Some time ago, a poor but wise young man walked into a village and began helping the villagers out in their daily lives. He showed up every day to answer their questions and would often give talks that encouraged, inspired, and empowered them.
Since he had no place to stay, the villagers began to shelter him and allowed him to eat at their dinner table. His gratitude at receiving their gifts was matched by their gratitude of receiving his.
When the young man walked through the village, people would run up to him, happy to see him and often bearing gifts. When he went to shops, the shopkeepers would give him discounts or free goods, and people would let him have their place in line.
Because of the abundance that he shared with them, the small village grew into a prosperous town. After years of him staying in their homes and eating at their tables, the townsfolk decided to honor him as a Sage and built a home for him. He was humbled but graciously accepted the gift.
The town continued to grow, as did the Sage’s renown. He found himself increasingly annoyed that people were interrupting his time and knocking on his door, even though he still found gifts and warmth on his doorstep. He started asking himself: “Why do these people keep bothering me? Don’t they know I need some quiet time?”
At a certain point, he became overwhelmed and had had enough of their intrusion. He built a large wall around his home with two entrances; one entrance was a sturdy gate that only he could open, and the other was a maze that no one but his trusted friends and loved ones knew how to make their way through.
This shocked the townspeople, but they loved their Sage. They accepted that he needed his quiet time, and they soon found other ways to spend their time.
As time went on, the Sage would open his gates, and fewer and fewer people would be waiting to come through. When they did come, they didn’t bear gifts the way they used to, and the Sage soon began worrying about how he would keep up with his estate. To ease his worry, he let it be known to the townsfolk that they had to bring a gift with them if they wanted to come through his gates.
They still loved their Sage so they continued to exchange their gifts for his teachings, but attendance dwindled. People began to question the value of his teachings, and though they didn’t dare speak out publicly, many people decided that it was no longer worth their effort to go and hear the Sage speak.
One day, the Sage opened his gates and no one was there. He walked out into the town and no one ran up to greet him. He walked into shops and the shopkeepers no longer gave him discounts; the townspeople treated him with the same indifference that he showed them. He had more acclaim and possessions than he had ever had in his life, but the spring of his abundance was all but dried up.
And that is how a wealthy sage becomes a poor hermit.