This is the sixteenth blog in a series on COVID-19 and lockdown, edited by email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
“I spent most of my time in my room and on my veranda during lockdown, though once a day I went for a walk around the monastery. The grounds had not been tended to and the trees were in need of care and yet they reflected a dignity that I’ve tried to convey.”
Nicholas Vreeland is the Abbot of Rato Dratsang, one of a few important Tibetan Government monasteries under the patronage of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Vreeland is also Director of The Tibet Center, the oldest Tibetan Buddhist Center in New York City. He is a Buddhist monk and holds a Geshe degree, the equivalent of a PhD.
Born in Geneva Switzerland to American parents, Vreeland was educated in Europe, North Africa, and the United States, after which he pursued a career in photography. In the late sixties and early seventies, Vreeland worked as an assistant to Irving Penn and Richard Avedon HonFRPS and studied film at New York University. In 1977 he met Khyongla Rato Rinpoche, founder of The Tibet Center, and became a monk in 1985.
Vreeland is the editor of the books An Open Heart, a New York Times best seller, and the 2011 release A Profound Mind, both authored by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He is also founder of Photos for Rato, a series of photographic exhibitions that have been held in France, Italy, Germany, India and the U.S., which underwrote, through the sale of his photographs, a large part of the construction of Rato Monastery in India. In 2011 an exhibition of Vreeland’s photographs titled Return to the Roof of the World was held at the Leica Gallery in New York. The exhibition has travelled to Taipei, Taiwan and most recently to the Ann Norton Sculpture Garden Museum in West Palm Beach, Florida.
On April 20, 2012 His Holiness the Dalai Lama appointed Geshe Vreeland Abbot of Rato Monastery. This was an historic moment; the first time that a Westerner had been appointed abbot of an important Tibetan Buddhist monastery. On making the appointment, His Holiness stated, "Your special duty (is) to bridge Tibetan tradition and Western world." Vreeland divides his time between The Tibet Center in New York and Rato Dratsang in India. Vreeland has since been tasked with introducing secular ethics into modern education in the West.
Other blogs in this series: