We are asked to adhere to the right path and never deviate from the truth. The Sastras say we must always speak the truth. So to be honest is a dharma we have to keep to. But are there occasions when such prescriptions have to be ignored? Are there times when a special dharma prevails? In such cases, should we follow the usual prescribed practice, or should we follow that which is more essential? Suppose a man with evil intentions is chasing someone. We see the man being pursued hiding somewhere. Now, if we were to follow the Sastraic injunction to speak the truth always, then our honesty will result in the death of an innocent man. So in such circumstances a greater dharma prevails, namely, the need to save a life. So telling a lie in such a case is not wrong.
A similar situation arose in the Ramayana, and Dasaratha chose to adhere to the sadharana dharma (ordinary dharma) and ignore the visesha dharma (special dharma), said Akkarakkani Srinidhi, in a discourse. Kaikeyi had once been promised two boons by Dasaratha, but she had not specified what they should be. So when she asked for Rama’s banishment to the forest, Dasaratha should have weighed the pros and cons of yielding to her. Her demand was unreasonable. How could Dasaratha, in order to keep a promise, which was a sadharana dharma, banish to the forest Rama, the embodiment of dharma? In this case, Dasaratha must not have paid heed to Kaikeyi. He did, and as a result, he did not attain moksha. But ironically, Kaikeyi, who was the one who had asked for the Lord’s exile, attained moksha! The reason was that Dasaratha loved the Lord, but shunned Bharata, a great devotee of Lord Rama. Kaikeyi, on the other hand, caused untold suffering to the Lord, but loved His devotee — Bharata. So Dasaratha was denied moksha, but Kaikeyi was granted moksha, because the Lord is willing to forgive those who hurt Him. But He will not forgive those who hurt His devotees. A sanyasi should not be seen without his staff (danda). But in the Tirumala math, the Pontiff sets aside his staff to take flowers to the temple priest during special pujas. So here, too, a special dharma takes precedence over the usual dharma.