Kama Sutra

Kama Sutra Study Guide

The Kama Sutra is the seminal text on love in Indian civilization - and perhaps the world - and is considered a masterpiece of Sanskrit literature. As a result of its legendary status, the Kama Sutra has achieved a place in pop mythology as a "sex manual" even though only a brief portion of the book actually offers sexual instruction. The Kama Sutra is far more concerned with the relationships between the sexes, the pursuit of fulfilling relationships, and the development of confidence during sexual congress.

The Kama Sutra is part of a larger group of texts known as the Kama Shastra, but only the Kama Sutra has truly endured. The Kama Sutra itself has 36 chapters, divided into 7 books: the first is an introduction, the second covers sexual union, the third discusses the acquisition of a wife, the fourth explores the nature of wives, the fifth investigates the wives of others, the sixth is about courtesans, and the seventh explores the nature of attracting others.

The Kama Sutra has been translated into hundreds of languages, but the most famous translations are by Wendy Doniger (2002) and Alain Danielou (1994). Vatsyayana is credited as the author of the Kama Sutra in nearly every translation, but it is stated that he was merely the collector of hundreds of years of spiritual wisdom. Indeed, some scholars have broken up the books as the wisdom of the following sages:

Book 2 -- Suvarnanabha

Book 3 -- Ghotakamukha

Book 4 -- Gonardiya

Book 5 -- Gonikaputra

Book 6 -- Dattaka

Book 7 -- Kuchumara

In the first book, Vatsyayana notes that he has culled his text from various sutras, but states that he wanted to make sure that his work would be sanctified as the ultimate love manual between man and woman - a text that would stand alone as a tribute to kama, a part of life he felt was too often ignored in favor of artha and dharma (which already had their own ancient Vedic manuals).