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. 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.
In 2014, a documentary film was released about Vreeland, entitled Monk With A
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.
Vreeland was sent to Groton School in Massachusetts, where he became interested in photography; he became an apprentice to photographers Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, who both worked for Diana Vreeland, Voguemagazine'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.
In 1977, Vreeland began his studies of Buddhism with Khyongla RatoRinpoche, 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.
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. Vreeland also helped raise the funds, in part through offering his photographs for sale, to enable Rato Monastery to build a new monastic campus.
Vreeland has edited two books by the Dalai Lama:
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."
In May 2014, Vreeland was awarded Honorary Doctorate degrees from The American University of Paris and from John Cabot University in Rome.