Which cases does 'viharati' need?

Viharati as ‘dwells’ calls in English for a locative - ‘to dwell in’. The jhana formula has a list of accusatives.
Is viharati then more a ‘inhabits’ which goes with accusatives, or do we find in pali also different cases like locatives?


I hesitated to answer this because I’m only learning Pali, but I don’t yet see another reply. Hopefully someone with more expertise will also answer (and correct any errors I make below). I’ve seen _viharat_i used in a variety of ways and taking nouns (or adjectives) with different case endings.

For example, in the narrative in the beginning of suttas stating where the Buddha was staying, it often takes the accusative:
bhagavā sāvatthiyaṃ viharati– the Blessed One was dwelling at Savatthi.

However sometimes the locative is used:
bhagavā kurūsu viharati–the Blessed One was dwelling among the Kurus or in Kuru country or in the land of the Kurus.

Viharati is used with the accusative in many instances, such as in the jhāna formula as you point out. It’s good to remember that the accusative in Pali is used in a variety of ways, not only as a direct object. For example, to express the goal of motion, in various adverbial usages (time, space, direction) and others. In the following example, it looks like in the first use, viharati takes the accusative (disāyaṃ) and the second the locative (sakasmiṃyeva vijite)?:
Pañcahi, bhikkhave, aṅgehi samannāgato rājā khattiyo muddhāvasitto yassaṃ yassaṃ disāyaṃ viharati, sakasmiṃyeva vijite viharati
Bhikkhu’s, in whatever quarter he might dwell, a head-appointed khattiya king who posses five factors dwells in his own realm. (Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation AN.134)

In AN6.36 it’s used with the locative:
Yo so, bhikkhave, bhikkhu kodhano hoti upanāhī so sattharipi agāravo viharati appatisso, dhammepi agāravo viharati appatisso, saṃghepi agāravo viharati appatisso–I think the locative sense here is ‘dwells without respect toward (or regarding or in relation to) the Teacher…the Sangha…the Dhamma.’

There’s also the phrase dhammavihārī–dwells in the Dhamma.
Since it’s a compound, it doesn’t actually show the case relation but it would fit as a locative, either ‘in the Dhamma’ or ‘in regard to Dhamma’ e.g. AN 5.73. But if the compound were split, maybe the accusative dhammaṃ would be used (I’m not sure)?

It’s also used with adjectives describing the subject where the adjective agrees with the case ending of the subject:
anissito ca viharati–dwells independent
Sato, bhikkhave, bhikkhu vihareyya sampajāno–Bhikkhus, a bhikkhu should dwell mindful and clearly comprehending (optative verb form)

It’s used together with other verbal forms followed by the accusative:
viñ­ñā­ṇañ­cāyata­naṃ upasampajja viharati–dwells having entered the sphere of infinite consciousness
(upasampajja is an absolutive verb form but I think I’ve more commonly seen the translation ‘enters and dwells in’)

And: bhikkhu kāye kāyānupassī viharati ātāpī sampajāno– dwells comtemplating the body in the body.
Again I assume if the compound kāyānupassī were broken up it would be in the accusative?

I’m sure there are many more examples. Please doublecheck for yourself as I may be making some mistakes.



Verbs such as viharati are known as substantive verbs, which means they function much like the verb “to be”. These verbs don’t take a direct object in the accusative.

In the case of the jhāna formula it is actually the verb upasampajja (“enters upon”) that takes the accusative as its patient: “he enters upon the first jhāna …”. In many cases the verb viharati is no more than an auxiliary, that is, it functions like the verb to be in such constructions as “we are done with the job”.

And yes, viharati is often used with other cases, especially the locative, as pointed out by Linda.


You are on the right track, but a few things need to be corrected. Hopefully this will help you in your Pali studies!

Sāvatthiyaṃ is actually the locative. Feminine nouns in the locative often have this form.

Quite right. The only way the accusative would be used with viharati, however, is as an adverb, that is, expressing some attribute of the “dwelling”.

Again, this is a feminine locative.



Dear Bhante,
Thank you so much, this is really helpful. I figured I was probably making some mistakes so I very much appreciate the corrections.

[quote=“Linda, post:2, topic:3582”]
There’s also the phrase dhammavihārī–dwells in the Dhamma.
[/quote] If dhammavihārī were broken apart, would dhamma be in the locative and if so would it be dhamme or another ending?

Oh right, I should have realized this! Would the accusative be Sāvatthiṃ?

Thanks @Linda and @Brahmali !
Pali is probably still easier than Sanskrit, but not as much as I hoped it would be.
In some other discussions Pali introduction works were recommended. Could you name one or two standard grammar books that would be exhaustive in covering (almost) all grammar rules?

The grammar reference book I prefer is A Pali Grammar for Student by Steven Collins. There’s also A Pali Grammar by Wilhelm Geiger but it seemed a lot more complicated to use so I really haven’t. And you probably know of Introduction to Pali by A.K. Warder; ‘introduction’ is a bit of a misnomer I think, at least for someone like me who has no background in learning other languages. It goes into lots of details about grammar and is very systematic.

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You can’t really say for sure. A good way of finding out is to try to say it in English, “Dhamma-dweller”, and then think of what this means. Often you don’t even need to break it up, since the meaning is fairly obvious, as I would say it is in this case. Or you could try each of the cases to see which ones work: one who dwells by the Dhamma, one who dwells of the Dhamma, one who dwells for the Dhamma, etc. You quickly find that the locative is the most likely, and the others that might work actually subsume under the locative.

Exactly. Have fun with Pali!


I have always used A.K. Warder’s “Introduction to Pali”. Don’t be fooled by the title; this book is actually quite exhaustive. Once your Pali gets really good, there are some more specialised books, but very few people use them apart form professional grammarians and the sort.