Best urban monk (2008)

Nicholas Vreeland

At the Tibet Center in Brooklyn, Buddhist monk Nicholas Vreeland jokes that he teaches students "how to integrate the sound of the subway into meditation." You've got to be a great monk to make your stillness heard at the center's new digs in DUMBO, amid the Q trains rumbling overhead on the Manhattan Bridge every few minutes and the noisy construction next door. Vreeland notes that seeking out the crowds, grime, and stress of the city as a way to test one's virtues "is not a skillful way to work on yourself," but he insists that finding inner peace is certainly possible, even in a crazed metropolis. Thirty years ago, Vreeland was an NYU film grad and photographer when friends invited him to the Tibet Center, which was co-founded by Richard Gere. Vreeland eventually became a monk and spent 14 years at a monastery in India. He only returned to the bustle of Gotham to help organize the Dalai Lama's historic 1999 visit. Now he's the director of the Tibet Center, where, sitting cross-legged in his saffron-colored garments, he exudes precisely what most New Yorkers could use a little more of: tranquility.


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