Dependent Origination Workshops at BSWA

Check out this bit of awesomeness by @Brahmali and @Sunyo, a workshop series on Dependent Origination held over six weeks at Dhammaloka in Perth.

Youtube videos, podbean recordings, slides and readings can be found at: Dependent Origination Workshops | 2020 | Buddhist Society of Western Australia

Highly recommended viewing, even the bad jokes by Venerable Sunyo are OK (he is quite obviously a true disciple of Ajahn Brahm).


I found Ven Brahmali’s explanation of the “three lifetimes “ interpretation of the twelve steps of DO as three different ways of looking at conditionality very helpful.


Dear venerable @Brahmali
I look forward to the next workshops and would like to present here some questions which I would like to have your thoughts on presented or discussed in the sessions:

  • How to properly approach the topic of dependent origination from the perspective of the four noble truths and the ennobling tasks associated with those?
    The idea here is to hear your and venerable Sunyo’s thoughts on how much we should guide our study and reflection on the topic of dependent origination by the instruction found at SN56.11.
    Here I am referring to the phrasing "this noble truth of the origin of suffering should be given up.
    Hence the question of how are we to make sure we approach this topic in a way truthful to the task of giving up the truth of origin of suffering?

  • How to make sure we approach the topic of dependent origination the right way?
    It is not uncommon to hear and see masters from the Thai forest tradition playing down or even avoiding the topic of dependent origination.
    Albeit not directly stated, it seems their reservations are based on the warnings implied and found in MN22. In that sutta the Buddha is quoted to warn us against not ‘grasping the snake by the tail’.
    What are the implications of this simile and MN22 as whole to the study and reflection on the topic of dependent origination?
    Putting it simply, how to make sure the “snake” of dependent origination does not bite us back? :sweat_smile:

  • To what extent is dependent origination at the core of the model of / path to awakening rediscovered by the Buddha? Is it what makes his teaching a teaching by the middle?
    The idea here is to explore what insights we can get from the EBTs on the uniqueness and innovation of the concept and direct understanding of dependent origination and cessation of suffering the Buddha awakened to.
    Is it the case no other spiritual teaching / path had the understanding of what perpetuates rebirth and suffering?
    Is that also the case the Buddha’s understanding and teaching of what brings to an end rebirth and suffering was unique in his time and day?

Thanks in advance for your attention! :anjal:


Thanks, Gabriel. We should be able to respond to this tomorrow, at least the first two. If we forget or miss something, please just send us a message. It’s now possible to ask questions live; that is, we will see them in real time as they come in.


Thank you bhante! :anjal:

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Hi bhante @Brahmali I really enjoyed last Saturday’s session ( 14/Nov)

Indeed, it seems to me you and venerable Sunyo tackled most of the questions above.

Also, I am always happy to hear your thoughts on the powerful and yet so often overlooked discourse we find in AN10.61!

I think it is one of those suttas which should be printed and hang on the walls and doors of every Buddhist temple, center etc! :sweat_smile:

However, I was really hoping to hear your thoughts on the innovative aspect of dependent origination as a model and framework to understand life without falling into the extremes of creationism, nihilism, fatalism, etc

I have a hunch that it was that innovative and unique aspect and flavor that made it such a powerful and liberating standpoint to those in the time of Buddha, being a key reason for the mass conversions from individuals previously engaged with such a wide range of views and opinions about the world and how to live a spiritual life in it.



Coming soon! In fact we will discuss this next Saturday. This is related to the mutual conditionality between viññāṇa and nāma-rūpa, which in many ways is the most important aspect of dependent origination. Specifically, we will look at the Kaccānagotta Sutta, SN 12.15, which deals with this in powerful way. So, stay tuned!


Fantastic! Weather permitting I will be there to hear it in person to learn then! :anjal:


These workshops are so interesting but right now as I penetrate further into the forest I can’t see the wood for all the interesting trees. I’m trusting that @Brahmali and Ven Sunyo will zoom out to a wide summary in week VI. :smiley:

Also, the Reading List and the posting of slides from BSWA are great, as is this advice

You are strongly encouraged to do the pre-reading before each workshop.

Do particular items relate to specific weeks, or are the written materials more of a parallel path?

Tomorrow will be my only chance to follow the day live from NSW, and I’m really looking forward to it. :smiley: :pray:


The written materials talk about DO as a whole while each day from now until the end should be looking at a specific set of links.

I also expect and hope ajahns @Brahmali and Sunyo will provide a bit of wrap-up at the last workshop.

So far I have really enjoyed the workshops. I really appreciate the insights on how to make sense of the occurrence of viññana in different parts of DO.



Yes, there is material for each individual session, found here.

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Thank you so much for that. :smiley: :pray:
What part of speech is ‘paccayā’, and can the following be regarded as a grammatical sentence?

vedanā paccayā taṇhā

Me too. But this was where I stopped to admire the trees. :open_mouth:

Hmm… What do you mean?

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It’s an idiom for getting caught up in too much detail. :slight_smile:

Paccayā is a noun, “condition”. The ending ā is ablative, meaning it refers to a starting point, that is, “from the condition of”. Vedanāpaccayā is a single compounded word meaning “from the condition of feeling”. The verb “to be” is implied and so we get:

From the condition of feeling there is craving.

So yes, it is a grammatical sentence. Pali is very concise compared to English!


I used to find this idiom really baffling, since here we would usually say “forest” not “wood” (though Winnie-the-Pooh does have a wood: Hundred Acre Wood - Wikipedia). To me “wood” is the stuff inside the tree… :rofl: (On the other hand, we also use the term “bush” to mean “forest” - English dialects are a complete mess…).

“Can’t see the forest for the trees” may be easier to understand…


I guessed that they were all Fem -ā nouns in the nominative, and invented a ?new sort of equational sentence with three equal elements. … But taṇhā and vedanā are possibly Fem -ā nouns, with pacca Masc -a.

What’s wrong with good English from the mother country? Growing up there we had no opportunity to romp in forest or bush; like Winnie-the-Pooh we played in the wood. :smiley: … I actually almost wrote ‘forest’ Mike, but I really do enjoy the ambiguity of of the British usage … Are the trees distracting me from what’s around them or what’s inside them? … To what extent is what outside the same was what is inside … A fine Buddhist question!

@Gabriel: my apology; Mike’s advice is good. … I’ll write forest in future, tho as two New Australians perhaps we should agree to settle for bush. :rofl:

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OK, apparently this is the original Middle-English from the mother country:

And as he myght tell vs, that of Poules chyrch we may well se the stones, but we can not se the chyrce. And then we may well tell hym agayne, that he can not se the wood for the trees.


Are these recorded and somewhere? I was about to ask, which of the three lifetimes/versus three thought moments (that some contemporary teachers like Buddhadasa Bhikkhu was more correct in terms of EBTs (and not just from the perspective of the orthodox positions of pretty much every existing Buddhist school today), or if we can glean both perspectives from the texts and both are useful and correct. And so I searched the forum for this question and figured, the answer is probably in this workshop! Though I don’t mind spoilers, if you want to answer this for me too.

BSWA website has it all: