Zen Talk: Buddha Speaks of Small Good Being Good Enough

“Do not underestimate good, thinking it will not affect you. Dripping water can even fill a pitcher drop by drop; one who is wise is filled with good, even if one accumulates it little by little.”

This saying of the Buddha, found in the Dhammapada, causes me pause. I hope that its simplicity holds meaning for you as well.

Every good action matters. No good deed is too small. Many people want to save the world or change it for the better or be all they can be – but they want these things in one felll swoop. Little by little is a successful method. As the turtle taught us, slow and steady wins the race.

Don’t underestimate the importance of every good action, even the smallest, because every little bit helps. Perhaps we can all try to make it a goal for the day. Maybe even a once a day goal? I’m not suggesting that you drop your change into a homeless man’s tin. If you want, give him your leftovers or something. Try picking up a piece of trash. Do something nice for someone around you. Pass a smile onto a sad person. There are so many different kinds of good things to be done. Try to do one thing today – whatever comes to your mind. I will too. Tomorrow, perhaps we can try the same.

As the Buddha has told us, every good thing – no matter how seemingly small – can help to fill a much larger vessel.

What will you choose to do? What do you think of the Buddha’s words?

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3 Responses

  1. To be on this journey of doing small good patience is a prerequisite and we should be free of expectations.

  2. […] To read other Zen Talk posts, click HERE. […]

  3. I am not sure where your source material is coming from about the Buddha and small good, but in general, Eastern wisdom is not concerned about performing any acts of Moral Good. The “good” usually referred to in Eastern thought is the kind that springs forth spontaneously and innately. The Taoists say that “the sage carries the jade close to his heart”. Confucius spoke of something called “Bright Virtue”:

    “The way of great learning consists in manifesting one’s bright virtue, consists in loving the people, consists in stopping in perfect goodness. … The ancients who wanted to manifest their bright virtue to all in the world first governed well their own states.”

    Perfect Goodness is innate Virtue. It is NOT moral goodness. It is something that you already have, but must be nurtured, as compared to moral good, which is something you acquire.


    “The sage has no mind of his own.
    He is aware of the needs of others.
    I am good to people who are good.
    I am also good to people who are not good.
    Because Virtue is goodness.
    I have faith in people who are faithful.
    I also have faith in people who are not faithful.
    Because Virtue is faithfulness.
    The sage is shy and humble – to the world he seems confusing.
    Others look to him and listen.
    He behaves like a little child”
    Tao te Ching

    It is said that a wise man never tries to do good, for, in forming a concept of The Good, one automatically has also created a concept of what is Evil. Having formed a concept of what is Evil, Evil must now be fought, as dictated by the Good. However, in fighting Evil, one only makes Evil stronger. Therefore, the sage never does good. Instead, he relies on his innate Virtue, and in so doing, all things are accomplished. It is by NOT DOING, that that sage achieves his ends. The DO-ER always creates Cause and Effect, otherwise known as Karma.


    “A truly good man is not aware of his goodness, And is therefore good.
    A foolish man tries to be good, And is therefore not good.
    A truly good man does nothing, Yet leaves nothing undone.
    A foolish man is always doing, Yet much remains to be done.
    When a truly kind man does something, he leaves nothing undone.
    When a just man does something, he leaves a great deal to be done.
    When a disciplinarian does something and no one responds, He rolls up his sleeves in an attempt to enforce order.
    Therefore when Tao is lost, there is [moral] goodness.
    When goodness is lost, there is kindness.
    When kindness is lost, there is justice.
    When justice is lost, there ritual.
    Now ritual is the husk of faith and loyalty, the beginning of confusion.
    Knowledge of the future is only a flowery trapping of Tao.
    It is the beginning of folly.
    Therefore the truly great man dwells on what is real and not what is on the surface, On the fruit and not the flower.
    Therefore accept the one and reject the other.
    Tao te Ching

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