Norman Lindsay’s – DESIRE (etching) 1920, May 15th
Like many people, I had heard of the Kama Sutra when I was young and thought it was an ancient manuscript for Indian porn. Imagine my surprise when I discovered just recently, that it is about so much more than that.
It is about “The-art-of-living-well”
As an artist I have always been interested in how different cultures from around the world view, feel, celebrate and practice sex. I am also intrigued about the artistic imagery that is so characteristic of the Indian culture and how the art of love making has evolved into modern day.
This is your chance to turn away… Do not read any further if you have a closed mind on sexuality and the artists that choose to depict a most natural and instinctive act. For those of you that are open to self-discovery, read on.
Kama Sutra Positions
The first thing that comes to mind about this book is that there are so many sexual Kama Sutra positions.
I will be blogging each week on each position and what benefits are derived from them. I will be using translations from several authors who have translated this ancient Hindi text.
It was written by Vatsyayana approximately 2 ½ thousand years ago, (no one knows exactly when) Vatsyayana in turn, complied his book from many of the great Hindi masters of his time. I guess that means we should not reinvent the wheel, but learn from those who have already done the work on what works and what does not.
This manual has been in print for so many years that it becomes the obvious first choice for primitive sexual practices, as well as being a great cultural masterpiece of its time. The strength and flexibility needed for some of these positions suggest a heavy influence of the Yoga masters. We all know the significant benefits modern day Yoga has to maintain our health, flexibility, strength and calmness of mind.
In modern Western society we have adopted an unhealthy compartmentalized concept of sexuality and emotional suppression. As such, the Kama Sutra will not resonate with some cultures and religions as it is a joyous celebration of sexuality, eroticism and emotional fulfillment in life. It is written as a guide to the “art-of-living” well, the nature of love, finding a life partner, maintaining one’s love life, and other aspects such as erogenous zones pertaining to pleasure-oriented faculties of human life.
It is written with terse aphoristic verses that have survived into the modern era. The text is a mix of prose and poetry and acknowledges the Hindu concept of Purusharithas, and lists desire, sexuality, and emotional fulfillment as one of the proper goals of life. Its chapters discuss methods for courtship, training in the arts to be socially engaging, finding a partner, flirting, maintaining power in a married life, when and how to commit adultery, sexual positions, and other topics. The majority of the book is about the philosophy and theory of love, what triggers desire, what sustains it, and how and when it is good or bad.
The Hindu tradition has the concept of the Purusharthas which literally means “Object of human pursuit” and goes on to outline the “four main goals of life”.
- Dharma – (Righteousness, moral values) Dharma, is that which all existing beings must accept and respect to sustain harmony and order in the world. It is the pursuit and execution of one’s nature and true calling, thus playing one’s role in cosmic concert.
- Artha – (Prosperity, econmonic values) signifies the “means of life”, and incorporates wealth, career, activity to make a living, financial security and economic prosperity. The proper pursuit of artha is considered an important aim of human life in Hinduism
- Kama – (Pleasure, love, psychological values) the aesthetic enjoyment of life, affection, or love, with or without sexual connotations. without violating dharma (moral responsibility), artha (material prosperity)
- Moksha – (spiritual liberation) signifies and one’s journey towards emancipation, or release. In some schools of Hinduism, moksha connotes freedom from saṃsāra, self-knowledge, self-realization and liberation in this life or the next.
This example of verse is one of the many evidences that the Kama Sutra began in the religious literature of the Vedic era, ideas that were ultimately refined and distilled into a sutra–genre text by Vatsyayana.
“A fire – that is what a woman is, Gautama.
Her firewood is the vulva,
her smoke is the pubic hair,
her flame is the vagina,
when one penetrates her, that is her embers,
and her sparks are the climax.
In that very fire the gods offer semen,
and from that offering springs a man.”
Contents of the Kama Sutra
The Kama Sutra uses a mixture of prose and poetry, and the narration has the form of a dramatic fiction where two characters are called the nayaka (man) and nayika (woman), aided by the characters called pitamarda (libertine), vita (pander) and vidushaka (jester). This format follows the teachings found in the Sanskrit classic named the Natyasastra. The teachings and discussions found in the Kamasutra extensively incorporate ancient Hindu mythology and legends.
Below is the Wikipedia explanation of what is in the full Kama Sutra.
|1.1||1–24||Preface, history of kama literature, outline of the contents|
|1.2||1–40||Suitable age for kama knowledge, the three goals of life: dharma, Artha, Kama; their essential interrelationship, natural human questions|
|1.3||1–22||Preparations for kama, sixty-four arts for a better quality of life, how girls can learn and train in these arts, their lifelong benefits and contribution to better kama|
|1.4||1–39||The life of an urban gentleman, work routine, entertainment and festivals, sports, picnics, socialization, games, entertainment and drinking parties, finding aids (messengers, friends, helpers) to improve success in kama, options for rural gentlemen, what one must never do in their pursuit of kama|
|1.5||1–37||Types of women, finding sexual partners, sex, being lovers, being faithful, permissible women, adultery and when to commit it, the forbidden women who one must avoid, discretion with messengers and helpers, few dos and don’t in life|
|2||Amorous advances/sexual union|
|2.1||1–45||Sexual relationships and the pleasure of sex, uniqueness of every lover, temperaments, sizes, endurance, foreplay, types of love and lovers, duration of sex, types of climax, intimacy, joy|
|2.2||1–31||Figuring out if someone is interested, conversations, prelude and preparation, touching each other, massage, embracing|
|2.3–5||1–32, 1–31, 1–43||Kissing, where to kiss and how, teasing each other and games, signals and hints for the other person, cleanliness, taking care of teeth, hair, body, nails, physical non-sexual forms of intimacy (scratching, poking, biting, slapping, holding her)|
|2.6–10||1–52||Intercourse, what it is and how, positions, various methods, bringing variety, usual and unusual sex, communicating before and during intercourse (moaning), diverse regional practices and customs, the needs of a man, the needs of a woman, variations and surprises, oral sex for women, oral sex for men, opinions, disagreements, experimenting with each other, the first time, why sexual excitement fades, reviving passion, quarreling, keeping sex exciting, sixty-four methods to find happiness in a committed relationship|
|3||Acquiring a wife|
|3.1||1–24||Marriage, finding the right girl, which one to avoid, which one to persuade, how to decide, how to proceed, making alliances|
|3.2–3||1–35, 1–32||Earning her trust, importance of not rushing things and being gentle, moving towards sexual openness gradually, how to approach a woman, proceeding to friendship, from friendship to intimacy, interpreting different responses of a girl|
|3.4–5||1–55, 1–30||Earning his trust, knowing the man and his advances, how a woman can make advances, winning the heart; utilizing confidants of your lover, types of marriage, formalizing marriage, eloping|
|4||Duties and privileges of the wife|
|4.1||1–48, 1-–30||Being a wife, her life, conduct, power over the household, duties when her husband is away, nuclear and joint families, when to take charge and when not to|
|4.2||30–72||Remarriage, being unlucky, harems, polygamy|
|5||Other men’s wives|
|5.1||1–56||Human nature, tendencies of men, tendencies of women, why women lose interest and start looking elsewhere, avoiding adultery, pursuing adultery, finding women interested in extramarital sex|
|5.2–5||1–28, 1–28, 1–66, 1–37||Finding many lovers, deploying messengers, the need for them and how to find good go-betweens, getting acquainted, how to make a pass, gifts and love tokens, arranging meetings, how to discretely find out if a woman is available and interested, warnings and knowing when to stop|
|5,6||1–48||Public women [prostitution], their life, what to expect and not, how to find them, regional practices, guarding and respecting them|
|6.1||1–33||Courtesans, what motivates them, how to find clients, deciding if someone should just be a friend or a lover, which lovers to avoid, getting a lover and keeping him interested|
|6.2||1–76||How to please your lover|
|6.3||1–46||Making a lover go crazy about you, how to get rid of him if love life is not fulfilling|
|6.4–5||1–43, 1–39||Methods to make an ex-lover interested in you again, reuniting, methods, checking if it is worth the effort, types of lovers, things to consider|
|6.6||1–53||Why love life gets dull, examples, familiarity and doubts|
|7.1–2||1–51, 1–51||Looking good, feeling good, why and how to be attractive, bewitching, being virile, paying attention, genuineness and artificiality, body art and perforations, taking care of one’s sexual organs, stimulants, prescriptions and unusual practices|
I will be looking at Upadhyaya’s translation and comparing it to a translation by Indra Sinha. The following are excerpts from Wikipedia on the main translations of Kama Sutra.
There are many knock off’s with modern interpretations that can be bought on eBay that focus entirely of sexual positions. But, as always, buyer beware. Kama Sutra for Dummies is exactly what you will get. A dumbed down version of a holistic life-style where sex is the only focus. You will miss out on life lessons that may change the way you look at the world and your lover.
- In 1961, S. C. Upadhyaya published his translation as the Kamasutra of Vatsyayana: Complete Translation from the Original. According to Jyoti Puri, it is considered among the best-known scholarly English-language translations of the Kamasutra in post-independent India.
- According to some the Burton version is a “flawed English translation” but influential as modern translators and abridged versions of Kamasutra even in the Indian languages such as Hindi are re-translations of the Burton version, rather than the original Sanskrit manuscript. This book is not recommended as reflecting the original nature of Vatsyayana, instead it reflects English morality and take away the females voice and right to participate as an equal partner.
- Other translations include those by Alain Daniélou (The Complete Kama Sutra in 1994). Wendy Doniger questions the accuracy of Daniélou’s translation, stating that he has freely reinterpreted the Kamasutra while disregarding the gender that is implicit in the Sanskrit words. He, at times, reverses the object and subject, making the woman the subject and man the object when the Kamasutra is explicitly stating the reverse.
- A translation by Indra Sinha was published in 1980. In the early 1990s, its chapter on sexual positions began circulating on the internet as an independent text and today is often assumed to be the whole of the Kama Sutra.
- Wendy Doniger and Sudhir Kakar published another translation in 2002, as a part of the Oxford World’s Classics series. Along with the translation, Doniger has published numerous articles and book chapters relating to the Kamasutra.
At this time I have not read all of the versions of this particular manuscript, so I cannot make any recommendation on which version to buy. But, I hope you enjoyed this outline on what the Kama Sutra has to offer, and I hope you come back to read what I have discovered in each chapter. Your comments are always welcome, so please keep an open mind and let me know your view of what the Kama Sutra means to you.