“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।
“In recently reading the verses from the Ramayana describing the interaction between King Dasharatha and Queen Kaikeyi, I couldn’t help but reflect on several issues. I tried to put myself in the same situation, to better understand both perspectives.
“I have certainly fallen victim to intense envy before. The onset was just as sudden as with Kaikeyi, who was otherwise positively disposed towards Shri Rama. As a quick background, the setting is the kingdom of Ayodhya many thousands of years ago. The Ramayana is significant because of the main character, whose name is in the title.
“Shri Rama is considered an avatara of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Not the son of God, but God Himself. This is not amazing for Him, as He is already omnipresent. He can appear and disappear at will. It is said that Rama is the full portion of the Almighty, while the other three brothers are partial incarnations.
“The four sons were born to King Dasharatha. It would make sense that such an appearance does not occur randomly, nor to just any ruler. Dasharatha was everything you would expect in a leader. Pious, brave, chivalrous, kind, gentle, and yet fearless in the defense of dharma.
“In this particular portion of the Ramayana, Shri Rama is about to take over the throne. Dasharatha has made the arrangements, and everyone is pleased about it. Kaikeyi, who is the youngest queen, throws a wrench into the wheels that were already in motion. She decides to cash in on two boons previously offered by her husband.
“She wants her son, Bharata, to be made the next king. She also wants Rama banished from the kingdom for fourteen years. The way she breaks the news to Dasharatha is just heartbreaking, at least to me. The king is obviously fond of her; his mannerisms show signs of a loving husband.
“This only makes the subsequent pain worse. He was completely shocked that Kaikeyi would make such requests. He knew he was backed into a corner. Dasharatha could ignore Kaikeyi, but that would tarnish his reputation as a truthful person.
“To make matters worse, when Rama came to hear of the news, He kept His cool. He showed no signs of distress. It was like He welcomed the challenge to follow the righteous path. He knew that following through would maintain the good name of Dasharatha.
“I am wondering how such a thing could happen to a pious person. It had to be torture for the father to see the son sacrifice everything in that way. The tendency is the opposite; parents do everything for their children. They are older, more mature, and closer to death. This is nature’s way.
“It is difficult to imagine what Dasharatha went through. It makes sense that he would soon leave his body, unable to bear the separation from Rama. How could this happen to someone so intimately connected to God?”
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that just because a person takes up devotional service, it doesn’t mean that the miseries stop. Material nature will continue to attack. There will be the three sources of misery. There will be pain, heartache, desperation, failure, consternation, fear, and uncertainty.
There is a key distinction, however. The devotee is under the shelter of yogamaya, which is an energy directly controlled by the Supreme Lord. In any other situation, the governing force is mahamaya, which is the negative kind of illusion.
In essence, without the transition to devotional life, we undergo the same tribulations, but with nothing to show for it at the end. The mode of passion is something like the hamster spinning on a wheel. They go through so much effort, only to remain in the same place.
With bhakti-yoga, there is always progress. This makes the difficult moments tolerable. The devotee thinks along these lines:
“Just see how much I was suffering before. Success and failure were of the same nature. I was never happy. Now that I have found the lotus feet of the all-attractive one, I have been spared. I would have suffered much more, otherwise. I can tolerate this, for at the end of the day I always see my protector standing there, ready to defend.”
Dasharatha did quit his body over the pain of separation. Kaikeyi essentially did him in. She made him so truthful in his vow that it killed him. Yet that passing was glorious. It is a departure to be celebrated, as the glories of the devotee are as endless as Rama Himself.
Though by separation torn,
And by advanced age worn.
And making a painful sight,
That passing in delight.
Since to Rama connected,
Thoughts that way directed.
Ups and downs present the same,
But devotee higher realm to attain.