A maharishi is one who repeats mantras. Maharishis are always chanting Vedic mantras. The Vedas are the foundation of all dharmas. And since maharishis are well versed in the Vedas, they are treated with respect, said M.A. Anantapadmanabhachariar.
In the Puranas and Ithihasas, we see examples of the kind of esteem in which rishis were held. King Dushyantha is out in the forest hunting, and comes across sage Kanva's ashram. He wants to enter the ashram to pay his respects to the sage. Before entering the ashram, he removes the armour he is wearing and casts aside his weapons.
The court jester, who is with the king, asks him why he has divested himself of his hunting apparel.
The king replies that he cannot enter the ashram with his suit of armour and weapons, for that would be a mark of disrespect to the sage.
The court jester wonders why Dushyantha should shed his armour to meet a sage, for after all Dushyanth is the king. But the king explains that while he may be the king, he does not in fact rule the land! Sages acquire powers through their penance. And of these powers, a portion is transferred to kings. So it is only because of the penance of rishis that kings have power. If not for the penance of rishis, kings would remain powerless. So saying, Dushyantha enters the ashram.
Rishis of yore could interact with Nature: they could talk to trees and animals. And even trees had regard for them. “Stop, my son,” sage Vyasa called out to his son Sukha Brahmam. But Sukha Brahmam did not turn and look at his father even once, for he was on his way to renunciation, and he did not want to be drawn back by family ties. When Vyasa called out to his son, even the trees echoed his cries, showing the regard even Nature had for rishis.
As for Sukha Barhmam not turning back or heeding his father's cries, it only showed that he had so controlled his senses, that nothing was going to stand in the way of his spiritual seeking. Rishis never cared for creature comforts, for they had controlled their senses and felt no need for anything. Nothing affected them, whether a change in weather or in abode.