Dalai Lama sorry for saying a female successor would have to be 'attractive'

"If a female Dalai Lama comes, she should be more attractive," the Dalai Lama told the BBC in a recent interview.
Image: The Dalai Lama taking to the stage to address the faithful in Aldershot
The Dalai Lama taking to the stage to address the faithful in Aldershot, England in 2015.Ben Stansall / AFP - Getty Images file

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By Elisha Fieldstadt

The Dalai Lama apologized Tuesday for repeating remarks that if the next dalai lama were a woman, she should be "attractive."

In an interview with the BBC, published June 27, the Dalai Lama was pressed on a comment he made in 2015 that if he were followed by a female dalai lama, she would need to be physically appealing.

"He reaffirmed his belief that beauty matters as much as brains. 'If a female Dalai Lama comes, she should be more attractive,' he told me while laughing," the BBC article said.

The Dalai Lama, who will turn 84 this week, told the BBC that inner and outer beauty are important in Buddhist literature, and stressed that he supported women's rights.

A statement posted to the Dalai Lama's website Tuesday acknowledged that the comments had "caused disquiet."

"His Holiness genuinely meant no offense. He is deeply sorry that people have been hurt by what he said and offers his sincere apologies," the statement said.

"His Holiness consistently emphasizes the need for people to connect with each other on a deeper human level, rather than getting caught up in preconceptions based on superficial appearances," the statement said. "This is something everyone who has the chance to meet with him recognizes and appreciates."

The Dalai Lama first made the remark about a woman dalai lama "as a joke" to the editor of Paris Vogue in 1992 because he was "working with a team whose prime focus was the world of high fashion," according to the statement. "It sometimes happens that off-the-cuff remarks, which might be amusing in one cultural context, lose their humor in translation when brought into another."

"For all his long life, His Holiness has opposed the objectification of women, has supported women and their rights and celebrated the growing international consensus in support of gender equality and respect for women," the statement said. "His Holiness has frequently suggested that if we had more women leaders, the world would be a more peaceful place."

The spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, who in 1959 fled to India, where he lives as a refugee, also drew criticism for his comments to the BBC about migrants and refugees, but the statement on his website said he was "misinterpreted."

"European countries should take these refugees and give them education and training, and the aim is return to their own land with certain skills," the Dalai Lama said during the interview. "A limited number is OK, but the whole of Europe [will] eventually become Muslim country, African country — impossible."

The statement released Tuesday said the Dalai Lama "appreciates that many of those who leave their countries may not wish or be able to return," and "also understands the uncertainties and difficulties of those in countries where refugees and migrants make their new homes."

As a refugee himself, the Dalai Lama believes the ultimate goal for most refugees is to return to their home countries.

During the BBC interview, the Dalai Lama also shared his strong opinion of President Donald Trump, saying the president's time in office has been marred by a "lack of moral principle."

Still, the Dalai Lama, who has met with every president since George H.W. Bush, said he would be open to meeting with Trump, but he has never been asked.