A story I was told in my childhood in Marathi. Since then wanted to rewrite it in English. Its possible that u might have heard this story in different versions.You can draw a variety of morals in the end.
Story is thus told -- long long time ago, a wealthy King presided over a prosperous kingdom that he had inherited. It was the times of intellectual & spiritual fervour. In order to demonstrate to his subject's that he was as learned & wise as he was brave, the King secretly commissioned a venerated Sage to bring back to him the "wisdom of life". The sage was to have all the funds he would need at his disposal to undertake such an intellectually challenging quest. Several years later the Sapient returned to the court of the King with a 12 volume thesis. He addressed the King " Oh Mighty King here I bring to you all the wisdom & knowledge of the world , read & interpret this and you would have understood the truth about life". But the king was disappointed , he rebuked the Sage that had he the time & inclination to read and interpret so much written wisdom he would not have hired the services of that Sage. And ordered the Sage to further condense the learning's and report back as soon as possible.
Sage returned to his dwellings and started working on the conciser version . And so after few months of meticulous effort ( Mind you it was before the era of MS Word processors) the Sage paid another visit to the King's court to submit his now abridged thesis. Though pleased that the wisdom of the world was condensed to a single book, the King still did not have the were withal to invest that kind of time, so he challenged the Sage to further condense it into as few sentences as possible. Again insisting that the Sage would be suitably rewarded for this endeavour.
Once more the learned man returned disheartened but he could not refuse the King's directions as he could be punished for non-compliance with the ruler's wishes. And so a few months later one morning the Sage returned to the court and handed a sealed envelope to the King ( No it was not his resignation letter). Addressing the King he said " Oh the brave King, here I bring to you the wisdom of the world condensed in just 8 words. But there is an condition you need to fulfill to fully realize the wisdom , you have to retire to a secluded spot as far from anyone as possible and open the envelope around dawn" Though perplexed by such an odd condition, the King thought to himself that it was a very small price to pay to find the ultimate truth. So that night the King rode far away from his palace into the hills all by himself as instructed by the Wise men and at the light of dawn, he sat down and with great expectations opened the envelope. On a small paper were scribed exactly eight words " There is no such thing as free lunch"
King was infuriated as he felt cheated by the Sage, instead of providing some secret mantra or gospel of truth , the Sage had written something that did not make any sense. And mounting on his house , he started racing back to his palace so to order his guards to arrest the sage for fooling the king. But it would be several hours before the King would reach any of his soldiers so after settling into his long ride back, he started reflecting on the reason that the Sage put such an condition on his finding the truth after all either way he would have been arrested and put to death. Having nothing else to fill his mind he started analysing the events leading up to this moment and what those 8 words could potentially signify.
And just as the first rays of the sun appeared on the horizon, it dawned on him what the Sage was trying to teach. King was attempting to get the knowledge of the world without putting in any effort not even willing to read & understand the thesis written by the sage. So from a state of rage the King transformed into a state of acute embarrassment, as he realized his folly. That real things in life --wisdom, knowledge, peace of mind, respect, loyalty,love, affection are all outcomes of enormous effort, commitment and toil.And there are no short cuts to get them. Things of no lasting significance like wealth, power, land can be inherited but everything else each human being has to work hard to achieve. That is there is no such thing as free lunch. And what is the use of knowledge if its not for real enlightenment but just to impress other people.
On his arrival back at the palace he immediately changed into plain clothes and went in search of that learned men. On finding the Sage, the King plunged at his feet and begged for his forgiveness, for being arrogant, rude and foolish. And thanked the Sage for the courage of risking his own life in order to enlighten the King. From that day onwards the King started learning from other scholars,meditating, attending lectures and soon was on a path of true knowledge & wisdom. He went on to become one of the most learned, wise Kings of all time. And the name of that King was ?? Well it does not matter because for the truly learned men, fame & fortune are of no significance. And so thus ends the story.
The moral of the story is as relevant today as it was in those olden days. Money is a means to the end but not an end in itself. And to achieve the real end - wisdom, knowledge, happiness, peace of mind, one needs to put in real hard work. And there are absolutely no short cuts to attain any of these. Knowledge gained to impress & preach others is not of any long lasting value as soon as people can see through the reality.