Interview Age: 81
Date of Birth: 1934
Birthplace: Rekhe, Kham, Tibet
Year Left Tibet: 1959
Profession: Herding, Farming
Political Prisoner: Yes
Interview No.: 13N
Location: Kathmandu, Bagmati, Nepal
Categories: Resistance and Revolution
Keywords: childhood memories, CIA training, escape experiences, forced labor, herding, imprisonment, Kham, refugee in India -- life as, Chinese rule -- life under, resistance fighters
Samten was born into a family that farmed lands and raised a huge flock of sheep, yaks and horses in Kham Province. Starting at age 8 he grazed animals along with other children. Then from age 10 to 12 he was enrolled in Markongshi Monastery to learn to read and write. As a young adult, he ran away from home to Lhasa to see the Jowo, a statue of Buddha Shakyamuni.
Samten left Lhasa after two months and went to stay with his sister in Konpo, where there were many soldiers of the Chushi Gangdrug Defend Tibet Volunteer Force. He decided to join them but was captured by the Chinese en route. He was imprisoned inside the Norbulingka Palace for five months. After which he was forced to labor on construction sites and then logging at Kongpo from where he escaped to India. He settled in Assam, India, but the region was attacked by the Chinese in 1962 and all the Tibetan refugees were forced to flee again.
Samten enrolled in the Indian Army, but was instead taken with a group of Tibetans for training in the United States. He described being trained in weapons and communications while in the U.S. for three years. He was then deployed in Tibet to photograph and report on the Chinese. His two colleagues were captured but Samten escaped back to India and was sent to work in Nepal. His life turned a full circle when Dudjom Rinpoche advised him to practice the dharma and he became deeply involvement in spiritual pursuits.
- Marcella Adamski (Interviewer)
- Tenzin Yangchen (Interpreter)
- Dhiraj Kafle (Videographer)