The Value of a Drop of Water

“A single spark can raze the entire plain, and over time a drop of water can pierce a rock.”  A drop of water can penetrate deep into the earth. Its strength can eventually flatten a hill.  Drops of water can also form streams, rivers, seas, and oceans.  When a drop of water is sprinkled onto flowers and plants, it can bring forth growth and blossoms.  A drop of water is like sweet morning dew to a thirsty person.  We should never dismiss a drop of water for being small, for billowing waves and raging rivers are formed from such drops of water.  Forests and vegetation in the wild rely on drops of water for moisture in order to flourish.

A long time ago, a Japanese Chan master brought a bucket of water for his teacher to wash his feet with.  When his teacher was finished, there was still water left in the bucket. The Chan master threw out the water.  His teacher scolded him. “You are desecrating the value of nature’s resources!  A drop of water can save lives and provide moisture. A drop of water can become an ocean and flow on endlessly.  How can you waste half a bucket of water so casually?”  Upon hearing his teacher’s words, the Chan master broke out in a cold sweat.  He later changed his name to “Water Drop” in memory of this lesson. He became a renowned monk in Japan.

We often say in Chinese, “Upon receiving a drop of generosity from others, we should repay it with gratitude in gushing torrents.”  Is this not a wonderful way to form bonds with others?  When we reflect on our lives, we can see that the help and generosity we receive from others is far from just a “drop”—all the benefits of heaven and earth have been bestowed on us! Our parents’ efforts to raise us, our teacher’s efforts educate us, can hardly be considered a single drop of water. Our gratitude to them should be as immense as the ocean.

Then there is the care and encouragement we receive from our friends and relatives, and the daily necessities furnished by people from the different trades and professions.  Parks have been erected for people who need places of relaxation. Broad, smooth highways were built to allow us to travel to distant destinations.  Bus services help us visit our friends.  The postal carrier delivers our mail through sleet and snow, and technicians work hard to install the necessary wiring so that we can telephone our loved ones, or so our homes can be lit up with electricity. Shops and malls are full of products to satisfy our every needs. The food placed on the table is nutritious and delicious.  We should realize that every stitch of clothing and each morsel of food we receive came from the efforts of others.  We have received all kinds of causes and conditions from our families and relatives and all kinds of support from our communities. That is what enable us to live in abundance and ease.  Therefore, “do not dismiss a drop of water for its small size, and do not regard a small act of kindness as unimportant.”

A drop of water is the result of the strength of the universe. A small act of kindness is the accomplishment of all of one’s good intentions. Offering a small part of our hearts is as good as offering to all the Dharma realms and sentient beings in all directions.