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Kama Sutra Suggested Essays

by Vatsyayana

Suggested Essay Questions

  1. According to Vatsyayana, where does kama stand in the hierarchy between artha, dharma and kama? What are the texts that relate to artha and dharma in the way that the Kama Sutra provides a guide for the experience of kama?

    Answer: Vatsyayana makes the point that people's priorities are dependent largely upon the stage of life that they are in. Early on in life, kama rules, as pleasure-seeking is irresistible. As one moves past adolescence, establishes self-sufficiency, and begins seeking power, however, artha begins to take over, and once one moves past artha and kama, the focus is on dharma and spiritual liberation. The Bhagavad Gita and Vedic Shastras are the seminal texts on artha and dharma.

  2. What are the four types of love? Is love more powerful if it can be "proven," or if it is "invisible"?

    Answer: The four types of love are: a) love by belief, b) "agreed-upon" love, c) love by habit, and d) love that is unknown to the lovers and visible only to the outside world. Love is more powerful as you move away from external proof and towards invisibility.

  3. What is the single most important prerequisite to successful lovemaking? How does one achieve this prerequisite? Is it different in each of the sexes?

    Answer: The most important prerequisite to successful lovemaking is the establishment of confidence in the opposite sex. A male must break down the female's defenses by instilling confidence in two ways: first, by persistently convincing her that he is the "one" who can offer her the most fulfilling physical and emotional love, and second, by refraining from sex long enough after marriage to make sure that she feels comfortable with the act and trusts him. A female must carefully read a male's behavior to make sure he feels that he is in power at all times, even when to do so requires deceit and manipulation.

  4. Would you consider the Kama Sutra a religious text? Justify your answer by comparing it to the explanations of dharma and artha.

    Answer: Either answer is correct, as long as you justify your explanation. The Kama Sutra could be considered a "religious" text because it depends on the concepts of dharma, artha, and moksha as corollaries to achieving true kama (meaning that it is integrated in a larger macrocosm of Hindu philosophy). On the other hand, the Kama Sutra doesn't depend on the divine for its explanations of love - and in fact is extremely pragmatic and even mundane in its instructions. Some readers thus consider it more of a worldly manual than a religious text.

  5. Why does the author encourage married couples to wait more than 10 days after marriage before sleeping together? Which partner is this rule in place for?

    Answer: Vatsyayana encourages the man to abstain from sex long enough to build confidence in his new bride. He says that women are innately fearful of physical intimacy, and that if a man tries to sleep with his bride immediately it will only create resentment and a power imbalance. By waiting, he instills the confidence in the woman that is necessary for her to fulfill her worth and ultimately serve him as a true wife. Though it may come across as encouraging subservience, Vatsyayana says that this establishing of trust will resonate all through the marriage, creating an equal partnership where each partner complements the other.

  6. According to the Kama Sutra, does the Hindu culture view courtesans with shame? What is the courtesan's role in a properly functioning society?

    Answer: A courtesan is not viewed with shame in Hindu culture, as she is a crucial figure in establishing confidence in males, enabling them to move forward in their pursuit of love. In order to maintain her function in society, a courtesan must always let a man down gently and prevent him from falling permanently in love with her.

  7. How does a king's behavior differ from an ordinary man's when it comes to the "rules" of kama? Is he expected to behave with more or less propriety?

    Answer: A king is exempt from nearly all the rules of the Kama Sutra - so much so that he is given his own chapter with his own guidelines. A king certainly can behave with less propriety than an ordinary citizen, and can even force a girl to become a member of his court.

  8. Does the author encourage women to read the Kama Sutra? What is her duty in learning the 64 "positions" that provide sexual fulfillment?

    Answer: Vatsyayana certainly encourages women to read the Kama Sutra and includes it in the list of the fundamental texts that a woman should understand in order to prove her worth as a woman and a wife. At the same time, he believes that it is the man's duty to learn the 64 positions of sexual fulfillment and communicate these to his wife in the period between marriage and first intercourse.

  9. How do sex and love interplay in the Kama Sutra? In what context does the author present the 64 "positions" for sexual fulfillment?

    Answer: The Kama Sutra is first and foremost a love manual, so the 64 positions are presented principally in the context of cementing the love between a man and a woman. The ability to create maximum pleasure in a partner, according to Vatsyayana, is the key to maintaining love and discovering the balance of power between man and woman.

  10. If a man or a woman cannot find love using all the suggested means in the Kama Sutra, what are some ways that they can increase their attractiveness?

    Answer: The last chapter of the Kama Sutra describes nearly 100 possible methods for increasing attractiveness, including adding ointments to one's genitals, eating and drinking various foods and potions to increase virility, enlarging one's genitals through various non-surgical techniques, and exploratory masturbation.

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