“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।
“It seems rather cruel to me, the behavior of Queen Kaikeyi, as described in the Ramayana. Surely, there will be jealousy and rivalry in an instance where one husband has multiple wives. Today, the practice is frowned upon; though infidelity is quite common and swept under the rug.
“During those times the leaders often had more than one wife. The idea is that if you can take care of them sufficiently, offer protection and the like, then there is no harm. The alternative is rampant illicit sex in society, which has negative consequences distributed through a network of related events.
स्त्रीषु दुष्टासु वार्ष्णेय
strīṣu duṣṭāsu vārṣṇeya
“When irreligion is prominent in the family, O Krishna, the women of the family become corrupt, and from the degradation of womanhood, O descendant of Vrishni, comes unwanted progeny.” (Arjuna, Bhagavad-gita, 1.40)
“Let’s not forget what Kaikeyi asked for. She went against protocol by demanding her son be made the next king instead of Rama, who was the eldest. She asked that Rama be banished from the kingdom, despite a universal popularity amongst the citizens.
“I am wondering how a person can stoop so low. How can they become so cruel in heart as to inflict such direct suffering in others? Maharaja Dasharatha, her husband, eventually left this world due to these requests. The pain of separation from Rama was too much to bear. Yet Kaikeyi still didn’t feel bad.”
One way we can relate is to take any commonly debated issue in the news. We are driving along one day, flipping through channels on the radio. We stumble upon a talk show. The host is discussing a particular news event, one that we haven’t paid much attention to prior.
This drive extends multiple hours, and we leave the program on. Through the different back and forth, the processing of information, and the arguments presented, we are now firmly in a particular camp. We are advocates for an issue, and we are upset at any person who disagrees.
Some months later, we are in the waiting room at a doctor’s office. A routine appointment, and the customary long delay in between the allotted time and actual meeting with the doctor. To pass the time we start reading one of the magazines lying on the table.
We come upon an article discussing the issue we became interested in previously. We want to see if the author agrees with our position. It is just the opposite, in fact. They make the case for the other side. It turns out to be a compelling case. Suddenly, our mind is changed. Just like that. In an instant.
In this regard association can be very important. Queen Kaikeyi was previously affectionate towards Rama. She did not make a distinction that He was born through the womb of Queen Kausalya. This is the way the Supreme Personality of Godhead is naturally viewed.
He may look foreign to us, with His shyama complexion and beautiful ornaments, but with enough time there is a strong sense of familiarity. It is like He has been related to us since before we can remember. Beyond the present lifetime. Transcending birth and death.
Kaikeyi had to be convinced to change her viewpoint. The critical association was through her servant, Manthara. Someone stirring the pot, so to speak, she knew just what to say to make Kaikeyi jealous. The persuasion continued to the point that Kaikeyi viewed it as a grave injustice to have Rama installed as the next king instead of Bharata.
There were higher forces at work. Sarasvati Devi, the goddess of speech, inspired those words in the servant. But the lesson is unmistakable. Improper association can take a rationally thinking person into the dangerous realm of intense envy, which is otherwise unfounded.
The incident highlights the importance of the spiritual master and those he inspires. Sadhu, guru and shastra are the three parallel lines which lead to liberation, which has an accompanying consciousness. That is to say when I am truly enlightened, I will be able to see things properly and understand that Shri Rama is my best friend and His servants are the most amazing people in this world.
Part of events to unfold,
Persuaded by words told.
From servant Manthara to hear,
Confused when previously clear.
So that towards envy turning,
Succession protocol spurning.
Vulnerable everyone the same,
Rescued by mantra’s holy name.