Lama Karma Samten was born in 1947 in West Tibet, at Gertse. His parents were originally from East Tibet, but whilst on pilgrimage to Mt. Kailash they decided to settle there. When Lama Samten was five, he went to live with one of his uncles at a Sakya monastery. It was here where he first took refuge, and spent five years with his uncle who was his first teacher. Lama Samten was ten when the Communist army invaded Tibet. He managed to escape with his family, the journey being very long and arduous; many people died on the way.

Lama Samten and his family arrived in Nepal along with thousands of other refugees escaping from Tibet. Lama Samten’s family were among the many refugees that became very sick as a result of the journey and living in a different climate. Most of them died, and out of Lama Samten’s thirteen family members, only three survived the flight from Tibet. By the age of thirteen Lama Samten’s father had died, so he had now lost his entire family.

At the age of twenty-one Lama Samten took ordination from Khyabje Kalu Rinpoche and entered the traditional three year retreat, which he completed twice in succession. Following this, he spent a further three years in solitary retreat. Lama Samten had hoped to spend the rest of his life in retreat, but at the request of His Holiness The Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa he went to New Zealand with Lama Shedrup to be a resident teacher at Karma Choeling Buddhist Monastery north of Auckland. For more than twenty years, Lama Samten has taught Tibetan Buddhist principles and practice in plain English to a growing number of students in Australasia. In 2002 he published a book, Living with Death and Dying, and visited the United States for the first time.