Ananda Claude Dalenberg -- Died four years ago -- just saw this piece on the Sweeping Zen site, so I thought I would post it. Claude met Kennett when she first came to America and was very supportive during the first few years. Seemed to see much less of him as time went on.
By Adam Tebbe
Ananda Claude Dalenberg, a Soto Zen priest ordained by Shunryu Suzuki roshi himself and a dharma successor of Tenshin Reb Anderson, died on this day on February 18, 2008 at age 80. He is the person who scouted out the San Francisco Zen Center‘s current city location at 300 Page Street at Suzuki roshi’s request. Dalenberg was a friend and early student, of sorts, of the late Alan Watts, a writer largely responsible for early American interest in Zen and Eastern philosophy. Dalenberg was also a character in Jack Kerouac’s novel Dharma Bums, Bud Diefendorf (Dalenberg was a friend of both Kerouac and Gary Snyder). He also served as abbot of Hartford Street Zen Center during an interim period following Issan Dorsey‘s death in 1990.
Dalenberg is among my heroes in Western Buddhism. He studied. We practiced. And he understood the bodhisattva’s role — he called them Ho Bo (Ho = Dharma, Bo = bosatsu) — as the maintenance men of the cosmic, the ones who do the clean up. So when Hartford Street needed a new roshi upon the death of Tommy Dorsey, Dalenberg took the job no one else wanted, excelling at it. He was that kind of guy, not too important to roll up his sleaves and do the real work. – Ken O’Neill, Kyoshi
He also served as a President of the Buddhist Council of Northern California (which he helped organize) and established East-West House in San Francisco. An ordained Soto Zen priest and lineage holder, Dalenberg was always open to exploring other traditions; he regularly attended the Buddhist Churches of America and the Jodo Shinshu Temple in San Francisco. He also had contacts within the Quaker movement and was involved with the Quaker prison project. According to a biographical portrait of him handed out at his funeral, “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.”
Born in the Dutch immigrant community of South Holland, Illinois on July 2, 1927, Dalenberg first met Alan Watts at Northwestern University at around age twenty, while Watts was still a priest in the Episcopalian Church. Before entering Northwestern, he had served in the U.S. Navy toward the end of World War II. Watts would be Dalenberg’s first introduction to Eastern philosophy and ways of thought. Watts was a chaplain at the university and Canterbury House (a campus house for Episcopalians). Of Watts, he once said, “[Alan] freely and harmoniously quotes Christian sources and Zen sources and they all fit together. That’s the way it seemed when being with him. He’d give a talk at Canterbury House and it all seemed to fit together.”
Three years later Watts moved to San Francisco and, not long after, Dalenberg graduated from Northwestern and moved to San Francisco, studying at the American Academy of Asian Studies (today the California Institute of Integral Studies). “Alan was teaching out here and here I met D.T. Suzuki. Alan had been D.T. Suzuki’s personal secretary in England. So I got to meet Zen people through Alan. Also Sohaku Ogata. And got to know them fairly well. And eventually Nyogen Senzaki.” According to his own admissions, three of his early teachers—Watts, D.T. Suzuki and Senzaki—were never officially sanctioned to do so by anyone. In San Francisco, Dalenberg also established what would become known as East-West House.
He quietly helped Jiyu Kennett’s fledgling Zen Mission Society acquire the property in far Northern California that would become Shasta Abbey, securing the loan with his personal stock portfolio. In the early days Claude was a regular visitor and as an early inmate of that institution, I always looked forward to his visits. It meant some rule would probably be broken… – James Ishmael Ford, Roshi
Claude was a student of Hodo Tobase at Sokoji before Suzuki-roshi came to the United States in 1959. He was ordained at Rinsoin by Suzuki in Japan in 1966, which was Suzuki’s family temple. According to friend James Ishmael Ford, “He eventually received Dharma transmission from Roshi Reb Anderson. But Claude’s style was too idiosyncratic to fit comfortably into what would arguably become the major Zen institution in North America. A beat when that meant something, his friend Jack Kerouac dropped him into his novel Dharma Bums as “Bud Diefendorf.” He was an admirer of Alan Watts when few in the “established” Zen community were comfortable with Watts’ loose style and broad interpretation of what Zen meant.”
Ananda near the end of his life
On the subject of institutions and things like dharma transmission, Dalenberg once said in an interview with David Chadwick of cuke.com, “Getting transmission is no more prestigious than getting a teaching certificate from San Francisco State.” He also did not feel that Zen teachers are in any way beyond reproach, continuing in his next sentence with, “And you can argue with your teacher – you don’t need the power thing where he can cram something down your throat.”
“Claude spent some time at Tassajara and was the fourth head monk. I remember him complaining about all the obsessive cleaning of places that had been cleaned not that long ago. He said the Chinese had a better alternative. I asked what that was. “Dirt,” he answered. As Zen Center got bigger Claude got more distant. He was present when Suzuki announced he had cancer and at that time the only request he made was that Claude remain.” – David Chadwick
He also had interesting historical perspectives of San Francisco Zen Center, as well. For instance, according to Dalenberg, Suzuki roshi “…wanted to give transmission to six to ten students before he died.” While Dalenberg, a senior student at the time, may have been a candidate, Suzuki roshi knew that was not something he was interested in. Bill Kwong, now Jakusho Bill Kwong, was apparently first on that list. “He made that very clear. I specifically asked him if Bill’s transmission was the same as [banned term]’s and he said ‘Yes, it is the same as [banned term]’s, no difference. ”
In a 1995 interview, again with Chadwick (a great historian of all things SFZC), Dalenberg also spoke a lot about the divide he observed between the Japanese Sotoshu and Western Soto Zen practitioners. “The only way now to be authenticated Soto Zen students in Suzuki’s lineage is for us to get transmission from Hoitsu and then do Zuise at Eiheiji.” He continued, “Suzuki tried to register me with the Soto Shu in Japan a half dozen times and others too and always unsuccessfully. With the entrenchment and conservatism over there, I don’t think they’ll bend enough for us. To them it may seem like bending way over and to us like almost not at all.”And still, later, “Suzuki wanted us to cooperate with the Soto Shu but we shouldn’t use the name – it’s their name and we can’t use it. It’s like their legal name and what it means to be Soto Shu is defined by them.”
”Claude was a dear friend, teacher, and sincere student of the way without labels who didn’t suffer foolishness lightly. He cared deeply about social justice but was not real fond of society or institutions including the SF Zen Center which he felt Suzuki had let get too big and too impersonal. He was devoted to his family and they to him.” – David Chadwick