Pali text, illustration and English translation of Dhammapada verse 122:
mā’pamaññetha puññassa na maṃ taṃ āgamissati |
udabindunipātena udakumbho’pi pūrati |
pūrati dhīro puññassa thokathokampi ācinaṃ || 122 ||
122. Think lightly not of goodness, ‘It will not come to me’, for by the falling of water drops a water jar is filled. The sage with goodness fills himself, he soaks up little by little.
The Story of Bilālapādaka
While residing at the Jetavana Monastery, the Buddha spoke this verse, with reference to Bilālapādaka, a rich man.
Once, a man from Sāvatthi, having heard a discourse given by the Buddha, was very much impressed, and decided to practice what was taught by the Buddha. The exhortation was to give in charity not only by oneself but also to get others to do so and that by so doing one would gain much merit and have a large number of followers in the next existence. So, that man invited the Buddha and all the resident monks in the Jetavana Monastery for alms-food the next day. Then he went round to each one of the houses and informed the residents that alms-food would be offered the next day to the Buddha and other ‘monks and so to contribute according to their wishes. The rich man Bilālapādaka seeing the man going round from house to house disapproved of his behaviour and felt a strong dislike for him and murmured to himself “O this wretched man! Why did he not invite as many monks as he could himself offer alms, instead of going round coaxing people!” So he asked the man to bring his bowl and into this bowl, he put only a little rice, only a little butter, only a little molass. These were taken away separately and not mixed with what others had given. The rich man could not understand why his things were kept separately, and he thought perhaps that man wanted others to know that a rich man like him had contributed very little and so put him to shame. Therefore, he sent a servant to find out.
The promoter of charity put a little of everything that was given by the rich man into various pots of rice and curry and sweetmeats so that the rich man may gain much merit. His servant reported what he had seen; but Bilālapādaka did not get the meaning and was not sure of the intention of the promoter of charity. However, the next day he went to the place where alms-food was being offered. At the same time, he took a knife with him, intending to kill the chief promoter of charity, if he were to reveal in public just how little a rich man like him had contributed.
But this promoter of charity said to the Buddha, “Venerable, this charity is a joint offering of all; whether one has given much or little is of no account;each one of us has given in faith and generosity; so may all of us gain equal merit.” When he heard those words, Bilālapādaka realized that he had wronged the man and pondered that if he were not to own up his mistake and ask the promoter of charity to pardon him, he would be reborn in one of the four lower worlds (apāyas). So he said, “My friend, I have done you a great wrong by thinking ill of you; please forgive me.” The Buddha heard the rich man asking for pardon, and on enquiry found out the reason. So, the Buddha said, “My disciple, you should not think lightly of a good deed, however small it may be, for small deeds will become big if you do them habitually.
Explanatory Translation (Verse 122)
taṃ maṃ na āgamissati puññassa mā avamaññetha
udabindu nipātena api udakumbho pūrati
thokathokaṃ api ācinaṃ dhīro puññassa pūrati
taṃ: that act of merit; maṃ: towards me; na āgamissati: will not come bringing good results; puññassa: act of merit; mā avamaññetha: 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]: collected; dhīro [dhīra]: the great man; puññassa: with merit; pūrati: gets filled.
Some tend to think that virtue can be taken lightly, and that virtue practiced is not likely to bring about any spectacular good results. This view is not quite correct. The good done by an individual accumulates little by little. The process is very much like the filling of a water-pot, drop by drop. As time goes on, the little acts of virtue accumulate, until the doer of good is totally filled with it.
Commentary and exegetical material (Verse 122)
māppamaññetha; mā avamaññetha: do not under estimate. The intention of this Stanza is to stress that wholesome action, however trifling it may seem, is not to be under-estimated. Since the action yields results in terms of happiness, even a modicum of good can be helpful.