How much do our personal opinions affect our professional lives?

On February 28, 2023, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, His Holiness the 14 th Dalai Lama, was
recorded kissing a young boy on the lips at a Buddhist event. After kissing the child, he was then shown
to have asked the boy to “suck my tongue”, which the boy was unwilling to do. The footage went viral
on social media, with many people accusing the leader of engaging in “pedophilia”.


Outrage was palpable, and HH the Dalai Lama’s office issued an apology 1 stating that “His Holiness often
teases people he meets in an innocent and playful way, even in public and before cameras.” Many
netizens thought that this apology was poorly expressed 2 , and did not go far enough to assuage the
public’s angry sentiment.


As someone who is neither Tibetan nor Buddhist, watching the video made me extremely
uncomfortable, and I was tempted to join the collective outrage. However, researching this article has
made me pause and ask myself, how much does my personal feeling about a topic influence my
professional life?


I should immediately clarify that I do not condone any abuse of children, people with disabilities, the
marginalised, animals; or anyone or anything that cannot give their own consent. Equally, I also
recognise that I do not have carte blanche to force my opinions down the throats of others. So, where
should we draw the line of what is acceptable to post, share, like, or promote on social media? Including
our gut reactions and opinions, both personally and professionally.

A teacher humiliates their student for their beliefs

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama was once again in the media spotlight when the Digital Citizen for
Human Rights tweeted a video 3 of a Tibetan schoolgirl alleging that her foreign teacher humiliated her in class for having faith in HH the Dalai Lama. Even when she explained the cultural nuances of her spiritual leader, she was told by her teacher that pedophilia was not normal and the teacher even instigated her classmates—who were provided with neither the facts nor the context—to comment on the situation.


The tweet did not provide enough context for the episode, so it left us to draw our own conclusions.
Still, the tone of the tweet along with the selected snippet of the video was surely meant to incite a
powerful reaction—the author of the tweet even states that “the so-called teacher needs to be fired”.
But again, it seems like a rash reaction to a rash video of a rash response.

“So, where should we draw the line of what is acceptable to post, share, like, or promote on social media? Including our gut reactions and opinions, both personally and professionally.”

Again, watching the video of HH the Dalai Lama made me uncomfortable, but I am not his target
audience. After they posted the video on social media (40 days after the event, it must be noted), many
people better-informed about the subject, began posting their opinions 4 about the situation. They
noted that the child in question and his mother both described the meeting with HH the Dalai Lama as a
“blessing”. Neither party thought anything that happened on February 28 was improper, so neither fully
understood the collective outrage that was generated.
Still, one can argue that as devout followers, they are more willing to forgive their leader’s indiscretion
(for lack of a better word). However, things get a little less cut and dried when you research the cultural
practices of the Tibetans.

The world viewed through different lenses

It is difficult to see the world as anything else but pink if you wear rose-colored glasses. Similarly, if you
view the world through one single lens of cultural correctness, anything “different” is wrong. I keep
stressing that the video made me uncomfortable because I need to emphasize that even as someone
who was born in Southeast Asia and is exposed to more Asian culture than most, I was incredibly angry.
Yet, in a Tibetan cultural context, the video may not have been as harmful as it was initially portrayed to
be.

“As humans, it is natural for us to be passionate about topics, quickly losing our objectivity. And to be honest, that’s completely fine. Nevertheless, we need to exercise caution when we promote our ideas as facts, especially in a professional capacity.”

This leads me back to the foreign teacher, who immediately took exception to what their student
believed. If these allegations are true, it paints a disturbing picture of how easily we allow ourselves to
be led to a conclusion without knowing all the facts. Whilst genuine acts of pedophilia are
psychologically abnormal and criminal, the teacher failed to explain the possible misinterpretation of
Tibetan culture recorded in the viral video clip. Further, the teacher fostered a dangerous “group think”
among her students. They instantly believed what was said because their teacher was in a position of
power.


Conversely, we also do not know the full story behind the schoolgirl and teacher YouTube clip. The
tweet released by Digital Citizen for Human Rights only represented the side of the humiliated student
and did not question the teacher’s motives. But were there other factors in play? Regardless, the whole
controversy brings to light the steadily diminishing line between our personal and professional lives.
As humans, it is natural for us to be passionate about topics, quickly losing our objectivity. And to be
honest, that’s completely fine. Nevertheless, we need to exercise caution when we promote our ideas as
facts, especially in a professional capacity. If you are a teacher, for example, you must teach your
students how to research topics well and form a conclusion based on whatever evidence is available.
Most importantly, it is crucial that you also teach children how to be compassionate with one another,
even if you do not agree with their specific beliefs.

When cultural relativism ends

This isn’t to say that we should always use “culture” as an excuse for bad behaviour. In a recent and
similar story, the Spanish FA president was suspended after kissing forward Jenni Hermoso on the lips
following the Women’s World Cup final victory over England in Sydney 7 . While Rubiales claims that the
kiss was consensual, all accounts suggest otherwise.

The outrage over this is understandable – Spain’s entire coaching staff, except for manager Jorge Vilda,
have resigned over the incident. The staff has even released a statement that they are expressing their
“firm and resounding condemnation” done by Rubiales.
This, of course, brings to question HH The Dalai Lama’s actions and why it is so different from this one.
While both stories originate with a kiss, one story is misunderstood because of a cultural difference,
whereas the other is a blatant disregard of personal boundaries. Context is always required when
forming an opinion about any event – and we would do well to look at both sides of the story before
forming any meaningful decision about it.

 Concluding thoughts

That being said, cultural relativism should never be used to normalize or excuse unacceptable, immoral,
or dangerously unnatural behaviour. Brutal violence, harassment, torture, and killing are always
immoral and cannot be tolerated or excused. Those acts are objectively wrong, and we must always
condemn them. Nevertheless, we must also understand certain liberties of other cultures and
ideologies, especially those that seem awkward to Westernized eyes. Liberty must always be our priority
along with truth. Everyone should be free to act according to their religious and/or cultural customs
unless they violate a natural law as just stated.


It is perfectly fine for an individual to dislike certain aspects of Tibetan culture (or any culture), but it
becomes dangerous when we allow that dislike to permeate into all aspects of our lives—especially
when we are in a position of power. There is a time and place for everything and while it can be difficult
to practice kindness in everything we do, we share a common responsibility to be cautious about what
we post on social media and how we react to anything provocative we see on the internet.


To end, I want to be clear that I am not condoning HH the Dalai Lama’s actions, but I also want to
emphasize that I cannot be an objective judge of his actions. I am not Tibetan, nor am I familiar with its
culture and habits. All I know is what I’ve seen on television—and we all know that some events are
sensationalized for a soundbite, and that does nothing for the awareness of the truth.


We need to start practicing more cultural understanding in our lives so that we can make more
sympathetic reactions to seemingly “weird” events. Again, objective human rights violations, such as
murder and rape, should not be tolerated, but situations that fall in the gray areas should be noted with
more compassion.

1 https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-65229327

2  https://www.indiatoday.in/news-analysis/story/no-excuse-for-child-abuse-dalai-lama-controversy-2359330-2023-04-13

3 https://twitter.com/dc4_humanrights/status/1649675305588756480

4  https://anglican.ink/2023/04/17/the-dalai-lama-the-boy-and-the-ccp-the-true-story-of-a-tempest-in-a-teapot/

5 https://cross-currents.berkeley.edu/e-journal/issue-13/Bernard/photo/tibetan-greeting#:~:text=Sticking%20out%20one’s%20tongue%20is,greeting%20in%20traditional%20Tibetan%20culture.

6 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bT0qey5Ts78

7 https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/66629505

Raine Grey is an experienced content writer from the Philippines. A profound lover of books, she believes that life is meant to be enjoyed without encroaching on the rights and liberties of others. Raine is passionate about mental health initiatives, having been diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder herself. She is the mother of her adopted rescue cat, Cuapao.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *