Trying to Understand the Self-immolations of Tibetans

I think for many Westerners or Europeans it is still hard to understand the self-immolations of Tibetans. Someone asked a Tibetan Rinpoche, Ringu Tulku. His answer was*:

There is a discussion about whether the self-immolations are Buddhist or not Buddhist, if they are according to Buddhist principles or not. But this, I think, is not the issue here. These are protests. These are protests and they are not based on hatred. No Tibetan who self-immolated himself or herself has ever said something negative about China, like “down with China” – as one might expect – instead of doing this all of them asked for freedom and the return of the Dalai Lama. If the protests were based on hatred they would say something negative about China, but they didn’t do this. Buddhism doesn’t promise something good if someone self-immolates. Unlike other religions one doesn’t become a martyr nor are there virgins waiting in the heaven for someone who does this. No higher birth is promised. Rather Buddhism teaches that one has to experience this [rather traumatic] experience again and again. But Tibetans do these protests besides this. It is their despair. They think it is better to die than being captured during the protests and being tortured slowly to death after having been arrested. Westerners don’t understand it. Tibetans have too much faith in Western democracy. They have too much faith or expectations that Westerners will take their protests seriously and will help them, e.g. by urging China to change their policies against Tibetans.

Then a person asked: But Westerners don’t stand up for Tibetans, they say it is aggression against themselves and they have even less compassion for Tibetans.

I heard this but I cannot understand the logic behind this. Why should I have less compassion if someone self-immolates? I cannot understand this logic.

*Summarized from notes I made. All faults in the English are mine. Rinpoche’s English is excellent.

There is an appeal to Vice-President Xi Jinping from the International Tibetan Studies Community: signed by the following scholars:

Also a greater amount of scholarly papers are available from the Revue d’Etudes Tibétaines:

Number 25, Décembre 2012

The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) released a short documentary film on Tibetan immolations, “Beyond the Numbers: A Human Perspective on Tibet’s Self-immolation”:

See also

Update March 09, 2013

Update March 10, 2013