On an overlooked adversarial idiom in Pali

In a number of passages in the EBTs, we find a rather innocuous idiom, evameva pan’. So far as I can tell, it doesn’t seem to be rendered in any particularly distinctive manner, and is often ignored in translation. It may not have been recognized as a distinct idiom, as all its elements are very common.

However, the passages it occurs in are all very similar. They express a certain adversarial sense, a skepticism or challenging of what has been said before.

  • In SN 47.3, it’s the Buddha’s response to a monk with a history of laxity who asks for teachings.
  • In MN 85 it’s expressing surprise or skepticism that Prince Bodhi didn’t go for refuge.
  • In MN 80, it’s challenging whether some ascetics claim to be arahants without knowing the past and the future.
  • In MN 87, it’s King Pasenadi lamenting the fact that Queen Mallikā agrees with everything the Buddha says.

And so on. Given the consistency, it seems useful to render it consistently, or at least to capture something of the sense. Something like “even though” or “despite the fact that”. Or maybe rather than directly adversative, it is more exasperation or dismissal: “Well, what do you expect …” “That’s exactly what happens with such foolish people …”


Could it mean something like “Ge out!”, “No way!” or “You must be kidding!”, etc.

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I don’t think it’s quite as emotive as that; more a case of pointing to a logical contradiction.

But Pali does have some nice exclamations, and translating them is always fun. As it happens, in the same sutta where I noticed this (MN 66), there is a case of a woman washing dishes at night, who is startled by a monk walking for alms. She cries out:

abhum me pisāco vata man
Bloody hell! A goblin’s upon me!


after looking at the suttas referenced in the Ven Sujato’s post i got a sense of it to mean something like ‘yes, […] but’ which is a primitive version of “even though” and “despite the fact that”

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Right, “yes, but” is pretty good.

In Aussie we say, “yeah, nah”.

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