By Candace Sutton for Daily Mail Australia
06:19 17 Apr 2023, updated 06:19 17 Apr 2023
- Rev Bill Crews is a lifelong friend of the Dalai Lama
- Crews said on radio ‘suck my tongue’ video ‘not a good look’
- Loved church leader will ask His Holiness about it
A lifelong friend of the Dalai Lama who is one of Australia’s most loved church ministers has conceded that the Tibetan spiritual leader’s ‘suck my tongue ‘ video ‘was not a good look at all’.
The Reverend Bill Crews, who counts the Dalai Lama among his closest friends and says he ‘epitomises a lot about Jesus’, was asked his opinion on the controversy on Crews’ Sunday night radio program on 2GB.
Caller, Craig, asked Crews ‘on air: I can’t understand why people are defending him as I just can’t see how it can be acceptable under any circumstances or in any culture’.
Craig was referring to the video of the Dalai Lama’s meeting with a young Indian boy in which he kissed the boy on the lips before asking him to ‘suck’ his tongue.
The video clip caused a firestorm on social media, with commentators branding the Dalai Lama’s actions ‘scandalous’, ‘disgusting’ and ‘absolutely sick’, prompting him to apologise.
Viewed millions of times on Twitter, it sparked outraged people to call for him to ‘be arrested for paedophilia’ and to brand him an ‘insidious false prophet’.
Crews, regarded as one of Australia’s ‘national living treasures’ for his Rev Bill Crews Foundation’s work caring for the homeless and the poor, has known the Dalai Lama for decades.
Crews has visited the Tibetan Buddhist leader’s temple in Dharamsala, Tibet and hosted him on a national Australian tour.
On radio, Crews responded to Craig’s question, saying: ‘Well Craig, I don’t know. I gotta say I watched it – I watched it really closely because he is a close friend of mind and I really can’t explain it at all.
‘I can’t explain it. And what I will do is when I see him I’ll ask him. I can tell you that.
‘I will ask him and we’ll see. I have no idea. It’s not a great look, that’s what I’ve got to say. It’s not a great look at all.’
In the video, the Dalai Lama first asked the boy to kiss him on the cheek, before pointing at his lips. He held the boy’s face as they appeared to briefly kiss, then the pair pressed their foreheads together.
The 87-year-old then said: ‘And suck my tongue’ and the boy inched forward to the holy man’s outstretched tongue, before moving back without making any connection.
Before letting the child go from the event, held in February by India’s M3M Foundation, the Dalai Lama told the boy to ‘look to those good human beings who create peace, happiness’ and not to ‘follow those human beings who always kill other people’.
Rev. Crews has previously described the Dalai Lama as ‘a very warm, accepting and good man’, telling magazine The Senior: ‘I describe him as a good Christian and he describes me as a good Buddhist’.
Following the global publicity about the incident, the head of Tibet’s government-in-exile has insisted that the Dalai Lama was only showing his ‘innocent grandfatherly affectionate demeanour’.
Penpa Tsering, political leader of the exiled Central Tibetan Administration, said the spiritual leader had been ‘unfairly labelled with all kinds of names that really hurt the sentiment of all his followers’.
Others have pointed the finger at the Chinese government for promulgating controversy and accusations.
Tibet, previously its own empire in mountainous western central Asia and including part of Mount Everest, was annexed by the People’s Republic of China in 1951.
The Dalai Lama was made Tibet’s head of state around that time, in his teens, then fled Tibet for exile in India, continuing to lobby for his homeland’s self rule, to China’s annoyance.
Human rights abuses in Tibet into the 21st century reportedly include disappearances, torture, detention, denial of Internet freedom, and religious repression.
Revered as a spiritual leader by Tibetans, Buddhists and also non-Buddhists, the Dalai Lama travels the globe meeting people from heads of industry to Hollywood stars. He received the Nobel peace prize in 1989.
About his book, Twelve Rules for Living a Better Life, which is dedicated to the Dalai Lama, Bill Crews said he found him inspiring.
‘To be able to survive when your people have been butchered is amazing,’ Crews told The Senior.
‘And there’s a depth and a spirituality to him which is awesome, just awesome.
‘When I first met him, I said how I couldn’t see him and Jesus not being friends.’
Staunch defenders of the Dalai Lama have come since the video to say there is a simple cultural explanation for what he was filmed doing with the boy.
In a Youtube video, a second-generation Tibetan refugee in the US, Jigme Ugen, said there was a game played between the Tibetan elderly and children which manifested precisely this display of affection.
Children who approached their grandfather, for example, were asked to kiss their grandfather’s forehead, touch their noses and kiss them, and during the kiss the grandfather would pass a piece of food or confection to the child.
‘Then [the grandfather] would say “I’ve given you everything already so the only thing left is for you to eat my tongue”,’ Ugen said.
He explained that the words for ‘eat my tongue’ are ‘che le sa’, but because the Dalai Lama speaks in broken English – he didn’t start learning English until he ws 48 – he slightly misspoke, saying ‘suck’ instead of ‘eat’.
The spiritual leader’s office posted on social media apologising ‘to the boy and his family, as well as his many friends across the world, for the hurt his words may have caused’.
It also said: ‘His Holiness often teases the people he meets in an innocent and playful way, even in public and before cameras’.
The boy in question was interviewed on camera after the encounter saying ‘it was amazing meeting His Holiness. It was really nice meeting him.
‘He has got a lot of positivity. Once you get the positive energy, I think you’re happier. You smile a lot more.
‘It was a really good experience overall.’