Press Release: Venerable Nicholas Vreeland appointed Abbot of Rato Dratsang

Press Release –

The Tibet Center is proud to announce that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has appointed its Director, The Venerable Nicholas Vreeland, as the new Abbot of Rato Monastery, which is based in India.  This is a historic moment; this is the first time that a Westerner has been appointed as abbot of an important Tibetan Buddhist monastery.  On making the appointment, in Long Beach California on April 20, 2012, The Dalai Lama stated, “Your special duty (is) to bridge Tibetan tradition and Western world.” 

Vreeland will split his time between The Tibet Center in New York and the monastery in India. The original Rato Monastery, located on the outskirts of Lhasa, Tibet, was established in the 14th Century to preserve the teachings on Buddhist logic. By 1959, Rato had grown to 500 monks, with scholars from all the great monastic universities of Tibet converging there every year for a month of intense philosophical and logical study and debate.  In 1983, the monastery was reestablished in a Tibetan refugee settlement in the south Indian state of Karnataka, where two years later Vreeland became a monk and began his monastic studies.  He sat for his Geshe degree (Doctorate of Philosophy) in 1998, after which he returned to New York to assume duties as the Director of The Tibet Center —Kunkhyab Thardo Ling — where he had first begun his studies of Buddhism with the Center’s founder, the Reverend Khyongla Rato Rinpoche in 1977. 

The Tibet Center has been a co-host, with the Gere Foundation, of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s visits to New York a number of times, including two public talks in Central Park and teachings at Radio City Music Hall.  Vreeland has edited the New York Times bestseller, An Open Heart, and the recently released, A Profound Mind, both authored by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. 

Though there are over 1,000 Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, Rato Monastery is one of only a dozen important Tibetan Government monasteries under the Dalai Lama’s patronage.  Today there are approximately 100 monks at Rato ranging from the age of 6 to 90. 

Vreeland has been a photographer since he was 13 years old, and assisted Irving Penn and Richard Avedon. A recent exhibition of his work, entitled Photos for Rato, toured major cities around the world and raised most of the funds needed for the construction of Rato Monastery’s new campus and temple, which was inaugurated by the Dalai Lama on January 31, 2011.