What Buddha said… : Do not think lightly of doing good, saying, “A little will not affect me.” Just as a water jar is filled up by falling rain, drop by drop, the wise one is filled up with merit by accumulating it little by little.

ONE OF THE MEN in Bilalapadaka’s neighborhood liked to do charitable deeds. One day, he arranged to have the Buddha and his disciples over to his house for a meal. Being a generous person, he wished to give everyone a chance to share the joy and merit of giving and so invited all of his neighbors to join in, even the rich but selfish Bilalapadaka.

The day before the merit-making event was to take place, the promoter of charity bustled from house to house, happily collecting whatever food his neighbors wished to contribute toward the meal.

Bilalapadaka, upon seeing his neighbor going around for donations, softly cursed under his breath, “What a miserable fellow! Why did he invite so many bhikkhus if he could not afford to provide for them properly by himself? Now he has to go around begging!”

When his neighbor came to his door, Bilalapadaka donated only a little salt, honey, and butter, which although gladly accepted, were kept separately from what the others had already given. The rich man was confused and wondered why his contribution was purposely kept aside. He thought maybe his neighbor intended to humiliate him by showing everyone how little a man of so much had offered. So he sent one of his servants to investigate.

Back at his house, the man took the things that Bilalapadaka had donated and divided them among the pots of rice, curries, and sweetmeats in order to enhance their flavor. When the servant reported this to Bilalapadaka, Bilalapadaka still doubted his neighbor’s true intention. So the next day he went to his house with a dagger hidden under his cloak and planned to kill his neighbor should he utter even a single word that would put him to shame.

But the man practising charity said to the Buddha, “Venerable Sir, the almsfood is not offered to you by me alone but with the help of many others in the neighborhood. Small or large, each contribution was given in faith and generosity, so may we all gain equal merit.”

Bilalapadaka became ashamed when he heard what his generous neighbor said to the Buddha, for he realized then what a great mistake he had committed. He went and asked his neighbor to forgive him.

When the Buddha heard Bilalapadaka’s words of remorse and learned the reason for them, he said to the people assembled there, “No matter how small a good deed you may get to do, don’t think that it is not important, for if you habitually do small deeds, in the long run they will become big ones.”


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