By Chaitanya Charana Dasa
The Ramayana features an emotionally and intellectually riveting conversation about the interplay of destiny and human initiative. This conversation occurred at one of the epic’s defining moments: the moment when Rama, about to be crowned prince regent, was instead sentenced to forest exile for fourteen years. While Rama gracefully accepted the exile as the will of destiny, His faithful younger brother Lakshmana was outraged by the injustice and called for rebellion. Rama calmly responded that He considered His exile the will of destiny and so intended to accept it. He said that nothing else could explain how His stepmother Kaikeyi, who had loved Him like her own son and whom He had served like His own mother, had suddenly become so malevolent towards Him. Rama hadn’t done anything to offend Kaikeyi and certainly didn’t deserve to be exiled. Yet His exile was the boon that Kaikeyi had extorted from her husband, the monarch Dasharatha. Rama deemed obedience to His father His duty, one He intended to follow unflinchingly.