Friends in the Frame - Dayābhadra
‘Friendship has made such a difference to my life. I can’t imagine a life without friendship. Other people are your life.’
Dayābhadra is kind by name and nature. His Buddhist name means ‘auspicious in his kindness’. It’s no surprise, then, that he sees the welfare of other people, especially his friends, as what matters most to him. He’s well-named indeed, and is a very good man to have as a friend – he’s big-hearted, considerate and witty.
Hand-in-hand with his kindness is his outstanding skill as a communicator: he expresses himself clearly, openly and engagingly; and he listens deeply and patiently to others. When I’m with him, I feel at ease because I can trust that he’ll give me space and will really ‘get’ me. And he enjoys communication – seen in his love of teaching Buddhism. I’ve witnessed this on occasion, and he is very good at it.
Becoming ordained as a Buddhist was a significant process in Dayābhadra’s life, ‘drawing things together and making more sense of my life’. His choice of Akshobya for his yidam (representation of the Buddha as a focus for spiritual practice) is revealing. The deep blue Akshobya is seen as the embodiment of unshakeability, combined with clear-sightedness. While Dayabhadra admits to some self-doubt at times, I see in him an ever-growing confidence and faith in himself, and greater clarity about the direction of his life.
These qualities of confidence and clarity can be seen in Dayābhadra’s great hero – the deep-voiced singer, Paul Robeson (famous for Old Man River). Dayābhadra is a keen and fine singer himself, and a lover of music more widely, especially Mozart and Beethoven.
Robeson is an apt hero as much for his life as his music. He was an activist – the precursor to the US Civil Rights movement. And what Dayabhadra particularly admires in him is that ‘he was courageous and passionate but could also be easy-going.’ I see this in Dayābhadra, too.
How I know Dayābhadra
I remember meeting Dayābhadra on my first Buddhist retreat in 2006 – I was a fresh-faced newcomer, in a bit of a state, and he was on the support team. I remember his kindness from the very beginning. A few years later we both lived at the London Buddhist Centre, and I saw that same kindness consistently – he was someone I could turn to if I was in difficulty, and to hang out and have a good laugh with in better times. We’ve kept up a good connection since, and I look forward to many more years of it.