Nicholas Vreeland

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Nicholas Vreeland
Geshe Nicholas Vreeland listening to a question.jpg
Geshe Nicholas Vreeland listening to a question
TitleKhen Rinpoche
ReligionTibetan Buddhism
EducationAmerican University of Paris, New York University, Rato Dratsang
Senior posting
TeacherKhyongla Rato Rinpoche
Based inRato Dratsang

Nicholas Vreeland, also known as Rato Khen Rinpoche, Geshe Thupten Lhundup, is a fully ordained Tibetan Buddhist monk who is the abbot of Rato Dratsang Monastery, a 10th-century Tibetan Buddhist monastery reestablished in India. Vreeland is also a photographer.[1] He is the son of Ambassador Frederick Vreeland and grandson of Diana Vreeland, the renowned fashion editor.

Vreeland spends half of his time in Rato Monastery in India, and the other half in the United States, where he is the Director of Kunkhyab Thardo Ling—The Tibet Center, New York City's oldest Tibetan Buddhist center.[2]

In 2014, a documentary film was released about Vreeland, entitled Monk With A Camera.[3]


Vreeland was born in Geneva, Switzerland in 1954. He also lived in Germany, and Morocco before coming to live in the United States at the age of 13 when his father Frederick Vreeland was assigned to the United States Mission to the United Nations.[4][5]

Vreeland was sent to Groton School in Massachusetts,[6] where he became interested in photography; he became an apprentice to photographers Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, who both worked for Diana Vreeland, Vogue magazine's editor-in-chief.

in the early 1970s, Vreeland attended The American University of Paris, subsequently receiving his BA in 1975 from New York University Film School, where he studied film.[4]

In 1977, Vreeland began his studies of Buddhism with Khyongla Rato Rinpoche, a Tibetan lama sent to the West in the early 1960s by the 14th Dalai Lama to help introduce Tibetan culture and religion. On a photographic assignment in India in 1979, Vreeland met the Dalai Lama, and was asked to photograph the Dalai Lama's first trip to North America.[7]

In 1985 Vreeland became a monk and joined Rato Monastery in the Mungod Tibetan Settlement in Karnataka, India, when there were only 27 monks there. The monastic population of Rato has since grown to over one hundred. Vreeland was awarded a Geshe degree, equivalent to a PhD, in 1998, and returned to New York to assist his teacher, Khyongla Rinpoche, and to help run Kunkhyab Thardo Ling—the Tibet Center, which Rinpoche founded. He became the director of Tibet Center in 1999.[8] Vreeland also helped raise the funds, in part through offering his photographs for sale, to enable Rato Monastery to build a new monastic campus.[4][9]

Vreeland has edited two books by the Dalai Lama:

Khen Rinpoche Nicholas Vreeland in front of the temple at Rato Dratsang, January 2015

In 2012, the Dalai Lama appointed Vreeland abbot of Rato Dratsang, which is one of eleven important Tibetan Government monasteries under his authority. The Dalai Lama explained that Vreeland's "special duty [is] to bridge Tibetan tradition and [the] Western world."[10][11][12][13]

In May 2014, Vreeland was awarded Honorary Doctorate degrees from The American University of Paris and from John Cabot University in Rome.[7]

Documentary film[edit]

Monk With A Camera: The Life and Journey of Nicholas Vreeland, is a biographical documentary film about Nicholas Vreeland, directed by Guido Santi and Tina Mascara.[14] The film was released in 2014.[15][16]

Photography exhibitions[edit]

An exhibition of twenty of Vreeland's images has traveled to twelve cities around the world, and has raised funds to enable the rebuilding of Rato Monastery in India.[17][18]

  • "Return to the Roof of the World", Leica Gallery, New York, NY, April 2011; Taipei, Taiwan February 2013. These were photographs taken when Vreeland accompanied Khyongla Rato Rinpoche on his return to the Dagyab district of Tibet.[19][20]


  • An Open Heart: Practicing Compassion in Everyday Life, by H. H. the Dalai Lama (Author), Khyongla Rato (Afterword), Richard Gere (Afterword), Nicholas Vreeland (Editor), Little, Brown and Company, 2001, ISBN 0316989797, ISBN 978-0316989794, ISBN 0316930938, ISBN 978-0316930932, ASIN B000SEHT48, ASIN B00005QTHL
  • A Profound Mind: Cultivating Wisdom in Everyday Life,by H. H. the Dalai Lama (Author), Nicholas Vreeland (Editor), Richard Gere (Afterword): Harmony, Random House, 2011, ISBN 0385514670, ISBN 978-0385514675, ISBN 0385514689, ISBN 978-0385514682, ASIN B004KPM1RQ


  1. ^ Vreeland, Nicholas. "Photos for Rato". Tricycle. Tricycle. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  2. ^ Alvarez, Lizette (May 19, 2010). "Even the Dalai Lama Has a Point Man". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  3. ^ Ben, Kenigsberg (November 20, 2014). "A Holy Man in India, Descended From New York Fashion 'Monk With a Camera,' About Nicholas Vreeland". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  4. ^ a b c PBS, WNET, Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, June 15, 2012, "Buddhist Abbot Nicholas Vreeland" [1] Accessed 2014-6-3
  5. ^
  6. ^ Porter, David (May 30, 2013). "Bridging Tibetan tradition and the Western World". Groton School. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  7. ^ a b American University of Paris [2] Accessed 2014-6-3
  8. ^ Kennedy, Randy (August 17, 1999). "PUBLIC LIVES; Testing That Buddhist Serenity in New York". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  9. ^ Talley, Lauren; Yi, Fred (June 8, 2012). "Awake In the World". Religion and Ethics News Weekly, PBS. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  10. ^ Elder, Sean (November 25, 2014). "Nicky Vreeland: The Playboy and the Prayer Wheel". Newsweek. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  11. ^ Lawton, Kim (June 15, 2012). "Buddhist Abbot Nicholas Vreeland". Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, PBS. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  12. ^ Lawton, Kim. "Dalai Lama Taps Nicholas Vreeland, American Buddhist, To Bridge East And West At Rato Monastery In Southern India". Huffington Post. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  13. ^ Lawton, Kim (June 26, 2012). "Dalai Lama taps American to bridge East and West at Tibetan monastery". The Washington Post. Religion News Service. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  14. ^ King, Susan (December 12, 2014). "'Monk With a Camera' filmmakers found Nicholas Vreeland 'fascinating'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  15. ^ Variety magazine, Film, Reviews, "This pleasing documentary from Guido Santi and Tina Mascara charts the improbable story of Nicholas 'Nicky' Vreeland", by Dennis Harvey, [3] Accessed 2014-6-3
  16. ^ "The "Monk with a Camera": An Interview with Khen Rinpoche Nicholas Vreeland". Manandala Magazine, FPMT. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  17. ^ Tripathi, Shailaja (January 7, 2010). "The Monk With a Camera". The Hindu. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  18. ^ Murdoch, Emily (December 11, 2014). "Nicholas Vreeland: From New York Socialite to Buddhist Monk". World Religion News. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  19. ^ "Nicholas Vreeland Photography Opening at the Leica Gallery". Getty Images. April 21, 2011. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  20. ^ Leica Internet Team. "Nicholas Vreeland: Capturing Photographs to Honor and Preserve His World". Leica Camera AG. Retrieved 10 March 2018.

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