“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।
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada often decries the practice of worshiping a human being as equivalent to Narayana; especially if the worship is due to that person being in a state of poverty. The Sanskrit terminology is daridra-narayana-seva.
“To describe a man as an incarnation of God, or Narayana, and at the same time present him as poverty-stricken is contradictory, and it is the greatest offense. The Mayavadi philosophers, engaged in the missionary work of spoiling the Vedic culture by preaching that everyone is God, describe a poverty-stricken man as daridra-Narayana, or ‘poor Narayana.’ Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu never accepted such foolish and unauthorized ideas.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 12.35 Purport)
Narayana refers to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is a specific manifestation. Narayana is the source of men. He lies down on the causal ocean, and through His breathing the many universes emerge. This is the most amazing work, full of complexity, nuance, detail, perfection in timing, coordination with other aspects of nature, and so forth. Yet, Narayana accomplishes the work effortlessly; it is as easy as breathing in and out. It is not something He has to think about.
To think that Narayana has become poor is a great offense, precisely because He is the source of everything. He is also known as Bhagavan since He possesses the opulences we can identify, to the greatest degree and simultaneously. One of those opulences is wealth.
This truth to His existence is symbolized by His eternal relationship with Lakshmi Devi. She is the goddess of fortune, the most beautiful woman in the world. Lakshmi is only for Narayana. Her dharma is serving her husband, and this service can never be removed from her.
Narayana retains full wealth no matter where He is, such as during an avatara appearance. This may seem contradictory during a particular period of time in the life of Shri Rama, but this is one of the many reasons Bhagavan decides to appear. He instructs through both words and personal example.
Rama appears, takes birth, janma, as the eldest son of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya. Rama is the prince regent; He will become the next king. Dasharatha could not be more proud; this is the son he always wanted. The king waited a long time to have an heir, and the higher authorities did not disappoint when they finally delivered.
Rama is as righteous a person as can be. He has no enemies in Ayodhya. No one can say a bad word about Him. Though He is in an administrative role, responsible for delivering justice, even those who are punished by Him are not offended.
Therefore, when news hits that Dasharatha is ready to pass down the throne, the entire city is elated. Everyone eagerly anticipates the formal ceremony. They are preparing as if it is the most important occasion to ever take place in their lives.
Time for a major plot twist. Plans change; abruptly, at that. Dasharatha’s youngest wife, Queen Kaikeyi, gets caught in a fit of envy, instigated by clever words of her cunning servant named Manthara. She places her husband in a bind, making good on two promises previously offered to her.
Kaikeyi wants her son, Bharata, to be the next king. She also wants Rama to leave town and not return for fourteen years. He must follow the vow of an ascetic, roaming from place to place, with scant possessions.
Dasharatha is so taken aback that he can barely get up off the ground. Rama has to learn of the promise through Kaikeyi. Dasharatha is too upset to even utter the words to banish his favorite son. Kaikeyi has no issue; she is delighted to witness the destruction.
Rama’s reaction is striking. Not a hint of agitation. He shows no signs of being upset. He is eager to follow through on the new plans, precisely because they will maintain the truthfulness of the king. Rama is ready to follow dharma in whichever direction it leads.
The comparison is to the impact of darkness on the moon. The moon shines bright in the night sky, and though there is darkness around, the splendor does not diminish. In general, good people welcome the daylight and the sunshine which causes it. Darkness is a time to rest, to wait out until there is more light.
Ravana, the king of Lanka, made the same mistake of thinking that Narayana had somehow become poor. The ten-headed leader of the Rakshasas thought Rama to be weak for voluntarily giving up the throne and roaming the woods like an ascetic.
Yet, Rama still had the goddess of fortune with Him. Sita Devi came along for the fourteen years, as did Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana. Those two did not consider themselves to be in a state of poverty. They were with the Supreme Lord, who is not affected by the temporary changes brought on by the passage of time, which is ultimately under His control.
Ultimately under His control,
Grip over time to hold.
Such that never affected,
So reaction unexpected.
When Kaikeyi delivering the news,
That Rama now kingdom to lose.
Never poor despite the forest to roam,
Narayana most wealth to own.