The Dalai Lama has suggested that any female that succeeds him as Buddhist leader must be attractive, despite receiving backlash for similar comments he made in 2015.
In the wide-ranging interview with the BBC, the guru made a series of additional controversial remarks touching on migration in Europe, the Chinese government and the first two years of President Donald Trump’s term.
One of the more troubling comments came while discussing an interview in 2015, in which he stated that if a female was to become the next Dalai Lama, she would have to be “very attractive, otherwise not much use.”
The BBC’s South Asia correspondent Rajini Vaidyanathan asked the Dalai Lama if he understood why the response had offended women. But rather than apologize, the Buddhist leader replied: “If [a] female Dalai Lama comes then she should be more attractive.”
He added, “If [a] female Dalai Lama,” then paused and pulled an unattractive face, before continuing, “I think, [people would] prefer not [to] see her, that face.”
Challenged that a person’s character is more important than their physical appearance, he replied, “Yes, I think both.” The Dalai Lama also told the BBC that gender equality was important and that he supported women’s rights and equal pay in the workplace.
The Dalai Lama also took the opportunity to hit out at President Donald Trump, lamenting his lack of moral principle and calling on the U.S. to take global responsibility.
The Dalai Lama remains a significant thorn in the side of the Chinese government in Beijing. Living in exile in northern India, he remains a potent symbol of anti-authoritarian resistance and the Tibetan independence movement. China has controlled the region since 1951.
Though he has enjoyed good relationships with past presidents including Barack Obama and George W. Bush, the Dalai Lama has never met nor spoken by phone with Trump. The president’s disregard for one of the world’s most famous spiritual leaders is evidence of China’s growing diplomatic clout.
Though the Dalai Lama said he had “no worries” about a Trump presidency following his election victory in 2016, his opinion of the 45th president has clearly soured in the years since.
He described Trump as having a “lack of moral principle” and stated that the president’s “America first” ideology is “wrong.” Instead, he argued, America “should take the global responsibility” rather than close its borders and bow out of international agreements like the Paris climate accord.
The Dalai Lama—himself a refugee—also doubled down on controversial comments he has made about mass migration to European nations. He has previously argued that while Europe should accept migrants and refugees, it should do so with the goal of educating and training new arrivals with a view to returning them to their countries of origin to promote development there.
He stood by his previous assertion that Europe is for Europeans, though once again said nations should take in migrants in need. Asked whether people should be allowed to stay if they wish to, the Dalai Lama said a “limited number is OK.”