While residing at the Jetawana Monastery, the Buddha spoke this verse with reference to a stingy rich man whose nick name was Bil?lip?daka – catfoot man. He was known by such name because whenever a poor person asked some help from him, he gave only as much as he could grasp by three fingers of his hand.
Once, a generous man in Bil?lap?dak’s neighbourhood, organized a Dana ceremony for the Lord Buddha and his disciples. Being a truly generous person, he wished to give everyone in his neighbourhood a chance to make merits out of this great Dana ceremony. So, he invited all his neighbours including Bil?lap?daka to join in.
The day before the Dana ceremony was to take place, the generous man went from house to house, happily collecting whatever the ingredients his neighbours wished to contribute toward the preparation of the Dana.
Bil?lap?daka, upon seeing his generous neighbour going round for donations, felt a strong dislike for him and mumbled “What a miserable fellow! Why did he invite so many monks if he could not afford to provide food for them by himself? Now he has to go around begging and disturbing people.”
When the generous man came to his door, Bil?lap?daka gave only a little rice, little salt and little sugar as much as he could grasp by his three fingers. The generous man gladly accepted and kept them separately from what the others had already given.
Bil?lap?daka was confused and wondered why his things were kept separately. He thought perhaps that man intended to humiliate him by showing everyone how little a man of great wealth had offered. So, he sent one of his servants to find out.
Back at his house, the generous man put a little of everything that was given by Bil?lap?daka into various pots of rice, curry and sweetmeats so that the rich man would gain much merits. The servant reported what he had seen. But Bil?lap?dka did not understand the meaning and still doubted the generous man’s intention.
The next day Bil?lap?daka went to the neighbour’s house where the Dana ceremony was being held. He had a big knife hidden under his cloak intending to kill the generous man if he utter even a single word that would put him to shame.
But the generous man said to the Buddha, “Venerable sir, this charity is a joint offering of all. The alms food is not offered to you by me alone but with the help of many others in this neighbourhood. Small or large, each contribution was given in faith and generosity. So, may all of us gain equal merits.”
When he heard those words, Bil?lap?daka became ashamed. He realized the great mistake he had committed. He went and asked the generous man for forgiveness.
The Buddha heard Bil?lap?daka’s words of remorse and upon enquiring found out the reason. Bil?lap?daka went to the Buddha and made a confession. He said, “Lord Buddha, my contribution toward
Then the Buddha said to the people assembled there “No matter how small a good deed you may get to do, do not think that it is not important, for small deeds will become big if you do them habitually.”
Do not think lightly of doing good, saying “A little will not affect me.” Just as a water pot is filled up by falling rain, drop by drop, the wise one is filled up with merits by accumulating it little by little.
M?vamaññetha puññassa, na manta? ?gamissati.
udabindunip?tena, udakumbhopi p?rati.
dh?ro p?rati puññassa, thoka? thokampi ?cina?.
On the other hand,
Do not think lightly of doing evil, saying “A little will not affect me.” Just as a water pot is filled up by falling rain, drop by drop, the foolish one is filled up with evil by accumulating it little by little.