DHARAMSALA, India, March 18, 2008— -- 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.