Dalai Lama: any woman successor 'must be pretty'
The Dalai Lama has astonished his millions of followers by declaring that any female successor to his role will have to be "very attractive" to do the job.
The Tibetan spiritual leader, a self-declared feminist, stunned a BBC interviewer by saying that were a woman to eventually take over his position, she would be unsuitable if she was ugly.
"That female must be attractive, otherwise it is not much use," he said.
The ageing Buddhist monk made his remarks during a nine-day visit to London, where he is promoting the concepts of compassionate and considerate behaviour. However, his views on the qualifications for whoever eventually takes over his role may damage his standing among female followers.
Interviewed by the veteran BBC TV journalist Clive Myrie, he was asked first whether it was possible that a woman could take over his role in the first place. He confirmed enthusiastically that it was, and then said that in a previous interview years ago, he had told a French woman reporter that a woman Dalai Lama would be a good thing "in our troubled word", as she would have "biologically more potential to show affection and compassion".
He then leaned forward to Myrie with a smile and added: "Then I told that reporter: 'If it is a female, the face should be very attractive'."
Myrie retorted: "You are joking, I am assuming. Or you're not joking?"
The Dalai Lama then made it clear he was not. "It's true," he replied.
Somewhat taken aback, Myrie then moved the conversation on, asking the Dalai Lama about his "role as a religious rock star".
In a BBC website article that summarised the Dalai Lama's broadcasted remarks, his comments on women were not included. Instead, the summary referred to his comments urging European countries not to turn away refugees fleeing the Middle East, with a headline: 'Do not reject refugees because they are Muslim'.
The Dalai Lama, whose real name is Tenzin Gyatso, is now 80. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, and is feted by activists and celebrities in the West for his advocacy of independence for Tibet and other causes.
According to Tibetan Buddhist tradition, when he is aged around 90, he will decide with other Buddhist leaders whether a successor - a "reincarnation" -should take on the role of being the 15th Dalai Lama.