Wasn’t it immoral for Rama to exile Sita on just a rumour?
Answer: First of all Lord Ram did not banish or abandon Sita. If we have to use the word banish clearly in the sense in which it is used for Lord Ram when He was banished by Kaikeyi’s arrangement, then He had to go into the forest in the jungle where He had to fend for Himself and they had no ready home over there, they had no one to take care of themselves. So first thing that Lord Ram did not banish Sita like that. She was still within His kingdom under the care of Valmiki and Valmiki was under the care of Lord Ram directly he was in His kingdom and Lord Ram is the supersoul in the heart of all living beings and He is the supersoul in the heart of Valmiki also and Valmiki Rishi by his foresight he understood what was happening and he told the female hemits that were there in his hemitage to take care of Sita just like there own daughter. So in that sense Sita was certainly not banished the way Lord Ram was banished. So banish is too harsh a word and it is not proper to use it in this context. Now still the question remains why did Lord Ram send Her out of His palace when there was no fault on His side. So there are three different factors involved over here. There is the principle that this is not just from Vedic culture but this is also in European _________, it was there Caesar’s wife should be above suspicion. Srila Prabhupada would quote that the idea is that actually for a king to be able to effectively rule the people, the king himself has to be exemplary and that exemplariness has to manifest expression all walks of his life. So one of the exemplariness of the king is detachment. Now what kind of detachment is expected from the king. Although the king has the best opulences that anybody else has in the kingdom, but still the king is expected to use these opulences for the sake of dharma and for the sake of dharma he has to be ready to sacrifice those opulences. So for example when there is a sacrifice, the king is supposed to use the wealth that he has for performing sacrifice and while performing sacrifice the king is meant to give profuse charity to the priests who are there and the priests are not just official priests, the sages who are there, they are meant to be devotee to god entirely. So the idea is that the king has to be an ideal exemplar of dharma. So as a part of being exemplar of dharma one is that in the Vedic culture it is understood that family attachments are obstacles on the spiritual path. At a particular stage in a person’s life family attachments are important in the sense that they are also a part of a person’s duty so that the person can make spiritual progress but at the same time those duties if they diverted or diversed from the spiritual perspective then they just become material and taking care of ones family members is to some extent done even in the non human species also. So there is certainly nothing spiritual about that. So Lord Ram when he came to the world, He wanted to exemplify the dharma in the most extraordinary way. So that he did by showing that he had no attachment to His wife. So now if Lord Ram had really any attachment then He would have married some other wife later. He did not do that. It was not that He was personally concerned with His enjoyment. Some people say that for the sake of His own reputation, He gave up His wife. But at best a reputation can give a person only material pleasure so if material pleasure was all that was His interest and if reputation was all that was His interest then He could always have preserved the reputation by having some other wife, but he never did that. So at the time of there marriage, He had promised Sita that He would take a ekapathni vrta, He would not accept any other wives and His fidelity to Sita is seen through His keeping that vrta and further if we see although when yagnas are to be performed, the husband and wife have to sit together. Now although there was no one who could substitute for Sita unless Lord Ram married and there was pressure on Him that if you have to perform the yagna ashwameda kratu dikshita Rama, He had to perform ashwameda and other yagnas, so for that He had to have a queen with Him, so then He made images of Sita, golden image of Sita and that image was what sat with Him. So if we are looking at it, there are two aspects there is attachment and then there is responsibilty. Detachment does not mean irresponsibility and attachment is not necessarily irresponsibility. So if Lord Ram had been irresponsible or as the word here in the question uses immoral, then He would have just not cared for Sita at all, if Sita had just been a means for His reputation and because She was a spot on His reputation, He would have given Her up. Then He could just have abandoned Her entirely. He would not even have told Lakshmana to take Her to Valimiki’s ashram. He would just have told Her get out of my palace but He carefully arranged for Lakshman to have Her taken to the hermitage of Valmiki and again He did not marry anyone else even when there is obligations required it to some extent. So of course when the sages saw that they just told them that the yagna can be performed with the image also and He did that. The fact that He went to the extreme of doing that indicates that he was not irresponsible or immoral just concerned about worldly pleasure through reputation or enjoyment. Lord Ram himself was very principled. So what He is exhibiting through sending Sita away from His palace is not irresponsibility or immorality but detachment and exemplary conduct. So detachment means that as far as setting up the dharma is concerned one is not ready to compromise at all. One is ready to sacrifice any pleasure that is required for the setting up of dharma. So this is from Lord Ram’s perspective. Now we might argue that actually if Sita had been at fault then all this might have been ok, but Sita was not at fault if there is just a rumour somewhere then why take a rumour so seriously. He could just have confronted those people who where having those rumours and corrected them and infact that was Lakshman’s impulse. He felt that I want to who is saying this, I will go and set them straight but Lord Ram knew that the point here was not to set to silence one voice or to correct one misconception. The point here was to represent a principle and the principle was that the king should be spotless. So spotless that even rumours are not possible about such a person. Now in today’s socio politically _______ what to speak of rumours, even when evidences are there, even at that time the administrators, the politicians, the kings don’t care and they continue to hold on to there post and to do there irreligious, corrupt and immoral activities. So it’s very difficult for us to comprehend this level of morality. None the less this was what Lord Ram exemplified. So Lord Ram had a conflict in between His duty as a family member, as a husband and duty as a king and He did His duty as a king by exemplifying detachment and He did His duty as a husband by ensuring that Sita was cared for although She was not cared for directly in His palace by Him but She was cared in His kingdom through His representatives, sages who were there and elderly hermits that were there in the sage’s hermitage. So now the most agonising and to some extent emotionally difficult to accept this is from Sita’s perspective. So you could say what was Sita’s fault that She had already gone through the agni pariksha and She had already proven Her chastity, first of all She had maintained Her chastity despite all the allurements of Ravana. Both Ravana had threatened Her as well as tempted Her. So She maintained her chastity despite it all and then She proved Her chastity by going through the agni pariksha and then even after that She had undergo the mortification of being rejected by Lord Ram. So certainly this is very heart rending and firstly we have to understand that the whole Ramayan, every scripture there is a story line, there is philosophy and there is a rasa. There is a emotional experience that that scripture suppose to offer and that emotional experience is purifying, uplifting and eventually liberating. So in the Ramayan the primary emotional experience that is offered is called as karuna rasam. Karuna rasam is not exactly compassion but we can’t have compassion for the Lord or His associates but the idea is that normally compassion is invoked when we see somebody else suffering. So seeing the Lord suffering and the Lord gracefully accepting that suffering that inspires attraction to the Lord within us and that emotion which arises is purifying. So the whole purpose of the Ramayan is primarily to give, it is written _____ rishi is called as the adhi kavi and is called as the adhi kavya, the first poetry. So it is meant to promote that feeling and that is actually promoted first through Lord Ram’s exile, although Lord Ram just as Sita when She was sent to the forest She was utterly faultless. Similarly when Lord Ram himself was sent to the forest, He was utterly faultless. Now there was just some circumstance by which Dasharatha was bound and Lord Ram had to be sent to the forest. So similarly there was some circumstance by which Lord Ram was bound and Sita had to be sent to the forest. So we may say that there are differences in the situation that Lord Ram could have rejected the rumours but then we could also say Dasharatha could have rejected His word to Kaikeyi. Dasharath maharaj was king, Lord Ram was king also but the important principle over there is that there is something deeper being communicated over here. The communication is that even the Lord when he descends to the world to perform His pastimes, He has to some extent suffer and the way He accepts suffering with grace is what is meant to be taught for all time to come. So that is the lesson.So if we are going to blame then Lord Ram could have blamed Dasharatha maharaj which he did not do and similarly Sita did not blame Lord Ram. She understood why He had done it and although it pained her immensely just as it pained Lord Ram to go to the forest and not be there in the kingdom with His parents and with the citizens but He accepted it, similarly Sita also accepted it. So now is this meant to become a stereo type or a model for everyone, obviously not. The principle of sacrifice is something which is exemplary but the idea that somebody creates suffering upon somebody else to invoke that spirit of sacrifice is a perverse understanding. So it is not that the Ramayan recommends that step mothers conspire to send their stepsons into exile nor does the Ramayan recommend that, pregnant wives be abandoned. Every scripture if you don’t understand it in it’s proper context and purpose distorted lessons can be taken from it and this may unfortunately happened sometimes but that is not at all the intent of the Ramayan. The intent of the Ramayan is to first of all stimulate within us intense emotional attraction towards the Lord and His consort by seeing how They are suffering and secondly through Their suffering They exemplify to us how we can gracefully accept suffering when it comes in our way. But the idea that we should impose suffering upon others is a complete perversion and if that has happened, that is unfortunate and that is regrettable and the vaishnava acharyas especially in the Sri sampradaya, they have actually taught that Lord Ram’s exiling mother Sita was to invoke this karunya rasa, Jiva goswami also talks about it and from the rasa point of view there is a higher experience also that love in separation is higher than love in union in the sense that the emotions become intensified. They say that “the heart grows fonder in the absence of the beloved”. So Lord Ram wanted to give Sita that highest experience of love in separation and for that purpose this happened. So overall we can understand this at multiple levels, at the first level from the administrative point of view as a king Lord Ram had to set the example of complete detachment so that He could exemplify dharmic detachment for His citizens and He did that but on the other hand Lord Ram as a husband was not irresponsible, He arranged for the care of His pregnant wife, then from the still higher perspective of the Ramayan, it exemplifies to us how even the Lord undergoes suffering with grace and inspires us to accept whatever suffering we undergo in our lives because of our past karma to also accept it gracefully. It also increases emotional attraction towards the Lord in our hearts and lastly it enables Sita and Ram to taste the supreme rasa of love in separation which is the highest emotional experience between lovers.