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Back in the early days of Playboy, the magazine contained short stories and serious articles by the likes of Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, Margaret Atwood, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ian Fleming and many other respectable authors. There was a time when it was believable for people to claim “I only buy it for the articles.” Another publication, one dating back even further than Playboy, shares the same bad reputation where very few people would believe a reader’s interest for knowledge on love and marriage. That book is, without a doubt, Mallanaga Vatsyayana’s Kama Sutra. Some people would be shocked to learn the original text contained no illustrations at all and that it deals with more than just the carnal act.

The text comes from India, and it’s believed to be written between 400 BCE and 200 CE. Love and sex are treated as an integral part of everyday life there and not the subject of the taboos found in more recent Western religions. In the rarest of circumstances, although the author is identified by name, little is known about the life of Vatsyayana. Nothing more is known of the man, but experts speculate he must have been a person of age with plenty of life experience for the writing seems well-thought, even meditated. The Kama Sutra as we know it today is a summary based on long and in-depth studies of the three life goals, some of these studies comprised thousands of chapters. 

The work is divided into seven parts and 36 chapters. The opening chapter is nothing but a dedication, and observation, on the three worldly attainments of Virtue (Dharma), Wealth (Artha), and Love (Kama).  Virtue or Dharma is the obedience to the Gods or Holy Scripture, Wealth or Artha is “the acquisition of arts, land, gold, cattle, wealth, equipages and friends.” The Wealth is not something you are supposed to be born into, but that work hard to acquire through the study and practice. Finally, Love or Kama “is the enjoyment of appropriate objects by the five senses of hearing, feeling, seeing, tasting, and smelling, assisted by the mind together with the soul.”

One of the interesting points in Part I is the “Study of the Sixty-Four Arts.” The list includes the knowledge at which every man should excel, and it contains a wide range of skills that go from flower arrangements to fixing a stained floor, carpentry, architecture, knowledge of building and even the planets, moons and the stars. Furthermore, let’s not forget to be good at singing, dancing, and even cooking. In other words, a person must be knowledgeable in a wide range of topics and acquire several skills before considering marriage.

The sex or enjoyment of the body is barely 25% of the content and appears in Part II. It goes into detail about hugs, kisses, and even noises. The material is far more than just sexual intercourse and explains about the different types of unions.

Parts III through VI deals with the acquisition of a wife, her behavior once married, and special attention is observed about the wives of other men. It explains also about how a married woman should handle herself when her husband is absent.

The last chapter advises how to attract others or how to make them love you, even desire you through the use of several means like tonics and potions.

The book closes with the following remark, one that perhaps belongs at the beginning as it could double as a warning for those interested in the sexual aspect of the book: "This work is not intended to be used merely as an instrument for satisfying our desires. A person, acquainted with the true principles of this science, and who preserves his Dharma, Artha, and Kama, and has regard for the practices of the people, is sure to obtain the mastery over his senses."

 

J. H. Bográn, born and raised in Honduras, is the son of a journalist; however, he ironically prefers to write fiction. José’s genre of choice is thrillers, but he enjoys to throw in a twist of romance on occasion. He has published three acclaimed novels and is a member of The Crime Writers Association, the Short Fiction Writers Guild, and the International Thriller Writers where he also serves as the Thriller Roundtable Coordinator and contributor editor for their official e-zine The Big Thrill.