I have visited a local group of Karma Kagyu practitioners once, hearing a Dharma talk and participating in the mantra, rituals, and meditation.

At this occasion, the members of the Sangha greeted one another by touching foreheads with each other. I didn't ask why at the time, and haven't been able to find a description of that tradition online. Could someone shed some light on this custom?

  • 1
    Gelug tradition seem to have this custom too, see the photo
    – Rabbit
    Jun 24, 2014 at 20:06
  • These are helpful and lovely answers Beth
    – user5261
    Jun 12, 2015 at 5:58

5 Answers 5


My main teachers have a lineage coming from both Nyingma and Kagyü, so their explanations might differ slightly from 'pure' Karma Kagyü teachings, but I was told that touching foreheads is a gesture of very endearing closeness. Good old friends might touch their foreheads as a recognition of their proximity. Similarly, teachers feeling a strong bond with some students will touch their foreheads with them when the students thank them for a teaching received.

I was also told that it would be very impolite to 'demand' that a particular teacher touches their forehead with us, to somehow publicly recognize a closeness that doesn't truly exist.

Specially gentle, kind, and compassionate teachers will often never discriminate among students — they will always insist to touch their foreheads after a teaching is giving. HH the Dalai Lama also often does that to complete strangers (with some eyebrow-raising from his entourage!). The point here is that a Bodhisattva truly never discriminates among sentient beings — he or she will feel close to everybody!


I too am part of the Kagyu lineage, and was told by my partner at the time (who teaches under the Kagyu lineage) that it also known as a 'spiritual kiss'. A blessing as it were. Your 'Sky Eye' or sixth chakra is known for being the holding of enlightenment and is regarded as a wonderful light source. By 'light', I sort of mean knowledge -- an ability to 'see' in a way that takes a lot of meditative practice and devotion. When we touch things to our Sky Eye, it enables another connection and closeness to emerge. A mutual understanding, relationship and insight. My Lama often greets people in this way; gently holding their heads and meeting foreheads with an exchange of great joy. It is an amazing thing to see and be a part of! Connecting with others in this way as a greeting or a blessing can create a very instant, quick mutual bond. Especially when you are both part of the Sangha and therefore hold similar beliefs, or have been undergoing meditative practice for a while which will enable your Sky Eye to be quite 'open'/'aware'. It is also seen as a way of showing that no one is seen as more important, or 'higher' than the other, and that we are all equal (even when this is done by a Rinpoche). Those of higher importance will also touch gifts to their forehead as a way of blessing them.


When I was given my son to hold during the first few minutes after his birth, as I looked into his new eyes and he (seemed) to look into mine, I was STRONGLY compelled to touch my forehead to his. I couldn't resist if I'd wanted to. It just felt like the "right" way to welcome him into this world. I still remember how it seemed to hum where we touched and behind my eyes, and my throat and heart ached. It was one of the three most charged (physically and emotionally) moments of my life.


To me, it may be one of the highest expressions of love and respect for another person, regardless of age or gender. What I think makes this practice rare is probably because these feelings, that makes us feel a certain way, are rarely expressed.


There is something about touching foreheads that goes beyond a gesture. If any of you have had a baby or partner touch foreheads with you rubbing them together... The sensation during and after is as if some sort of magnetism ha been created. It is very I intimate. It feels like instant comfortable meditation.

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