📚 A grammatical question… negative imperative with mā + indicative?

Hi all, not sure if this is the right category for a Pali grammar question, please feel free to move and or remove it!

I wrote this little tidbit this morning:

And in the process I realized that I was perplexed at the grammar of this line:

Mā tathāgataṃ vihesesi, mā tathāgatasāvakaṃ.

Do not harass the Realized One or his disciple.

Why is the form vihesesi to vex in the second person indicative here, instead of the imperative vihesehi, given that it’s following ? Warder suggests (Ch.6) that requires either an aorist or an imperative.



What’s stopping you taking it for an aorist?


You’re right. I missed the fact that third singular aorist is the same as second singular present.

I think I had it in my brain that aorists start with a-, but verbs in -e don’t take a-, resulting in ambiguity between vihesesi as meaning you vexxed and you vex. Kind of tricky actually, since for these verbs the difference between present and past is lost.

Thank you for pointing that out, I will update my post!


Yes, it is tricky.

Part of the difficulty stems from fact that, in the basic Pali (and Sanskrit) grammars, forms are sometimes classified as this or that simply for convenience’s sake. One could take a very deep philological dive here into the murky, Indo-Iranian waters of unaugmented past tenses where you’ll meet the curious creature known as the injunctive that, so far, has proved stubbornly resistant to explanation.


BTW, I didn’t even know there was an active Pali reddit, so that’s something to learn. And, not really relevant, but it led me to a really useful and informative discussion of why Pali is discussed using Sanskrit roots.


Hello Bhante! I am happy to know that the Reddit is of interest. I am actually the one who started it ages ago, but it mostly lay dormant until fairly recently. I started this “Sentence a day” business yesterday, I hope I can keep it up (and that my mistakes don’t lead anyone too far from the path!). As you point out there have been some very helpful comments there.

Never enough Pali!

:slight_smile: :pray:


@khagga I just had a look at your pali notes website. Wonderful, thanks so much. Did you put together the pali studies blog as well? Is excellent, very helpful!


Hi Linda,

No, I did not do the Pali Studies blog, though it’s been a huge help to me. The author is rather anonymous (certainly a reasonable choice!), but golly, has he put a lot of work in Pali and Dhamma education, in case anyone here isn’t aware:

  3. I think this beautiful site is by the same guy, reading translations in English.

Thanks for your kind words about the! It’s a bit ramshackle at the moment but I find it fun to work on.