The Origins of The Kama Sutra
As far as original publication date goes, scholars speculate that this book was written as early as 400 BCE to as recent as 200 CE. The one things most modern scholars can agree on is that this book was compiled in pretty much its present form around 200 CE.
Overall Philosophy: A life of Virtue
A true understanding of this book is within the general hierarchy of Hindu virtues. According to this spiritual tradition, there are 4 key areas of life: Dharma or virtuous living, Artha or the need for material gain and prosperity, Kama or the desire for pleasure, and Moksha-spiritual release from the endless cycle of birth and rebirth. The virtuous life should be one’s highest goal followed by material gain. The need for pleasure is quite low in the totem pole of Hindu values.
While the sexual component of the book Kama Sutra gets most of the public’s attention, the sex guide is just one portion of this book. Most of the book, around 80%, focuses on how to live the good life as it relates to love, desire, right and wrong sexual behavior, family, and other pleasurable aspects of life. That’s right-only 20% of the Kama Sutra deals with positions couples could try when having sex.
This hierarchy of human needs roughly track the Hindu chakra system where basic needs like sex, food, drink, and domination of others are relegated to the lower levels of humans’ values while virtues like the ability to love others and experience the divine are placed at the top.
Origins of The Kama Sutra
Contrary to popular belief, this book is not authored by one singular author. In fact, it’s easy to look at this very old publication as a compilation of previous books. Written originally in the ancient Hindu Sanskrit script, this book’s nominal author, Vatsyayana gives credit to previous authors of books which detailed positions compiled in this book. He specifically mentions that this book included shortened versions of originally longer publications by the following ancient Hindu authors: Kuchumara, Charayana, Gonikaputra, Gonardiya, Ghotakamukha, Suvarnanabha, and Dattaka.
Organization and Layout
Composed of 1250 verses, this book is comprised of 36 chapters which are, in turn, grouped into 7 different parts. Here is quick summary of each of the seven sections:
Section 1: General Composed of five chapters, this part of the book deals with the priorities and ‘three aims’ once should have in life. It talks about how one goes about acquiring knowledge, proper conduct for a gentleman, and thoughts on people who help the lover with his goals.
Section 2: Sex This is the most famous part of the Kama Sutra – Contrary to popular perceptions, this book isn’t all about sexual positions though-although this section describes many of them.
Section 3: Finding a wife This section’s five chapters deal with the different forms of marriage in ancient India, how to obtain a woman and get her to relax, and the marriage union.
Section 4: Expectations on the wife This section has two chapters and focuses on the proper behavior of a wife or the relationship between a main wife and secondary wives.
Section 5: How to deal with other men’s wives Comprised of six chapters, this section deals with how to read the signals sent by married women and how to hook up with them.
Section 6: Sex workers section Spanning six chapters, this part deals with the money making aspect of sex and how to find steady sources of paid sex.
Section 7: The Occult Composed only of two chapters, this section deals with how to use the occult to improve your ability to draw women and how to improve your overall sexual power.