The Dalai Lama has apologized for controversial comments made during a recent BBC interview. Responding to a question of whether he would be open to having a female successor, the Tibetan spiritual leader said any future female Dalai Lama should be “attractive”.


A statement released on the official Dalai Lama website reads:

Remarks made by His Holiness the Dalai Lama during a recent BBC interview have caused disquiet that we felt it was important to address. 

Firstly, in responding to a question about whether his own reincarnation could be a woman, and suggesting that if she were she should be attractive, His Holiness genuinely meant no offence. He is deeply sorry that people have been hurt by what he said and offers his sincere apologies.

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. This is something everyone who has the chance to meet with him recognizes and appreciates. The original context of his referring to the physical appearance of a female successor was a conversation with the then Paris editor of Vogue magazine, who had invited His Holiness in 1992 to guest-edit the next edition. She asked if a future Dalai Lama could be a woman. His Holiness replied, “Certainly, if that would be more helpful,” adding, as a joke, that she should be attractive. He was at least partially responding to the unfamiliar ambience of working with a team whose prime focus was the world of high fashion. 

His Holiness, a monk now in his mid-eighties, has a keen sense of the contradictions between the materialistic, globalized world he encounters on his travels and the complex, more esoteric ideas about reincarnation that are at the heart of Tibetan Buddhist tradition. However, it sometimes happens that off the cuff remarks, which might be amusing in one cultural context, lose their humour in translation when brought into another. He regrets any offence that may have been given.

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. Under his leadership, Tibetan nuns in exile have earned Geshe-ma degrees, indicating a high level of scholarship previously reserved only for male monks. His Holiness has frequently suggested that if we had more women leaders, the world would be a more peaceful place. 

During the interview, the Dalai Lama also took a shot at Donald Trump, saying he lacked “moral princpals”.

You can see the full interview here: