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Playfulness gone faux pas wrong, or pervy awful sinister?
Note: no one person is the voice of Elephant. Agree with the below? Disagree with the below? Inspired to share your contemplations, experiences, take—what can be helpful, critical or otherwise? Post here.
Honestly, I couldn’t watch the video. It sounded disgusting, and it was so sad, horrific, to see an example such as the Dalai Lama descend into corrupt ickiness.
But, then, I finally watched it, at the urging of a friend, and was relieved to see something that looked playful, not pervy. Thought it would be much worse.
It’s important to watch the full video (link below), even though it’s not something we want to do. He wasn’t trying to make out with the kid. Just sticking his tongue out, being playful. Obviously something at best got lost, awkward, off in translation.
I’ve read up on it, plus 100s of comments, and talked it over with one trusted Buddhist friend. I’ve sat on the feelings for a bit, before reacting.
Honestly, this whole situation is sad.
In a world with few heroes, the Dalai Lama has served as a bulwark against hate, confusion, genocide, fear, and a guiding light of inspiration and simple, accessible wisdom for a world in desperate need of coming together around peace. He’s always been playful, kissing, hugging, pulling on the bears of great leaders. Look at the photos and videos. Nothing sketchy that I or anyone I know is aware of.
And I do not want to come from a place of defending.
Context matters, when looking at someone’s track record. And he has a spotless record, as far as we know. I imagine his inner circle is protective—if he were to have crossed the line in the past, we may not know.
But as one of the most videoed and photographed humans on this planet, we’ve never seen anything like this. So, perhaps, as some have said, he is just so naive, old, silly, innocent, playful and clumsily so…that he could not imagine being perverse, let alone lustful.
Perhaps, as some have said, this marks the beginnings of dementia, when crossing lines can become regular where once it was unimaginable. Perhaps.
Still, it’s hard to defend.
So while I can not cancel a lifetime of service and being of benefit for one strange, confusing, disturbing moment…on the other hand, I can not ignore this.
We should not.
This is our Buddhist practice: look at it, without having to defend it or obliterate it. Hold it in our hands, in our mind, and see it as it is, including what we do not know about it. That’s journalism, too—openness, letting go of bias, and discernment.
And so I come back to what has been an anchor when those in my own Buddhist community were proven to be willful assaulters…I come back to non-theism.
Again and again and again and again, we want to worship, we want to deify, we want to look up to perfection on a pedestal. But human beings are human beings and have a way of disappointing us in our theism.
Buddhism itself urges us not to worship, not to seek or look up to a perfection that does not exist. But again and again we forget to meditate, to study, to practice non-theism, to practice non-theism, to practice non-theism…and this makes us both too worshipful when things are good, and too harsh when things are bad.
We’d rather worship and idolize than take the Buddha’s teachings to heart, and put them into practice.
The Buddha’s Middle Way is not about excusing bad or strange or disturbed behavior, but it is also about not overreacting. And so I continue to honor the Dalai Lama for what he has done for so long for so many. And so I continue to keep this disturbing episode in mind, in my don’t-know mind, but to admit that it is disturbing without seeking to rationalize this. The mark of an educated mind, as they say, is to hold two contradictory truths in mind at the same time, without having to get obliterate of either one.
I can not yet cancel him, and I can not yet defend him.
As we learn more, that may change.