The Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, issued an apology Monday after a video showing him kissing a young boy on the lips and asking him to "suck his tongue" went viral, sparking widespread criticism and debate online.

The incident occurred during a public event in late February at the Dalai Lama's temple in Dharamshala, India, where he addressed a group of about 100 young students who had graduated from the Indian M3M Foundation, The Guardian reported.

In the video, one of the young male students approached the microphone at the event and asked the Dalai Lama if he could hug him. The 87-year-old spiritual leader then invited the boy onto the platform where he was seated and motioned to his cheek, saying "First here." The child kissed him and gave him a hug. The Dalai Lama then said "I think here also" and kissed the boy on the lips, telling him to "suck my tongue" while sticking his tongue out. The boy complied, and they touched heads before embracing again. The incident was accompanied by laughter and clapping from the audience.

Following the release of the video, many people condemned the Dalai Lama's actions, calling them revolting and scandalous. However, his office defended his behavior, saying that the Dalai Lama often teases people he meets in an "innocent and playful way," even in public and before cameras, and that he regrets the incident.

In an official statement, his office said, "His Holiness wishes to apologize to the boy and his family, as well as his many friends across the world, for the hurt his words may have caused." Sticking out one's tongue is a form of greeting in the Dalai Lama's native Tibet, his office said.

This is not the first time the spiritual leader has courted controversy. In 2019, the Nobel Prize winner apologized after suggesting in an interview with the BBC that if he returned as a woman, she should be "more attractive."

The Dalai Lama is seen in Bodhgaya, India in December 2022

Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, was born in Tibet and has been living in India as a refugee since 1959, after he fled his home country following a failed uprising against Chinese rule. Despite his old age, the Dalai Lama remains active in international affairs and is a vocal advocate for human rights and nonviolence.

The incident has raised questions about appropriate behavior for spiritual leaders, particularly when interacting with children. Some have criticized the Dalai Lama for behaving in a way that could be seen as inappropriate, while others have defended him, citing cultural differences and his reputation for playfulness.