Many people think it is called the ‘Karma Sutra’, as in ‘karma’s a bitch, and then you die’, but the text is actually titled ‘Kama Sutra’. Kama means desire, including sexual desire, which is one of the four central goals of Hindu life, while Sutra refers to a binding line or thread, or – more metaphorically – can also mean a unifying principle or formula. Thus, the title tells us that the text is about the pursuit of the satisfaction of desire and how such a pursuit is a positive thing, rather than (as many other cultures posit) something to be ashamed of and repressed wherever possible. The Kama Sutra is also not purely about sexual positions – although those chapters do exist, they comprise a mere twenty per cent of the work. Instead, the book offers a way for Hindus to become well-rounded, contented citizens: Read on to learn more:
The first section is called ‘General Remarks’ and is more like a very detailed introduction than anything else. This section lays out the intention of the writer, articulating the aims and priorities of life.
These include dharma, which is almost untranslatable into English, but broadly speaking means morality, righteousness, and striving for good and honouring one’s duties. This section of the book basically teaches how to be a good member of the community, showing that one should consider the needs of the community and one’s duties before one starts thinking about the self and pleasure.
General Remarks also considers the acquisition of knowledge and the conduct of the well-bred townsman, again facets that concentrate on the well-being of the family, in fact, the whole community. Learning is always a positive when combined with careful thought, logic and common sense, and all townsmen should conduct themselves properly all the time so as to create a civilised society!
Finally, General Remarks features a section on reflections on intermediaries who ‘assist the lover in his enterprises’, which presumably means turning a blind eye to lovers stealing kisses and moments together without censure or overly strenuous chaperonage.
General Remarks comprises five chapters altogether, and leads up to section 2, which deals with the joys of sexual pleasure – the bit that everyone automatically associates with the words ‘Kama Sutra’.