Paying respects to land owners before Dhamma teachings

Bhante @sujato I’ve noticed your customary salutations to past and present land owners, guardian devas and the like. IMO it’s a great way to start off a dhamma talk.

May I ask when and why did you start doing this? Perhaps to deter disturbances to talks? I’m not big on the supernatural, but coming from Singapore, we have inherited a culture of paying respects to ancestors and spirits. Thank you, Bhante.


It’s the custom here in Australia to do this. It is normally done before any public event.

Where possible, a an aboriginal person is invited to introduce the event, giving what is called a “welcome to country”. This is a traditional act of gracious welcome and acceptance for visitors. It may be a simple message, a speech, a short performance or something else.

Otherwise the organizer or host will give a short message of acknowledgement, as I usually do. It’s a small gesture of gratitude.


Wonderful, Bhante. I realise you did it during the Ho Center at Stanford talk as well. In the Tibetan tradition, the monks usually make offerings to the unseen beings during the start of a retreat, teachings etc. I’ve seen some Thai lay magic practitioners (ruesi / rishi) do similar offerings. It’s a great way to say thanks. Cheers for the reply.

Quite enlightened. In the states bringing up Native Americans can still be met with hostility.

Depending on where you go in Australia, welcome to country can literally mean going out with the local indigenous people and putting the local water under your armpits.

In remote places, the main reason for doing this is to prevent spirit harm like unexpected sickness and bad dreams.

(To give a scenario with a slightly contrasting motivation)

In the urban centres it seems to be more about connection and acknowledgement when done as a routine acknowledgement of country.


The Welcome to Country and Acknowledgement of Country are two different things.

A Welcome to Country is done only by the custodians of the land (country) on which you are being met and welcomed to. It is their country, so they are the ones to do the welcome. It can not be done by people who don’t belong to that group, even if they are a first nations person from another group, and certainly not by non-first nations people.

An Acknowledgement of Country can be done by anyone on any land, as a mark of respect to recognise the legacy of colonialism by noting the first nations ownership and paying respects to the traditional custodians.


Of course I know this Bhante (i.e. I know this is how things are mostly done in urban centres). It had been important to me to share that as someone from remote Australia, what I expect when I hear “welcome to country” firstly involves being guided through the process of making a ritual connection with actual water in waterways, and only secondarily involves the type of urban customs that both yourself and Bhante @sujato had described. I don’t come from an urban centre…

I think the remote custom might be closer to OP’s expectations of the supernatural than the acknowledgement which was referenced. This had been what I was aiming to express. I think I had actually been incorrect to refer to the waterways custom I know as a welcome to country. It’s not a welcome, it’s a protection.

This remote/urban difference has been documented in literature, e.g. see page 300 at link. Which was what I was trying to say.
156674209 (1).pdf (149.1 KB)

I have never been in a position to be offered a welcome to country, which must be a wonderful thing, but as both a migrant to Australia and the descent of early colonists I feel it is very important to acknowledge the wrongs that were done to the Aboriginal People and I see the Acknowledgment of Country when it is done by nonIndigenous people as a commendable political act. A simple starting point that needs to be followed by much action.

As I travel across Australia I feel it important to at least be aware of the name of the people across whose stolen land I’m passing.