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Dangers of wealth

Chennai: At different times different things have been thought of as constituting wealth. There was a time when wealth was measured in the number of cows a man possessed. There was a time when only those with an abundance of gold or land were considered rich. The danger with wealth is that we get too attached to it, and then we are reluctant to let go of it. It becomes the most important thing in our lives, and we cannot have enough of it. We even think of relatives and friends as less important than money. That is why Adi Sankara, in his Bhaja Govindam warned of the dangers inherent in wealth. It is often wealth that makes children turn against parents and friends turn into enemies, Goda Venkateswara Sastrigal said, explaining Bhartrhari's Neeti Satakam.

When we earn money, we think it will bring us happiness. But does it? After we have earned money, we begin to think of ways of saving it. And then when we have thought of varying ways of saving it, we begin to worry if our investments are good ones. We wonder if we have saved enough. So it is not merely the earning of money that keeps us preoccupied and therefore keeps us from acquiring spiritual knowledge, it is also the saving of money that keeps us from spiritual pursuits. If in the past, when people did not have options for investment, they worried about keeping their gold or silver safe from thieves, the modern-day investor has worries relating to his investments. So wealth brings with it worry, and this has been true at all times.

But the problem with wealth is not only for those who want to save; the problem is equally one of knowing how to spend and how much. Our attachment to money being great, often, after we have given in to an urge to spend, we begin to worry whether that was such a wise expenditure after all. We feel guilty about the money we have spent and lose sleep over an expense we now think we must have avoided. And yet, in spite of all this, we think wealth is what gives us happiness!

We do not understand, in spite of the words of warning of great seers, that the acquisition of spiritual knowledge is more important than the acquisition of wealth.

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