Wealth is that which man has always coveted. The definition of what constitutes wealth may vary from time to time, but our attachment to material objects is a constant. There was a time when we valued gold, livestock and land. When currency came into existence, we began to covet that too. It appears that we can never have enough of wealth.

But hoarding more and more wealth doesn’t bring us happiness. Buried treasure may not fall into the hands of our descendants. Saved money may be spent unwisely by our children, and then what is the use of our seeking all this wealth?

But there are some things which Thiruvalluvar lists as wealth and asks us to seek them, because they have none of the characteristics of what we conventionally think of as wealth. It is wealth that cannot be lost, or depleted or be stolen from us, explained Malayaman, in a discourse.

One such wealth is the quality of humility. Look at a tree, whose branches are heavy with fruit. The branches bend down, because of the weight of the fruits. In the same way, a person who has desirable qualities will also have the quality of humility. He may be blessed with many things, and yet he remains humble.

Education is another wealth spoken of highly by Thiruvalluvar. An educated man can teach others and help them get rid of their ignorance, and yet his knowledge is not lost in the process. Wealth gets depleted when we take away from it, but the knowledge we acquire is not depleted by our giving of it to others. Knowledge can be gained by reading books. But it can be acquired by listening to the words of the educated too. In fact, what we hear often leaves a lasting impression on our minds, and we remember things better when we listen to them than when we read them.

Listening to the wise and the educated is a form of wealth too, and we should always consider the art of listening as wealth, says Thiruvalluvar. Other forms of wealth lead to jealousy, and they harm the possessor of wealth, and ultimately lead to sorrow. But the wealth which Thiruvalluvar tells us to seek leads to happiness, not to sorrow.

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