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What is Kama Sutra?

Of all the treasures of learning that Europeans have acquired from the Far East, Kama Sutra is perhaps the best known, along with Yoga and Buddhism. Starting with the industrial revolution of the late 18th century and the advent of fashionable foreign traveling, Europe and Northern America have been flooded with art objects, ideas, values and philosophy from the Far East that changed, to a certain extent, our way of thinking. Busy Westerners obsessed by tomorrow are intrigued and fascinated by the attitudes of people who are content to live this day and who are not afraid of the future.

When mentioning Kama Sutra, most people think of it as an exotic help book on sexual satisfaction or just an ancient porn magazine. The complete name of the book is actually “Vatsyayana’s Aphorisms on Love” (“Vatsyayana Kamasutram”) and it’s a treaty made of 36 chapters. The aim of this collection of aphorisms is to provide a comprehensive guide to sex, relationships with courtesans, courtship of married women, marriage and, finally, improving one’s chances to have good sex through the use of herbs, substances, spells and sex toys. As you can see, the purpose of this book was to become a definitive guide to what love and sex meant to the Indian society around the 4th century AD. Aside from sex and love, the “Aphorisms on Love” is a very orthodox book, after the fashion of the society that spawned it. Its purpose is to teach the lover what to do to get the woman he desires while still protecting both his and hers good names and reputations. Reputation was extremely important all over the ancient world, not just in India, and the person who forfeited it for such an insignificant thing as sex was considered to be frivolous, not worthy of the esteem of others. Vatsyayana himself, a celibate scholar, believed that sex was not bad in itself, but that engaging in it was certainly frivolous and sinful. The 36 chapters are each written by an expert of the issue and cover a wide range of issues, such as observations on the daily life of a citizen, sex positions, personal adornment, how to kiss, gaining the confidence of women and the means by which courtesans get money. The best known part of the book, the study of sex and sexual positions, makes up only about 20 percent of the whole text. Nevertheless, those who are truly interested in sex should read the entire book. After numerous centuries the ancient theory is still surprisingly accurate because people still want the same basic things from one another. Although this may sound very unlikely, at the bottom Kama Sutra is somewhat akin to Machiavelli’s “The Prince”, although the Indian book on love is much more careful to observe the morals of the time. Both books are guides to some of the aspects of their respective societies and both deal with them in a frank and realistic manner. Vatsyayana is not fooling himself that men and women are naturally virtuous creatures and so was perfectly willing to give advice on how to seduce married women, just as Machiavelli knew that a prince is bound to do evil things from time to time.


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