“Living in the kingdom of the Ikshvakus for twelve years, I enjoyed every delight imaginable to human beings and had all my desires fulfilled. Upon the thirteenth year, the king invited all his ministers to an assembly to discuss the installation of Rama as the new king. When it was thus decided in that assembly that Rama would succeed His father as king, my respectable mother-in-law, Kaikeyi, begged for a boon from her husband.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 47.4-6)
Friend1: You ever have someone say bad things about someone that is important to you?
Friend2: What happened?
Friend1: I’m asking you first.
Friend2: Is this about politics again? I told you to let it go. Don’t get so attached.
Friend1: How did you know? Well, it’s not politicians, exactly. It’s people on the radio. I listen to them every day. It’s difficult to not become attached. I don’t like hearing negative things said about them. The ones criticizing don’t even listen. They take whatever story is pushed by some astroturf group and then believe it.
Friend2: It’s the old problem of, “I can say bad things about my family, but you can’t.” It’s one of the great things about having siblings. You can make fun of your parents together.
Friend1: That makes sense. It’s not a new problem, if we think about it. Here’s a question. How does the Supreme Lord handle this?
Friend2: You mean, what is the reaction if someone says something bad about His family?
Friend1: Listen, I understand that He protects the devotees. He is non-envious by nature. Everyone is close to Him; otherwise He wouldn’t expand as the Supersoul.
Friend2: Yes. He is neutral, until someone takes to devotional service, bhakti-yoga. Then that person becomes a friend.
“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.29)
Friend1: What about within the family?
Friend2: Like with Prahlada Maharaja and the father Hiranyakashipu? Bhagavan incarnated as Narasimhadeva and chose sides. He protected Prahlada by killing the father. Prahlada did not protest.
Friend1: Okay, but not quite what I am getting at. Here we go. Take your classic mother-in-law problem.
Friend2: There are tons of jokes on that subject.
Friend1: I know, since the problem has been around forever. You have the mother and the attachment to her son. Then a new person enters the picture, the wife of the son. She is now taking care of the person the mother was looking after since birth. There are bound to be conflicts.
Friend2: Sure, and in modern times there are issues between the husband and the mother of the wife. These are people meeting in adulthood. There is no prior familial affection. That’s why the word “law” is included.
Friend1: With conflicts you are bound to get harsh words spoken. The wife will inevitably complain about the husband’s mother. She will lodge these complaints directly to the husband.
Friend2: That’s not a fun situation. It’s not the same as if the brother were the one complaining.
Friend1: I know. Who wants to hear bad things said about your parents? How does Bhagavan handle this? Has it ever happened to Him?
Friend2: There are a few instances I recall offhand. There is the incarnation of Shri Rama, who had three mothers in the kingdom. Imagine marrying into that!
Friend1: Sita Devi had the mother-in-law problem times three.
Friend2: Exactly. She was the model wife and daughter-in-law, but she had plenty to complain about later on. Because of Dasharatha’s youngest wife, Rama was banished from the kingdom. Sita insisted on accompanying Him. Husband and wife were essentially homeless because of Queen Kaikeyi.
Friend1: Okay, and we know that Rama considered Kaikeyi just as much His mother as the birth mother, Queen Kausalya.
Friend2: Right, and so even Lakshmana complained about Dasharatha and his giving into the demands of the wife. Rama did not take sides. He respected everyone, but I don’t know of any place where He admonished Sita or Lakshmana for the harsh words they spoke. God is the Supersoul, after all, so He understands what every person is going through.
Friend1: Any other examples?
Friend2: When Krishna descended to earth His chief queen was Rukmini Devi. Their union occurred in an amazing way, with Krishna kidnapping her right before her scheduled marriage to a person named Shishupala. Rukmini’s brother had arranged that marriage, and so he wasn’t happy that Krishna came and took his sister away.
Friend1: Yeah, and wasn’t there a battle after that?
Friend2: Yes. Krishna spared the brother’s life due to affection for Rukmini Devi. Anyway, sometime later there was a disagreement between Krishna’s brother Balarama and Rukmini’s brother, which led to the brother being killed. Afterwards, Krishna did not take sides, because He didn’t want to anger Balarama or Rukmini.
Friend1: Interesting. What lesson should we take away?
Friend2: That in every family there will be disagreements, sometimes to the extreme. The Utopian idea of everyone living in total happiness all the time is ridiculous. Try your best to understand everyone. Keep a level head. Always remain attached to the Supreme Lord and devotional service. Remember that even in Sita’s case the enmity didn’t last forever. When speaking with the dreaded Ravana one time Sita still referred to Kaikeyi as a respectable lady. That should tell you something. In saintly people there is no such thing as a grudge. They wish well for everyone, and in turn those aspiring to follow in their path should tolerate as much as possible, in a way that will help them progress in their quest to please Bhagavan.
Complicated picture to draw,
When in house with mother-in-law.
Having three imagine then,
Like Sita entering Ayodhya when.
Difficulties but grudge not holding,
Like after Rama’s exile unfolding.
Bhagavan different sentiments to know,
Not to this side or that to go.