Dalai Lama Appeals for Calm in Tibet

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A Chinese crackdown can test even a monk's patience.

What else could explain the dozens of monks who burned a Chinese flag in Dharamsala a few hundred feet from the Dalai Lama's home on Tuesday? What else could explain the 500 monks in Choephel Shing Dogo, Tibet who on Tuesday walked willingly into waiting, armed police, according to Tibetan exile groups?

Their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has preached a "third-way" politics for more than 20 years, a policy that insists on non-violence protest and diplomacy with the Chinese government.

But the man Buddhists believe is Buddha reincarnated acknowledged on Tuesday that after so many years of Chinese control in Tibet, his politics have led to no change. And he said he understands why many of the protestors who follow him are resorting to a more violent and aggressive stance against the Chinese than the one he won a Nobel Peace Prize for preaching.

"Recent years, our approach, good approach, no concrete improvement inside Tibet. So naturally, more and more sign of frustrations of people living inside Tibet and also outside," he told reporters in the room where he created his political philosophy.

"Our only weapon, our only strength, is justice, truth," he said. "But effect of truth, justice sometimes take longer time. Weapons power -- immediate effect."

The Dalai Lama says he is sleeping well despite the most significant protests in Tibet in 20 years. But he is facing a movement that is getting angrier and hungrier, one filled with critics not of his history or his spiritual leadership, but of his politics.

"There is a growing frustration within the Tibetan community, especially the younger generation," said Tsewang Rigzin, the president of the Tibetan Youth Congress. "His holiness' brand of 'middle way' has been in existence for the last 20 years. And as of right now, nothing has come of it whatsoever."

Which is not to say he is not the protestors' spiritual inspiration. While he sits in exile in Dharamsala, thousands of people have flooded streets in Tibet, risking everything.

"We are ready to die, if that is the way to get Dalai Lama back," a Tibetan monk in Xiahe, China, told a television station on Monday. "We don't have weapons, just some rocks. If the army starts shooting, some of us will escape, but some will continue fighting."

In a brief interview after his press conference here, ABC News asked the Dalai Lama whether protestors willingly walking into the line of fire help the Tibetan cause.

"No," he responded.

When asked why not, he said "even thousands of Tibetans sacrifice their lives, not much help."

Does that mean they should stop? "No use," he replied.

He may believe that, but according to Tibetan exile groups here, tens of thousands of people are marching in Tibet, knowing they are at risk, believing that dying for their cause will help Tibet gain autonomy or independence.

The Dalai Lama, who has angered some of his supporters by calling only for Tibetan autonomy, held a media conference on Tuesday so he could respond to accusations leveled by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

"There is ample fact -- and we also have plenty of evidence -- proving that this incident was organized, premeditated, masterminded and incited by the Dalai clique," Wen said in Beijing on Tuesday morning of the protests throughout Tibet.

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