NEW YORK—An angry and visibly intoxicated Dalai Lama was arrested early this morning after assaulting a photographer outside the newly revamped Studio 54 discotheque in Manhattan.
Charged with assault and battery, the Buddhist leader, whose real name is Gejong Tenzin Gyatso, was released on $1,500 bail. The incident marked his third brush with the law in as many weeks.
According to witnesses, the Precious Sovereign, 61, who had been drinking heavily all evening, punched and kicked New York Post photographer Mike Pallas several times after Pallas attempted to take his picture exiting the famed disco.
"As soon as he saw that camera, he just went off," said bouncer Todd Gehr, who was guarding the exit at the time. "I grabbed him by his saffron prayer robe and pulled him off [Pallas]. He tried chanting for a minute, but then more flashbulbs started popping, and he completely lost it again."
Witnesses say that instead of backing down, Pallas made the mistake of ridiculing the central belief of Lamaist Buddhism—namely that, through reincarnation, the same soul has occupied the bodies of 14 successive rulers.
"That did it," Studio 54 patron Larry Hoffman said. According to Hoffman, the Dalai Lama then yanked Pallas' camera away and wielded it threateningly at him, shouting, "You like picture? You want to eat camera, picture boy?"
Signs of trouble came hours earlier, when the 14th religious and temporal ruler of Tibet shouted repeated requests for "Bush! I want to hear plenty more Bush!" When the club DJ responded by playing KC and the Sunshine Band's "Shake Your Booty," the monk threw a shotglass through the control booth and invited the DJ to "step outside and kiss the five fingers of enlightenment."
In addition to the charges against him, the Dalai Lama was cited for resisting arrest. At first, he refused to give his real name, claiming to be "the protector, the emanation and the presence on earth of Chen-re-zi," the Buddhist personification of divine compassion. "And if you not believe," he added, "you let me out of these cuffs and you get one-way ticket to Nirvana plenty quick."
When asked where he was born, he responded, "In 1936 in Chhija Nangso, Tibet... and also in 1876 in Lhasa, Tibet... and also in Nai-tung, Tibet—" before being gagged and taken away.
Two weeks ago, the Tibetan leader was arrested for driving while intoxicated, though his lawyer maintained his client's high spirits were due solely to a "very satisfying night of meditation." Last Friday, he was stopped in his 1994 Lexus by a New Jersey state trooper for "making gestures to a police official that had no connection with the Noble Eightfold Path." Both times he was released on bail.