The "Kama Sutra" -- it brings to mind fantasy and wonderment about the possibilities of sexual eroticism and adventure. It’s a buzzword for sexual pleasure and enjoyment and we all want more of that. Almost everyone has heard of the Kama Sutra. "Kama" means all things pleasurable, such as sexuality and sensuality, but it also encompasses eating, gaming, cultural activities and activities with friends and family. Kama is the name of the Indian God that represents the procreative, sexual nature in man, much like Eros did to the Greeks. "Sutra" means a short book of sayings or aphorisms. Thus the Kama Sutra is an ancient manual of love and relationship. The Kama Sutra is most often associated with the sexual acts and sexual positions. It does an exemplary job at this, however, that's not all it offers.
It is believed that today’s version of the Kama Sutra was compiled and put into written form from a rich tradition of oral history. Written in Sanskrit by a man named Vatsyayana, its structure appears as poetry and verse. The descriptions of the positions are short and to the point, as if they were reminders to the couple rather than detailed instruction. Sutras likely were taught as oral poetry.
The Kama Sutra details kissing techniques, courting practices, modes of touching including very detailed biting and scratching techniques, sexual positions or asanas, how to find, court and treat marriage partners as well as consorts, the ‘jobs’ of the husband and wife, the concocting of aphrodisiacs, and much more. It also goes into the specific finer points of the Sixty-Four Arts. In addition to the Sixty-Four sexual arts there are Sixty-Four cultural arts. Men, and especially women, were encouraged to become good at as many of these ‘arts’ as possible. These include music, singing, sciences, lovemaking, homemaking, poetry, dance, shooting of the bow and arrow, conversation, sewing, art, games, magic, chemistry, perfumery, and rituals. Attention was also given to courting, gift-giving, secret rendezvous, and moral and ethical attitudes during marriage.
The Kama Sutra focuses on the lovemaking arts but mentions the other arts because they were a means by which one could make one's self more attractive. Vatsyayana, the Kama Sutra's author, reveals that the cultivation of inner beauty was just as important as outer beauty. Attractiveness comes from a refined and imaginative mind as much as it does from darkened eyes, ruby lips, and a fine figure. Cultivating as many of the arts other than the art of lovemaking was of great importance to society.
Hindu culture, from which the Kama Sutra comes, asserts that the aims of life are four - wealth, moral standing, pleasure, and enlightenment. It is understandable that to be good at sexual pleasure one would need to study the arts of love. It is also easy to understand that to be excellent at your job or in your community you would need to know certain things to be able to be a citizen of honor. Most of us do indeed follow life pursuits or interest that are as varied as the number of people in the world. You may play an instrument, or write poetry, or paint, or sing, or participate in any number of personal interests that fuel your creative side. It is those pursuits that the ancient Sutras believed made us all more expansive individuals.
The Kama Sutra has as much to offer modern couples as it did their counterparts in ancient India. Perhaps the most well known of all love manuals, it was translated from Sanskrit in the middle 1800s by an English adventurer named Sir Richard Burton. When the Kama Sutra appeared in print it shocked Victorian England, and upon Sir Richard's death, his wife burned many of the other books he had translated but not published. Most of them have not been re-translated and many may be lost forever.
Probably the most known and revered portion of the works is the descriptions of erotic sexual positions. Many of the positions from the Kama Sutra are named after animals, as this was a prime way of studying man’s relationship to the natural world. Learning, exploring and practicing with new sexual positions is a wonderful way to up the ante on communication, intimacy, variety, fun and consciousness expansion. When a couple ‘works’ with a new category of positions they tend to have to communicate about what works and doesn’t work for them. And, almost always, some of the new positions you explore will be sort of magical for you. It can’t be described any other way. The positions will feel special and will fit within your coupled-ness as if they were made for the two of you. If you stay open and aware of this phenomena, while you are making love in new ways, you’ll see what a little adventurous activity will do for you as a couple. The more subtle the move within the position the more deepening attraction and connection you’ll have. It’s a feedback loop that gets fascinating to explore.
The Kama Sutra describes different techniques to stimulate the clitoris, such as the ten types of "blows" that can be used to tap the clitoris with the Lingam for stimulation. It details the way in which a man might grasp his Lingam and churn it from side to side in the Yoni of his lover. It outlines the areas in the Yoni to stimulate and has special names for the sides, top, deeper areas, and the entrance. The Kama Sutra exquisitely describes the quivering of the Yoni that precedes orgasm and the shuddering that heralds orgasm. It says that no two women make love alike and that one must be very sensitive to rhythms, sentiments, and moods of the individual woman.
The use of aphrodisiacs and their preparation was common and the Kama Sutra devotes a small chapter to them that includes ways of making oneself attractive to the object of their desire. The Kama Sutra details items, some strange sounding to us, like datura, honey, ground black pepper, a corpse’s winding-sheet, peacock-bone, sulfur, pumpkin seed, bamboo shoots, cactus, monkey turd, and ram’s testicle for use in enslaving, potency, and endurance. Some of these ingredients, like pumpkin seed and datura, are known to the modern world for their potency-enhancing qualities.
Other Eastern Cultures’ Erotic Books
Past cultures honored our sexual life-force and understood that teaching this to the next generation was supremely important. In the past 3,000 years we've seen the development of sex manuals throughout all of the Eastern cultures. These manuals demonstrate the care and mentoring that people knew was vital if the values of that culture were to carry on. A series of "books" or aphorisms appeared in several Eastern cultures after 400 AD. These books included guides for newlyweds on kissing, touching, positions in lovemaking, attitudes, moral obligations, and much more.
The Anana Ranga, written in the sixteenth century in India, details morals, seduction techniques, sexual positions, hygiene, rituals and sexual spells, aphrodisiacs, and other erotic concepts. It paid particular attention to the woman learning to control her pelvic floor muscles to heighten the experience between her lover and herself.
The Perfumed Garden was written in Arabia in the sixteenth century. It details over thirty sizes and shapes of penises and vaginas. Though written primarily for men, it counsels them to ask the woman how to give her pleasure. It speaks highly of the gift of pleasure that God has given to humans and contains stories that teach a variety of lessons to the seeker.
The Ishimpo, from Japan, is similar to its counterparts in India and other parts of Asia in depicting the sex act as the essential force that controls the universe. In fact, it suggests that making love is the force in nature that keeps the Earth circling the Heavens. With ties to Taoism, the concepts have developed over a period of at least 2,500 years though this love manual was put to writing sometime in the 18th century.
Exciting many Chinese couples throughout the ages, The Secrets of the Jade Bed Chamber provides recipes for potency remedies, exotic positions, and counseling on the ways of love. As with many societies that award eroticism a high place in their heritages, the words selected are symbolic. A Jade Stalk meant a man’s penis, while a Jade Garden symbolized the woman’s vagina. Metaphors filled the erotic lives of ancient sexual explorers. Like the Ishimpo, this is a more ‘modern’ version of very ancient precepts.
China, Japan, and most Eastern cultures used "Pillow Books" in addition to teaching manuals. Couples employed pillow books as erotic stimulants and reminders of our vast sexual potential. The books were adorned with beautiful erotic pictures, poetry, writings, and suggestions that couples could use to stir their passions.
In the past few decades, there has been a resurgence of erotic manuals, picture books, illustrated instruction books, and a variety of resources to educate and reconnect people with their sexuality. As these materials become available, more people begin to speak openly about sensuality.