“Being under the control of passion and lust, Rama’s father, Maharaja Dasharatha, wanted to fulfill Kaikeyi’s cherished desire, thus he did not go through with Rama’s installation ceremony.” (Sita Devi speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 47.12)
कामार्तस्तु महातेजाः पिता दशरथस्स्वयम्।।
कैकेय्याः प्रियकामार्थं तं रामं नाभ्यषेचयत्।
kāmārtastu mahātejāḥ pitā daśarathassvayam।।
kaikeyyāḥ priyakāmārthaṃ taṃ rāmaṃ nābhyaṣecayat।
“I like how the Ramayana accurately portrays the struggles of married life, even though the events took place so many thousands of years ago. Society thinks they are advancing, that they are correcting the wrongs of generations past, but in truth human behavior is always the same. There are the same defects and struggles.
“King Dasharatha has three wives, but even that experience is relatable. He is so kind to everyone, even though he is the greatest warrior. It is like he turns on his fiery nature on the battlefield, and then transforms into a different person at home.
“It is described that Kaikeyi is the one to whom he is most attached. She is the youngest of the wives, I believe, and she saved the king one time while in battle. He promised her anything she wanted as a result. Two boons. Whenever she would ask for them.
“Those who are familiar with the story remember that Kaikeyi cashed in on those promises at the worst possible moment for Dasharatha. Just as control over the kingdom was about to be passed down to the eldest son named Rama, Kaikeyi had a different idea.
“She wanted Bharata to be the king, instead. This was the prince born of her womb. It really was the second wish that spoiled everything. She wanted Rama banished from the kingdom for fourteen years.
“Rather than delve into the faults of envious women and infighting that takes place within families, I am interested to learn how someone can change their nature so quickly. It is described that Kaikeyi had not a hint of envy towards Rama prior to this moment. She viewed Him as her own son. How did the feelings move in the other direction?”
We see this happen in our own lives, especially as it relates to divisive topics. I have no opinion on the government’s policy towards a specific foreign nation. I am not really interested in politics. Whatever they do, let me stay out of it.
Then one day I am on an extended trip, driving the car for hours. I stumble upon a radio program, and the host is discussing the issue. After some time, I am totally invested in a particular opinion. I hear the background story, how the one nation is lying and cheating. There is documented evidence.
The host makes a convincing case, so much so that I attribute the shift in personal interest to myself. Then a few weeks later I happen to see someone on television discussing the same policy. They have the opposite stance. They are also convincing. Suddenly, I align with their ideology; I am in their camp.
Something similar occurred with Kaikeyi. She had a humpbacked servant named Manthara. This is the person who poisoned the queen’s mind. It took a while, too. Kaikeyi fought back, at first. She did not want to hear anything offensive towards Rama.
But the servant knew just the right words to say, highlighting how happy Rama’s mother must have been to hear the news of the transfer of power. There is always the slippery slope fallacy to rely on. From a single event occurring, make it seem that so many other bad things will occur in tandem.
Suddenly, Kaikeyi was thinking that the worst possible fate was to have Rama as the next king. This is an instance of bad association, though there were also higher forces at play. In other Vedic texts describing the same incident, we learn that Sarasvati Devi, the goddess of speech, empowered Manthara to be convincing in her pitch.
The lesson is there to take, all the same. Envy can strike at any moment. Poor association can suppress better judgment. Someone we know to be pure and honest could be viewed with contempt. In this world of illusion, the wrong teacher might fool us into thinking that there is no God or that enjoying the senses is of utmost importance.
There are ways to find good association and maintain it. The saints travel to our region for this reason. They leave behind recorded teachings available for reference at any time. They pass down powerful mantras to deliver the mind from wickedness and evil: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Saints travelling to this region,
For rescue from duality reason.
Where firmly on this side today,
And tomorrow a different way.
Thinking rationally so,
But now the opposite to go.
Like Kaikeyi previously with affection,
Then convinced in other direction.