Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 121:
mā’pamaññetha pāpassa na mantaṃ āgamissati |
udabindunipātena udakumbho’pi pūrati |
pūrati bālo pāpassa thokathokampi ācinaṃ || 121 ||
121. Think lightly not of evil, ‘It will not come to me’, for by the falling of water drops a water jar is filled. The fool with evil fills himself, he soaks up little by little.
The Story of a Careless Monk
While residing at the Jetavana Monastery, the Buddha spoke this verse, with reference to a monk who was careless in the use of furniture belonging to the monastery.
This monk, after using any piece of furniture (such as a couch, bench or stool) belonging to the monastery, would leave it outside in the compound, thus exposing it to rain, sun and white ants. When other monks chided him for his irresponsible behaviour, he would retort, “I do not have the intention to destroy those things; after all, very little damage has been done,” and so on and so forth and he continued to behave in the same way. When the Buddha came to know about this, he sent for the monk and said to him, “Monk, you should not behave in this way; you should not think lightly of an evil act, however small it may be; because, it will grow big if you do it habitually.”
Explanatory Translation (Verse 121)
taṃ maṃ na āgamissati pāpassa mā appamaññetha
udabindu nipātena api udakumbho pūrati
thokathokaṃ api ācinaṃ bālo pāpassa pūrati
taṃ: that minor evil: maṃ: towards me; na āgamissati: will not bring evil results; pāpassa: about evil action; mā appamaññetha: do not underestimate; udabindu nipātena api: only drop by drop; udakumbho [udakumbha]: the water pot; pūrati: gets filled;thokathokaṃ api: even little by little; ācinaṃ [ācina]: accumulating; bālo: the ignorant; pāpassa: by evil; pūrati: gets filled
Some tend to believe that evil can be taken lightly. Their attitude to wrong-doing is that they can get away with anything whatsoever. They say in effect: I will behave in the way I want. Evil results will never come my way.” But evil accumulates little by little–very much like a water-pot being filled drop by drop. Little by little the evil accumulates, until he is filled with it.
Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 121)
Requisites of a Monk. This stanza was pronounced by the Buddha, about a monk who misuses the requisites of monastic life. The requisites of a monk are traditionally very simple. So far as a monk is concerned there are four requisites (catu paccaya) for progress on the path to purity and freedom. They are robes, food, a lodging and medicine. These are the bare necessities without which no human being can live. Basically they are also the fundamental needs of a layman. It was the Buddha’s custom to ask the monks on meeting them: “How is it with you; how are you faring? I trust you are well, and that you are not short of food.” There is the touching tale of a herdsman who, in looking for a lost ox, missed his midday meal. On his way back, fatigued and hungry, he went to the Buddha to listen to him preaching. The Blessed One, however, knowing that the man had not eaten all day, inquired from the people if he could first be fed. The Buddha knew that it was profitless to preach to this man without first satisfying his hunger.
Although the Buddha did not focus mainly on material progress, he did not entirely ignore it. The Buddha was very outspoken with regard to certain aspects of material conditions and social welfare.
It is an admitted fact that poverty is a contributory cause of crime. If people are deprived of the four requisites mentioned above, the bare necessities, or if these are scarce, especially food, people’s minds are not at rest. They cannot and do not think of moral behaviour, or give a thought to righteous living. Necessity has no law, and they stoop to unjust and unrighteous ways of gaining a subsistence. Owing to lack of economic security, and of money, people are led to commit theft and other crimes. The Kūtadantasutta states how in order to raise the social and economic conditions of a country, the farmers and traders should be given the necessary facilities to carry on their farming and business, and that people should be paid adequate wages. Thus when they have enough for their subsistence and are economically secure, crime is lessened and peace and harmony prevail.
In another discourse, the Buddha explains to Anāthapiṇḍika (the banker who donated to the Sangha the Jetavana Monastery), the four kinds of happiness a layman ought to enjoy. The first is the satisfaction of ownership (atthi-sukha), or economic security, so that he has sufficient means acquired lawfully by his own efforts; the second is the joy of consumption (bogha-sukha) or happiness gained by the judicious use of lawful wealth; the third is the happiness of freedom from debt (anana-sukha), the joy and satisfaction that comes with the thought, I owe nothing to anyone”; the fourth is the bliss of innocence (anavajjasukha), which is the satisfaction derived from the thought, “I am blessed with blameless acts of body, speech and mind.”
All these discussions and sermons in Buddhism go to show that the layman, as a member of society, should work hard to earn a living and strengthen his economic and social security, lest he becomes a burden to himself and others, but at the same time he should avoid wrong and unrighteous ways of living and not deviate from the path of self-sacrifice, charity, self-control, moderation, patience, detachment, meditation, etc.
The Buddha’s instructions and advice on right livelihood are addressed both to the layman and to the members of the Sangha. He has clearly explained to his disciples that the monk’s life should be absolutely pure and free from fraud. The Master is indeed very emphatic on this matter, for he says: “Monks, whatsoever monks are cheats, stubborn, babblers, cunning, passionate, proud, uncalmed–such monks are no followers of mine. They have fallen away from this Dhamma-vinaya (Doctrine and Discipline), nor do they grow, increase and prosper in this Dhamma-vinaya. Further says the Master: “Monks, this holy life (brahmacariyaṃ) is lived neither to cheat people nor for scheming, nor for profit and favour, nor for the sake of honour. It is not for gossiping, nor with the intention: ‘let people know me as so-and-so.’ But, monks, this holy life is lived for the sake of restraint, for abandoning, for dispassion, for cessation.”