In a recent interview with the BBC, the 14th Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, expresses some controversial ideas about female leadership and the gender’s innate inclination toward compassion. (Jezebel was right on it right away.)
At around the 4:50 mark in the video (below), when journalist Clive Myrie asks whether the Dalai Lama’s 15th reincarnation could be a woman, he responds with an enthusiastic “Yes!” explaining that females “biologically [have] more potential to show affection . . . and compassion.”
But he soon qualifies his endorsement, saying, “If female Dalai Lama come, the face must be very very . . . should be very attractive.”
When Myrie, in disbelief, repeats the Dalai Lama’s statement to get clarification, the Tibetan monk sticks to his guns: “I mean if female Dalai Lama come, then that female must be very attractive. Otherwise, not much use.” No miscommunication, it seems.
This provokes a bout of laughter. “Really?” tests the giggly journalist. “You’re joking, I’m assuming . . . or you’re not joking?”
“No. True!” a visibly confused Dalai Lama answers tersely.
The two go on to laugh off the incident after the DL cracks a joke attributing his rockstar status to his good looks.
This wouldn’t be the first time the religious leader has taken a controversial position that shocked his Western progressive/liberal followers. Back in 2009, Tricycle editor and publisher James Shaheen gave voice to much disappointment within the Buddhist community regarding the Dalai Lama’s rejection of same-sex relationships. (The Tibetan leader has since warmed up a bit to the idea.)
Also somewhat off-putting is his reason for supporting a female successor in the belief that women are biologically more compassionate than men. “According to scientists,” he told Larry King several months earlier, “women have more sensitivity.” Scientific data, however, generally does not support such claims. It also flies in the face of contemporary gender studies.
It’s unclear what the Dalai Lama intended by his comments, but the reaction, at least among the Western media, seems clear enough already.