NEW DELHI — The Dalai Lama, the 87-year-old spiritual leader of Tibet, apologized Monday after footage showed him asking a child to «suck my tongue» at a public event.

“A video clip has been circulating showing a recent meeting where a boy asked His Holiness the Dalai Lama if he could give him a hug,” said a statement on the exiled leader’s Twitter account, which has 19 million followers.

«His Holiness wishes to apologize to the boy and his family, as well as his many friends around the world, for the pain his words may have caused.»

The statement said that the leader of the Dalai Lama “often makes fun of people he knows in an innocent and playful way, including in public and on camera. He regrets the incident.

Sticking out the tongue is a sign of respect or agreement and was often used as a greeting in traditional Tibetan culture, according to the Institute for East Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

According to Tibetan folklore, a cruel 9th-century Tibetan king had a black tongue, so people stick out their tongues to show they are not like him, the institute said in its report. website. There is no mention of tongue sucking on the site.

The video, which has 1 million views on Twitter, appears to show the Nobel peace laureate attempting to kiss the boy on the lips in front of an audience. The crowd can be heard applauding and laughing, as a man captures the moment on a phone.

The Dalai Lama, who fled to India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet, is viewed by Beijing as a dangerous separatist.

He has worked for decades to garner worldwide support for linguistic and cultural autonomy in his remote and mountainous homeland.

He now lives in a temple compound surrounded by green hills and snow-capped mountains in the northern Indian city of Dharamshala.