To hear tell of it, the ancient Hindu text Kama Sutra sounds like a book detailing many acrobatic sexual positions practised by people in India and the Hindu world. And when we say “ancient,” we truly mean it: While scholars can’t say for sure, the Kama Sutra was written sometime between 400 BCE and 300CE.
When it was finally printed in English in the late 1800s, the main takeaway for many people was all of the depictions of ambitious sex moves that surely raised some eyebrows in those more button-up times. The very graphic depictions, or what some would call Indian sex stories, are part of a larger project of imparting lessons for a fulfilling life which, no matter what time you are from, we can all agree that sex is an important part of.
Sutra is the Hindu word meaning “text”. Kama is described as meaning “love”, which makes the Kama Sutra the “Love Text”. While a vast majority of Western readers consider it to be only about sexual positions and combinations of sexual partners, the entirety of the work is about much more than that.
You see, the Kama Sutra is just one of a few texts, written by a number of different authors over many years. The intention of the entire work was not to titillate, but rather to outline the ways and acts to live a good life. The “Love Text”–the Kama Sutra–does have a focus on pleasure, but in the greater context of passion and desire, all in a way that does not violate one’s moral responsibility on their path to spiritual liberation.
We will be the first to tell you that sex and pleasure can be a part of a fulfilling life, but we are certainly not the first to espouse this view. These ancient guides to living go way beyond sex however, and the sutras are made up of more texts that teach readers about the following:
Dharma is concerned with the order of things and the universe, and the order that one must ascribe to (laws, duties, morals, etc.) in order to maintain the natural harmony.
Artha focuses on the things one must do to be able to live the way they like. This is about work and wealth, both in terms of prosperity or simply financial security.
Kama is, as we’ve said, about passion–both sexual and non-sexual, as well as affection. The Kama text covers the ways that life can be enjoyed without disrupting Dharma, and not interfering with one’s Moksha, explained below.
Moksha is the state of emancipation or release from the cycles of life, death and rebirth–the Hindu concept of samsara–but more practically, it can be a guide to self-knowledge and self-realization.
Perhaps you never knew that there was more to the Kamasutra than just sex. And you’d certainly be forgiven for thinking so: Audiences in the late 1800s were more titillated by the book of “Indian Sex Stories” than they were about how to live in a way that is more in harmony with the world and people around you.
Now that you know however, why not dig a little deeper and see how better sex, living within your means, and being good to the people and the world around you can lead you to a more fulfilling existence?