“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।
The occasion of Rama Navami celebrates the appearance in this manifest world of the one who is forever unmanifest. He has no distinction between body and spirit. He is eternally nirguna, in juxtaposition to our current position of saguna. That same Almighty is simultaneously saguna, in the sense that there are identifiable features.
Shri Rama, the eldest son of King Dasharatha, gives a vivid example of those features, for the enjoyment of the population of the world and also to instruct them in the ways and glories of the one who is the original father and greatest well-wishing friend to every single being.
Jiva is life. Jiva is tied to atma, and that atma can never be killed. It is never born, it can never be destroyed, it never dies, and it never shuts down. Birth is the arrival in the sense of the jivatma connecting with a temporary and destructible vessel. Death is the subsequent dismissal of that form previously accepted.
Shri Rama is not in the category of jiva-tattva. He never accepts a material body, and so He never has to renounce one. He is vishnu-tattva, and for many purposes, including the rescue of jivas living at the time and in the future, Rama appeared in this world.
He had a distinct purpose of following dharma to the best extent possible. He was to set an ideal example of how to live, especially for a leader. He showed the various difficulties a human being faces throughout life and how to get through the tough times with grace, honor, dignity, and no loss of enthusiasm and effort.
At a young age Rama lost His father. King Dasharatha mistakenly trusted his youngest wife one time in the past. She had helped him on the battlefield, and Dasharatha repaid the favor by offering her any two boons of her choosing. Not one, but two blank checks, which Kaikeyi could cash in any time. Though he was a warrior equipped to handle enemies attacking from the ten directions simultaneously, Dasharatha was the nicest person one could imagine. A saint in the truest sense of the word.
Unfortunately, Kaikeyi later cashed in those blank checks at a very inopportune time. She asked that Rama’s installation ceremony be cancelled and that He leave the kingdom for fourteen years. Imagine if your favorite child was sent to jail for that long a time, after they had done nothing wrong. You would not be able to see them or hear from them. How would you survive?
Dasharatha didn’t. Shortly after Rama left, the king renounced the world. Rama had no issue following the orders. He abandoned the kingdom like a yogi abandons attachment to eating and sleeping. Rama loved His father very much, but affection did not stand in the way of duty.
After later hearing the news of Dasharatha’s departure, Rama easily could have returned to Ayodhya. No one would expect Him to honor the terms of the agreement with the wife. At that time no one was happy with Kaikeyi, anyway. No one would be upset if her desires were left unfulfilled. The people would be thrilled that their beloved Rama had returned.
Dasharatha’s eldest son stayed true to the vow. He carried out the entire fourteen year exile. Rama had many further difficulties to endure. His wife, Sita Devi, had to suffer in the process. As did Rama’s younger brother, Lakshmana.
Dasharatha’s passing could have crippled Rama. After all, the four expansions of Vishnu were the long awaited sons of the king. It was through a chance meeting with a rishi and a subsequent religious sacrifice that produced the fruit necessary to keep the family line going. It was not as if Dasharatha didn’t enjoy every minute spent with his sons.
Rama chose to honor the legacy of His father, of the king maintaining truth, honor and dignity so that the citizens would have a proper leader. To this day, that celebrated incarnation of Vishnu is still our leader. He sacrifices for those close to Him, and our meager and humble effort in return is to sacrifice a little time each day to sing His glories found in sacred mantras passed down to us by the acharyas: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
For father’s word to maintain,
Renouncing kingdom after gain.
Rama to the forest then went,
And entire fourteen years spent.
Sacrifice in this way making,
So that trust of king taking.
Worship on Rama Navami day,
Small way the favor to repay.