The Kama Sutra & Hinduism

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‘I am the lust (or Kama) in human beings that is in harmony with Dharma’

(Gita 7:11)

Classical Hindu thought recognises four basic aims of human life, called ‘purusharthas’. These are kama(sexual pleasure and other enjoyment), artha (material prosperity), dharma (duty and harmony) and moksha (liberation). Each is considered more important than the preceding one. Yet all four have to be balanced, none at the expense of the other. Sex is certainly not thought of as something intrinsically sinful in the integrated Hindu-world view, rather it is a natural human impulse that corresponds to the cosmic impulse of expansion.

Yet the Hindu worldview also demands certain control on sexual activity as an important prerequisite for a harmonious society as well as individual spiritual advancement. In light of this, most sects of Sanatana Dharma recommend sexual activity only in the householder (grihastya) stage out of the four stages in human life.

What about the Kama Sutra?

The famous Kama Sutra is a text composed by a scholar names Vatsyayana around the 4th Century CE. It elaborately discussed the art of making love and the other aspects of sexual behaviour. The intention of the author was to create an educative text to teach people all things about sex. Some parts of the text are quite advanced, for example the behavioural observations in the text are quite astute from a psychological point of view. As such it is a classic of world literature.

Yet it is certainly not a Hindu scripture. It has never had the status of a sacred text. Many of its ideas are in direct contradiction to teachings of Hinduism. Hinduism teaches that kama is to be enjoyed in a way that does not harm society, and in harmony with the other three goals of human life. The Kama Sutra on the other hand puts kama on a pedestal and pretty much negates the other goals of life (artha, dharma and moksha). In the Hindu view of life the four goals must be balanced for a fulfilled existence. For example, the Kama Sutra has a section on how to seduce another man’s wife, thus totally violating one of the most strongly stressed rules of Hindu social conduct.

Therefore the idea that Hinduism teaches people to act like a description of the Kama Sutra is nothing more than people trying to find religious justification for living a frivolous lifestyle.

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Comments

  1. Interesting post. I studied the sacred books of the east long ago.

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