April 13, 2023

The Tibetan meaning of “Eat my Tongue.” {Dalai Lama}

A post by a Tibetan about “eating tongue,” re the Dalai Lama situation. Remember: in the full clip, and in daily life, the Dalai Lama uses a translator. English is not his spoken language.



“Eat My Tongue” “The Tibetan Phrase ‘Che Le Sa'”

A KEY POINT MISSING: In Tibetan culture, it is common to see the old grandparents not only give a pop kiss to the small children, but also give a small candy or piece of food to children from their mouths – directly mouth to mouth.

This may not be the norm of your culture, but this is commonly done. After the elder gives a pop kiss and a candy, since there is nothing left in their mouth, nothing left to give, they will say the phrase “Ok, now ‘eat my tongue” (not ‘suck,’ as His Holiness misspoke due to his less proficient English). The Tibetan phrase is “Che le sa”. They say that as in “‘ve given you all my love and the candy so that’s it-all that’s left to do is eat my tongue.” And itis a playful thing that the children know. This is not really done in the Lhasa region (capital of Tibet) so much, but it is more common in the Amdo region (where HH is from). However, it is definitely a Tibetan custom.

If we are honest with ourselves, we know that when we form an opinion on any topic without considering many aspects of context in any given situation, we are choosing to keep a significant degree of ignorance in our reasoning.”

That phrase “suck my tongue” was horrifying to our Western ears, so it’s taken some learning to get context…and this mistranslation gets at the heart of this controversy.

Also, first video of the boy recounting his experience.

I’ve been wanting to hear from the boy and his family and how they viewed the interaction. This appears to be natural, unforced, without pressure, in an unpremeditated environment:


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A post shared by Lobsang Choedon (@lobsaang_22)


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A post shared by Voice of Tibet (@voice.of.tibet)

My take on this, so far:


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A post shared by Elephant Journal (@elephantjournal)

It’s worth watching this full video, as I just did today. Here it is all within a Tibetan culture context. It’s about 17 minutes long, featuring a Tibetan gent. It includes the full unedited clip with the child’s mom on stage, and the full interaction.

Note: whether this is abuse or no, whether more information or past abuses come to light or not, the Tibetan people suffered abuse, rape, murder by the millions at the hands of the Communist Chinese government—none of that is an excuse, but if you care about one, you must care far more about the many. And know this: China is feasting off of this, it’s a dream come true, far more effective and powerful than assassination.

As for conspiracies, which I’ve heard a good deal about over the last days, there’s a lot of stuff out there that is straight-up Chinese propaganda. China, again, hates the Dalai Lama—who has served as protector and representative and bulwark for the Tibetan people—and reputation assassination (you know, canceling) is an ideal development for them, again far better than assassination. It is a dream come true for them. To be clear, again, that doesn’t mean that this is or isn’t abusive.



To everyone defending the Dalai Lama, or attacking, please read our other articles.

As a Buddhist, here’s my take on the Dalai Lama situation.

There’s four more on Elephant, right now, all with differing points of view.

We do not have one Voice, we allow and in fact encourage thoughtful dialogue, which is too rare these days (see ad hominem comments, especially on Facebook/Instagram, which profit by extremism, anger).

Generally, what we’ve seen so far may not be abusive, but obviously that’s open to context (which is lacking in most of the videos) and cultural interpretation, as well as a viewer’s history of trauma and culture.

Please read our other articles, which earned plaudits and hell from entirely other sides, hah, sob. IG and FB (and China/Xi) are not your friends. If we have clear evidence of abuse, eff him. Until then, this is a matter of difficult discussion and learning.

If you’d like to contribute your voice, thoughtfully, helpfully, you are invited to do so: elephantjournal.com/post


As I said with a friend, both he and I were ready to cancel DL initially, we were actually predisposed to:

I honestly am trying to figure it out. At this point I do think it’s his bad English and a cultural difference like how grandparents say pinch your cheek or give me a kiss and we’re just in this outrage / pedo fear culture and the full video which no one watched in the beginning and interviews with the boy and his mom kinda bear out that this is BS, not abuse. And I guarantee Chinese paid influencers and campaign are behind this. They hate him. But yeah in beginning I was ready to cancel him no one should be okay with or rationalize abuse.

Open minded and critical both, we inch closer to truth. Viral video outrage culture is faster than truth.

When I finally got over my horror in the beginning and watched the damn video it did not give me creepy vibes I was expecting, like he was not trying to stick his tongue down the boy’s throat. Just being a goof.

But even then I needed to know more and I feel like this stuff explains it. I double checked with some Tibetan folks and they said yea it’s true.

But who knows if more comes out then fuck him. For now I say fuck us!


I remember even growing up so many friends and family would kiss on the lips, it felt vaguely European, never sketchy, and now that’s being called perverse in comments. C’mon. Intent does matter, words matter, culture is not an excuse for abuse but if there was no clear abuse then cultural context can change everything, like if I say a swear word in a foreign language when I mean something else entirely.

I don’t care to defend abuse, but to me, this clearly falls outside of that the more I learn about it.

Plus, as in the link above, the Chinese influencers/$/push to defame Dalai Lama…this is a dream come true for Xi and his communist party, which purported for-real systematic rape, abuse, genocide, on millions of Tibetans and others, including suppression/undermining of native language and culture (as many of us are doing in comments).

If more comes to light in about abuse, I will change my views again. That is journalism. We should not be tied to our previously held biases or opinions or our painful experiences of abuse in viewing other situations, or our love for the Dalai Lama, though our experiences can inform. We just look at it, learn, beyond an edited viral video, and the truth will come to light.


For more, “My take as a Buddhist on the Dalai Lama situation.” 

More: The meaning or culture would not by itself change abuse, of course, but it does change the meaning, and if there was no abuse present, and the meaning changes, maybe our perception and mind could, too. Or, maybe not.

His body language was tight, some say? Haven’t any of us asked for a hug from grandma or grandpa and then been uncomfortable when they shower us with hugs and kisses and sweet corny words? Hell I get uptight when folks hug me for longer than a few seconds, and I don’t call that abuse. His own words and his mothers speak volumes. Preconceptions in viewing a viral edited video do not speak volumes.

Why did he apologize, then, some commenters are saying? Because adults apologize about perceptions, not just intent. Are we seriously blaming folks for apologizing? We don’t need to live in a no-apology Trumpy culture. It’s okay to apologize if there is confusion around something.

Also seeing a lot about “another giant has fallen.” Ah, so enthusiastically we cancel even our greatest examples of goodness in today’s world. The Dalai Lama was a big fish for cancel culture, and we did it after watching a few seconds of video and reading a headline. I agree about putting folks on a pedestal—I wrote about that here in depth—but, and, I also agree about tearing them down off the pedestal of our own worship, and a perfection they never claimed.

Seeing a lot of comments about corrupt Dalai Lamas. Well, yes, but nice Chinese propaganda you have there. Folks are referring ignorantly to prior Dalai Lamas. That’s like blaming Biden or Trump or Obama or Bush for past presidents.

And yes, word to the wise, the world was fccked slavery wise just a few generations ago, and sadly trafficking of immigrants etc is common today.

The more we know!

And yeah, culture/indigenous/native languages and customs do matter. We can’t judge words or intent solely through the lens of “white man,” now, can we?

Many are attacking us on social: fine. Did you click the link, and give the boy you’re claiming to defend the respect of listening to his own words, and his mom’s? Watch the full video. He asked for the hug, he initiated. The Dalai Lama had to have even that simple ask translated, he doesn’t speak English well at all.

How many of us love our grandparents and are uncomfortable when they shower us with kisses and affection? Read up on meaning of Eat my Tongue, and you’ll see the intent was 180 degrees different than the viral video pushed.

China is loving this—we’ve character assassinated the biggest hero and thorn in their side based on a 30 second video in one week. They’ve perpetrated real and certain systematic rape, abuse, looting, theft, genocide—not hearing anyone worked up about that in the comments. And they have money and influencers pushing this.

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