Lama, Archetype of Radical Innocence: On the Recent Viral Video, by Robert Thurman, Professor Emeritus of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Columbia University (April 15)
- Stop Sensationalizing the Dalai Lama’s Innocent Interactions: A Tibetan’s Perspective: Part One (April 11) and Part Two (April 16). Note: This two-part video clearly explains the cultural context of the encounter, how and why it has been sensationalized into a clickbait story, and the individuals and fake accounts responsible for manipulating the video and turning it viral.
- Statement to the media by Tibetan Prime Minister Penpa Tserin (April 13)
NDF remains committed to our Code of Ethics and to providing a safe space for our Sangha.
May His Holiness the Dalai Lama live a long and healthy life and continue to shine a light in our troubled world. And may all survivors be believed and held in community, and be connected to sources of love, support, and healing.