The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana by Mallanaga Vatsyayana

I was consistently intrigued by the exotic perspective and expansive scope of the Kama Sutra. In a sentence, the book is an exposition of the author’s personal experience of and his well-read study of carnal enjoyment. I found this perspective to be particularly interesting because you must set the narrative within the context of a highly stratified caste society with little to no social/economic/spiritual/political mobility. This book forced me to recognize that this society elevated, at least theoretically, carnal pleasure to a spiritual and cultural (pseudo)-science whereby these stratifications may be bent, re-interpreted and, to use a word in its literal sense, humanized. Do not underestimate the empirical and scientific level at which the author has applied his mind. I am certain that Aristotle or Aquinas would have been enraptured. Surprisingly to me, the scope of the Kama Sutra did not extend to other aspects of carnal pleasure to include among other things the culinary sciences. Perhaps, this is because the arts of cooking and the enjoyment of taste were not within the purview of the audience of the Kama Sutra.

Speaking of Aristotle and the Greeks, the Kama Sutra contains an interesting comparative comment on the nature of prostitutes and their differing capacities in the Indian and Greek worlds. In the method of pre-Industrial revolution works, the author enjoys “scientific” proofs of his arguments by natural analogy. For example, the author supports his conclusions on that natural behaviors of mankind by analogies to his empirical observations of nature and animal life. This method, of course, will be immediately recognizable to any student of philosophy.

The books follows a logical plan, which comprises of small treatises regarding specific aspects of the topic including the opinions of previous scholars and the author’s agreement or disagreement with them. The work starts with an exhortation to the study of Kama, its benefits and its general nature. The book also includes treatises on the nature of man and woman, the nature of desire, the nature of union both carnal and spiritual, the nature of a wife and, the most unusual part in my opinion, the nature of the prostitute. Unfortunately, a collection of only a handful of the thousand of verses of this work has received notice and attention by the modern world – namely the verses, which describe the 64 arts of Kama ranging from cooing and biting to sexual positions and the appropriate setting for such sexual union. I do not understand why people believe that they will discover some sexual awakening from a book, whose focus is spiritual and philosophical in nature; if you are looking for this, there are obviously more available sources of this information.

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