The Dalai Lama has apologised for controversial comments about the possibility of a woman succeeding him. Speaking to the BBC last month, the Tibetan spiritual leader said that any future female Dalai Lama should be “attractive”.
He had been questioned in a recent BBC interview about previous comments he had made in 2015, when he said that a female successor would need to be “very, very attractive”, as otherwise she would be “not much use”.
A statement issued by his office on Tuesday said: “His Holiness genuinely meant no offence. He is deeply sorry that people have been hurt by what he said and offers his sincere apologies.”
It added: “His Holiness consistently emphasises 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.”
His office said the spiritual leader opposed the objectification of women, supported equal rights, and had “frequently suggested that if we had more women leaders, the world would be a more peaceful place”.
The statement added: “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.”
The Dalai Lama office’s also claimed his original remarks, made in conversation with the then Paris editor of Vogue magazine, were intended as a joke.
“He was at least partially responding to the unfamiliar ambience of working with a team whose prime focus was the world of high fashion.”
The statement also attempted to clarify the Tibetan Buddhist leader’s remarks about the current refugee and migration crisis, which “may have been misinterpreted”.
It explained: “He certainly appreciates that many of those who leave their countries may not wish or be able to return, and that Tibetans, who cherish the idea of returning home, would find their country irrevocably altered.
“However, His Holiness also understands the uncertainties and difficulties of those in countries where refugees and migrants make their new homes.”
Earlier this year, the Dalai Lama was admitted to hospital with a chest infection.
The spiritual leader was flown from his residence to a hospital in the Indian capital of New Delhi for treatment.