What is Kama Sutra?

Of all the treasures of learning that Europeans have acquired from the Far East, Kama Sutra is perhaps the best known, along with Yoga and Buddhism. Starting with the industrial revolution of the late 18th century and the advent of fashionable foreign traveling, Europe and Northern America have been flooded with art objects, ideas, values and philosophy from the Far East that changed, to a certain extent, our way of thinking. Busy Westerners obsessed by tomorrow are intrigued and fascinated by the attitudes of people who are content to live this day and who are not afraid of the future.
When mentioning
Kama Sutra, most people think of it as an exotic help book on sexual satisfaction or just an ancient porn magazine. The complete name of the book is actually “Vatsyayana’s Aphorisms on Love” (“Vatsyayana Kamasutram”) and it’s a treaty made of 36 chapters. The aim of this collection of aphorisms is to provide a comprehensive guide to sex, relationships with courtesans, courtship of married women, marriage and, finally, improving one’s chances to have good sex through the use of herbs, substances, spells and sex toys. As you can see, the purpose of this book was to become a definitive guide to what love and sex meant to the Indian society around the 4th century AD.
Aside from sex and love, the “Aphorisms on Love” is a very orthodox book, after the fashion of the society that spawned it. Its purpose is to teach the lover what to do to get the woman he desires while still protecting both his and hers good names and reputations. Reputation was extremely important all over the ancient world, not just in India, and the person who forfeited it for such an insignificant thing as sex was considered to be frivolous, not worthy of the esteem of others. Vatsyayana himself, a celibate scholar, believed that sex was not bad in itself, but that engaging in it was certainly frivolous and sinful.
The 36 chapters are each written by an expert of the issue and cover a wide range of issues, such as observations on the daily life of a citizen, sex positions, personal adornment, how to kiss, gaining the confidence of women and the means by which courtesans get money. The best known part of the book, the study of sex and sexual positions, makes up only about 20 percent of the whole text. Nevertheless, those who are truly interested in sex should read the entire book. After numerous centuries the ancient theory is still surprisingly accurate because people still want the same basic things from one another.
Although this may sound very unlikely, at the bottom
Kama Sutra is somewhat akin to Machiavelli’s “The Prince”, although the Indian book on love is much more careful to observe the morals of the time. Both books are guides to some of the aspects of their respective societies and both deal with them in a frank and realistic manner. Vatsyayana is not fooling himself that men and women are naturally virtuous creatures and so was perfectly willing to give advice on how to seduce married women, just as Machiavelli knew that a prince is bound to do evil things from time to time.

What is Tantra?

Men and women living in Western Europe and North America are fascinated with foreign cultures, beliefs and traditions because they are so different from their own. The wave of philosophies coming from the Far East has caught the interest of Western people and chief among them are Yoga, Buddhism and Tantra. From the Middle East, the Western world has taken the Kabala movement and a lot of Arab architecture influences, while the African continent gave us sculpture and painting. In this article we are going to see what Tantra is and why so many people are interested in this ancient and exotic practice that is so far removed from the Western ideas.
The early form of what is known today as Tantra was a group of esoteric practices that had more to do with rituals and special ways of doing things than with a stand-alone religion. One could say that Tantra is a different technique for reaching spiritual enlightenment and self-realization. This is, of course, the ultimate goal of Buddhist, Yoga and Hindu traditions, but Tantra aims to offer its own path by using different practices. However, over the years Tantra has garnered a dubious reputation both in the Eastern and Western worlds because of the incorporation and use of sex.
Contrary to what many people think, Tantra is not just one well-defined tradition, but simply an umbrella term for several esoteric traditions whose origins go back in time a long way. In its various forms, Tantra has spread across India, China, Japan, Tibet, Nepal, Pakistan, Korea, Cambodia and Indonesia. In these lands, the Tantric principles were taken from their context and incorporated into the local customs and modified to suit the tastes and needs of each new group of practitioners. The Tantra myths themselves offer no clues to their origins, since they tend to focus on the usual mythical explanations.
Basically, the ritual sex is meant to reenact the creation of the universe, which came from the primordial intercourse between the gods Shiva and Shakti. The sexual embrace is supposed to bring the individuals to the level of gods and allow them to put aside their individuality for a while and become one with the divine consciousness that fills the universe. Since those who practice Tantra believe that everything in the universe is a manifestation of the divine, it follows that sex, too, is a step on the path to master body and mind. The entire ritual is supervised by a guru, whose presence is considered to be crucial to the success of the two individuals who attempt it.
Most people who have heard of Tantra see it as a way of getting more pleasure out of sex and never bother to look beyond the obvious. In a similar manner, many people practice Yoga as a way of flexing the muscles and fail to understand the deeper meaning and purpose of Yoga. The sexual rituals promoted by the Tantra gurus focus not on reaching orgasm, but on opening the soul to the experience of infinite awareness. These rituals are only meant for those that can separate themselves from this world and move beyond the basic emotions associated with sex. Thus, sexual pleasure has no place in the Tantric practices.