Ananda Claude Dalenberg Biographical Notes
written by Diane Dalenberg (daughter) and David Dalenberg (brother)
handed out at the funeral along with the funeral program
Ananda Claude Dalenberg journeyed on to The Pure Land, early February 18, 2008, at the age of 80.
YOUTH, THE EARLY DAYS, HIS MOTHER'S SON
Claude was born on July 2, 1927 in South Holland, Illinois. He grew up in a Dutch truck-farming community. South Holland is located only twenty miles south of Chicago, but at the time, it could just as well have been two hundred. The culture was dominated by the Dutch Reformed Churches, (of which there were many, each created by a process somewhat akin to cell division), and by the fact that family and relatives were "extended" (to the extreme).
His mother didn't quite fit the mold of the dutiful and compliant church-goer. Although an active and respected member, she was less bound by the preaching, and far more motivated by the music and by the ladies aid and missionary aid activities of the church.
Nevertheless, Claude was expected to attend Sunday school, catechism classes, the two-hour Sunday services, and the Sunday evening services as well, all in order that he receive a proper religious training. There was, however, a well-understood caveat: listen, and make up your own mind. Little wonder then that reports filtered back that on occasion he engaged his Sunday-school teacher in philosophical debate.
Ananda told his daughter Laura that after his dog was hit by a car and lay dying in his arms, he asked if the dog was going to Heaven. When told "no," he remarked that "this religion is not for me." Who knows if that initiated his search for true meaning. While growing up, frequent attendance as a family at Sunday services at the University of Chicago Chapel likely helped to expand that search.
Growing up, Claude was more interested in Brahms than baseball. He had a pesky little
brother, nine years his junior, who wanted to "hang out" with him and his buddies. While mostly tolerant, Claude occasionally took pleasure in scaring the daylights out of him by telling ghost stories on the darkened basement stairwell.
He was the son of a carpenter, a builder of custom homes, and worked summers for his dad. He inherited an attitude that buildings, and construction regardless of trade, mainly required common sense and curiosity. That was perhaps something that came in handy in some of his accessorial roles in future endeavors.
STUDIES AND SAN FRANCISCO
Largely by his dad's insistence, when Claude left the Navy at war's end, he enrolled at Northwestern University in the School of Engineering. When told he would have to declare the kind of an engineer he wanted to be, he chose "Acoustical" and later justified the choice saying that as an engineer, his work would probably provide opportunities to hear good music. This proved not to be a very solid basis for making a career choice.
Meeting Alan Watts and associating with his teaching and work and the opportunity to listen to Alan's visiting friends and associates led to a much more substantial basis for charting his future path. He graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in Philosophy. He also attended the University of Chicago for two quarters to study Far Eastern Philosophy and then studied at the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii. In San Francisco he continued his studies at the American Academy of Asian Studies. He also taught English as a second language at John Adams and Alemany Adult Schools to make a living. He enjoyed the idea of communal living so he started the East-West House to continue the ideal of East meeting West. He studied intensively with Suzuki Shunryu Roshi at the SF Zen Center and became a priest. He helped set up the study and library there. Like his beatnik friends, Gary Snyder and Jack Kerouac, he was one of the characters (Bud Diefendorf) in Dharma Bums. Ananda made a kind of pilgrimage to Japan, Southeast Asia, and India. He also had an affinity with Pure Land Buddhism and was influenced by Vedanta, Deism, Quietism, as well as the Quaker Friends fellowship. He sought other forms of Buddhism and attended the Jodo Shinshu Temple in San Francisco and helped organize the Buddhist Council of Northern California. Furthermore, he created a correspondence group, Universal Life Friends, later renamed to Cloud Hidden Friends Letter and finally named Zen Freethinker, where the only subscription fee was to write letters sharing religious insights.
Ananda believed in the ideal of every one deciding for themselves "what is right" as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others. Furthermore, his faith that "Everyone has the Buddha-Nature," or to put the same thing a little differently, "There is that of God in every one." It seemed inevitable to Ananda that everyone was his teacher. His vow was to take everyone as his teacher. By "everyone" he meant all sentient beings and all of nature. The sky for example was profoundly important to him. He even felt obliged to share stories about how his pet dogs have been his "teachers" in many ways.
ANANDA'S HOBBIES & INTERESTS
Ananda Claude married Vera Haile and had twin daughters, Diane and Laura. One of his passions was music, especially flute and classical. In his later days, the types of music that brought him the most peace were: the Native American flute music of Carlos Nakai, the Tibetan flute music of Nawang Kechog, Japanese shakahachi and koto music, and Bach's Brandenburg concertos. He cherished family vacations to Hawaii, Mexico, Calistoga, and visited his brother David, sister-in-law, Sharon, and David's four daughters (Heidi, Gretchen, Liesl, and Jill) in Chicago and the Lake Michigan summer home.
His hobbies and interests included: beading, singing, soaking in hot tubs and sweating in saunas, sitting in coffee shops like The Sugar Bowl and Simple Pleasures, visiting libraries, stopping in various businesses on Clement and Haight Streets, writing with little stubby pencils on folded pieces of square paper to keep in his back pocket whenever a thought struck him, grooming his long gray Amish-type beard (which all old wise men have), smoking a Dutch Master or drinking a small glass of whisky from time to time, playing the harmonica, long walks through Golden Gate Park with the dog and Ocean Beach, figuring out mathematical dilemmas, completing various carpentry projects (like his father), enjoying orchids, playing the stock market, crafting stadium horns to have more than one note, blowing conch shells, managing his newsletter (oh, how he would have loved the internet for publishing/sharing thoughts), playing the stock market, loved sweet-smelling flowers like roses and lilies, perusing Tibetan shops, collecting thrift store and sidewalk treasures, attending the Ethnic Dance Festival, eating fresh bread, talking to strangers, winning Connect Four and Scrabble games, and loving the simple things in life.
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