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Dalai Lama Taps American to Bridge
East and West at Tibetan Monastery
BY KIM LAWTON ©2012 Religion News Service
he Dalai Lama has given Nicholas Vreeland, director of The Tibet Center in New York, a daunting new assignment. On July 6, Vreeland will be enthroned as the new abbot of Rato Monastery in southern India, one of the most important monasteries in Tibetan Buddhism. He will be the first Westerner to hold such a position.
In making the appointment, the Dalai Lama told Vreeland, "Your special duty (is) to bridge Tibetan tradition and (the) Western world."
"His Holiness wishes to bring Western ideas into the Tibetan Buddhist monastic system, and that comes from his recognition that it is essential ... that there be new air brought into these institutions," Vreeland told the PBS program Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.
For many observers, the choice of an American for the role may be a surprising one, and perhaps even more surprising given the background of this particular American.
Vreeland had a privileged upbringing--the son of a U.S. diplomat and the grandson of Diana Vreeland, the legendary editor of Vogue magazine during the 1960s. When he first encountered Tibetan Buddhism in his 20s, he was working as a photographer in some of the industry's top studios.
"What is it about Tibetan Buddhism that interested me? I think that it's this very linear, very carefully organized, path to enlightenment that I liked," Vreeland said.