In 2010, in a published pledge, Warren Buffett declared, “The asset I most value, aside from health, is interesting, diverse, and long-standing friends.”
When it comes to assets, this man undoubtedly knows more than most. He is one of world’s most successful investors and among the wealthiest people in the world. Yet, he values health and friendships more than wealth. And he’s not just preaching.
Despite his immense wealth, Buffett is known for his frugal ways. Besides, Buffett has publicly pledged that more than 99 per cent of his wealth will go to philanthropy during his lifetime or at death. What’s more, he is candid enough to declare that he or his family will give up nothing they need or want by fulfilling this 99 per cent pledge because just the one per cent is enough for their happiness and wellbeing.
To me, Buffett’s pledge is a lesson in detachment, in letting go. For one, to give up 99 per cent of his wealth requires a person to be rooted in detachment. For another, the man seems to know that there’s merit in this age-old Vedic philosophy. This is evident from his view that, “too often, a vast collection of possessions ends up possessing its owner.”
Buffett knows that the real assets in life are often those that are beyond financial valuation. Good health, enduring happiness, fulfilling relationships, and a sense of purpose cannot be bought with money. These possessions are the result of a mindset of gratitude and compassion.
Buffett’s philanthropy is unimaginable by most of us who live our lives being possessed by our material desires. To be sure, desires by themselves are not to be blamed. It’s when we allow them to be our masters that we ruin the equation. The ancient Upanishad texts maintain that detachment is the opposite of attachment, not of enjoyment. We can desire as much as we want, provided we are able to let go at the appropriate time.
Buffet’s example teaches us that true wealth is not determined by how much we have in our bank accounts, but by how much we can give away. We can do that only when we learn to identify what our real assets are…then we will be free from the prison of our possessions.
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