For Compassionate Relief

For Compassionate Relief

The Monk With a Camera

Tzu Chi Center  | January 15, 2021
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Talk Description

This January, we had the distinct pleasure of welcoming Buddhist monk and photographer, Nicholas Vreeland, to C.A.F.E. 229. Accompanied by host and classical musician, Dr. Joanne Chang, he shed light on his life as well as the spiritual lessons he has gained from the Dharma.

During our conversation, we drew many comparisons to that of the young prince Siddhartha Gautama, who would later leave a life of privilege to pursue wisdom and become who we know today as the Buddha. With his unique origins as a Vreeland (his grandmother is the former editor-in-chief of Vogue, Diana Vreeland), Nicholas left behind wealth and influence, including his career in photography, and became a Buddhist monk.

Then, as he continued in his monastic path, Nicholas found ways to bring photography into this new world, sharing an inside perspective and special lens into Tibetan Buddhism like no other. Here, we discussed all of this in this special talk.

About Nicholas Vreeland

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, 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 fund-raisers 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.

On April 20, 2012 His Holiness the Dalai Lama appointed Geshe Vreeland as the new 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.

Nicholas Vreeland’s most recent exhibit of photos, held at the Leica Gallery NYC, April 2012, was entitled Return to the Roof of the World.

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