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Verse 122: The Story of Bilalapadaka

While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse (122) of this book,
with reference to Bilalapadaka, a rich man.

Once, a man from Savatthi, 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 Bhikkhus 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 Bhikkhus and so to
contribute according to their wishes. The rich man Bilalapadaka 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 Bhikkhus 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 men could not understand why his thing; 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 Bilalapadaka 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 Sir, 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,
Bilalapadaka 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 he reborn in one of
the four lower worlds (apayas). 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."

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:

Verse 122. One should not think lightly of doing good, imagining "A little will not affect me'; just
as a water-jar is filled up by falling drops of rain, so also, the wise one is filled up with merit, by
accumulating it little by little.

At the end of the discourse, Bilalapadaka the rich man attained Sotapatti Fruition.

Translated by Daw Mya Tin, M.A.,
Burma Pitaka Association, Rangoon, Burma 1986.


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