The Kamasutra Anew
by Shankar Barua (mid-1990s)


Being the first chapter of my text for the coffee-table books variously and repeatedly published in at least three international languages, as "Art of Kamasutra", by the Lustre Press division of Rolli Books (New Delhi, India), to whom I signed the rights for actually only one edition, but who preferred to chance my deep aversion for the oft-twisted and always tiresome judicial systems of India to rip me off~ successfully and for several years thus far.

Whereas the entire text of the book was essentially just a thorough reinterpretation and rewrite (which I believe should actually be published without pornographic illustrations), this chapter was entirely invented by me to serve as an entry-point into the actual Sutras, taking the place of a chapter of the original that is said to have been 'lost'. It is therefore entitled:



It is an ancient golden rule that the actions of good men and women shall always be guided by their own enlightened interpretations of what is right and what is wrong. In this, allowance is always made for variation in prevailing circumstances, mores, norms, traditions and values of the heritage and society the individual is sprung from, and that which he or she lives in.

The most sacred ancient texts of India propose the simple exaltation, based on Knowledge, of all being as the purest exercise of logic in life and worship. It is an irresistible argument to the initiated, for the only goals thus are humility, harmony and happiness; the outward manifestations of what we refer to as good Dharma, Artha and Kama. All seem irreproachably virtuous and dependent upon no sacrifice, thus standing firmly as the universal measuring rods of all men and all women.

However, most interrelationships among sentient individuals emerge from encounters between essentially independent, separate and inescapably varying perspectives and compulsions. Good relationships thus formed are thereby always dependent upon mutual negotiation, adjustment, acceptance, trust, sacrifice and happiness, in a sort of reciprocal exaltation between individual beings.

Beyond this, it has always been seen fit among all communities to define those relationships attending the circumstances of ones birth in non-negotiable terms. Thus, rights, responsibilities and a basic hierarchy in the structure of individual family-units are expected to conform to some shared code of basic honourable conduct in every society. Likewise, broad social codes in the larger structure of individual communities are also dictated, for in the harmony of these lies the foundation of societies and civilizations.

The only two classes of adult interrelationship never socially dictated to -their being left almost entirely instead to negotiation between the individuals concerned- are that between friends, and that between lovers. In these, it would seem that nothing much need be said, for all the drives of Dharma, Artha and Kama are in any case to attend upon the actions and relationships of all good men and all good women.

On the other hand, it can be observed that although each is always unique, every good friendship rests upon some perceived equality in the joint pursuit of pleasures and common purpose, without profound mutual agreement or commitment. True friendship always remains open to multiplicity, and free from any great adjustment or interdependence. It contains very limited potential for causing harm and damage to the psyche of either party and is therefore a free, light, and pleasant pursuit for everybody. Of course, the proximity between individuals that attends all friendship allows for harsh damage from treachery, but this is a matter of individual cases in the betrayal of friendship rather than a matter of friendship itself, and is restricted to the actions of dishonourable individuals, subtle lunatics, and plain fools.

Now, although there is much common foundation in the relationships between friends and those between lovers, the most seminal joint pursuit of pleasures and common purpose between lovers is the altogether unique adventure of sexual intercourse with each other. In the simplest terms, this is a mating of physical and psychological differentials between individuals, as epitomized in the invasive nature of the eventual penetration of woman by man; a symbolically perfect union of opposites. There is stoutness expected of men, while there is softness and accommodation expected of women; an implicit aggression matched to an explicit accommodation.

While the primary drives of both lovers must obviously converge to initiate good sex, even the most basic conceptual implications immediately diverge. In the natural state for example, whereas the man is physically free to reject all responsibility for any consequences of the act and move on, the woman may very well have already entered into the long chain of obligations, responsibilities and reduced freedoms implicit in a pregnancy (for no 'safe' birth-control technique is one hundred percent proof, or 'natural'). In fact, the animal-drive and genetic urge towards procreation -or just plain survival of the species- which lies at the deepest root of all sexual union, rests upon an inescapable physical interdependence across huge differentials for its fulfillment in the natural course. Sociobiologists call it simply 'the cost of reproduction', wherein the huge cost to a woman inhibits promiscuity in the natural state while yielding 'Maternity Certainty' with regard to offspring, and the corresponding cost to a man is potential 'Paternity Uncertainty', promoting relative promiscuity. To cap all this, there are historically widespread social codes that -some would say consequently- reward the sexually adventurous man with honour, and the sexually adventurous woman with dishonour and disrepute.

In the essentially unequal sexual encounter between lovers, it is only a foundation of faith, trust and ethical sexual acumen that will allow transcending the elementary rutting of beasts, into a domain of mutual respect, love, and consequently profound pleasure. The truly joyous sexual act then becomes sacramental to a relationship, "the outward sign of an inner grace" worth aspiring for. Those deeply fulfilling relationships which achieve this are impossible to sustain between a multiplicity of partners, and the interdependency of spirit thus manifested introduces a potential for very grievous emotional and psychological injury from even the ignorance or plain idiocy of either or both the lovers. With the basic foundation essentially all about procreation and progeny, the stakes are therefore too high to allow much concession for even 'innocence' beyond a very early point of time in the evolution and progression of a relationship between lovers.

Societies all over the world responded to these potential dangers in the game of love by establishing institutions of marriage in the distant mists of prehistory. In time, marriages came to be celebrated as one of the first logical goals in a 'respectable' and 'safe' relationship between lovers. It was only within marriage after all, that the individual long-term roles and responsibilities of lovers could finally be delineated according to the values of a society, thus reducing the risk-potentials of their interdependence to a very great degree. Such social institutions have therefore survived almost intact to our day.

Beyond outlining rules in the institution of marriage however, the ancient sages of India realized that individual sexual relationships between lovers were too unique and too private to ever be dictated to, although very many societies have attempted in very many ways to do so throughout history. They also understood that the absence of sexual happiness in an otherwise 'perfect' marriage could often reduce the institution to serving up a terrible bondage to unhappiness and even suffering. Accumulated wisdom could not generally adjudicate in these matters, but it could (as every good parent should attempt for his, or her, children) share the simple knowledge that may avert such tragedy, before the event.

Along these lines, the first Kamashastra is ascribed to Nandi, companion of Shiva -Lord of Destruction- who is always joined with his consort Parvati as the supreme symbol of perfection in the unity of contrasts.

Nandi's original 1,000 chapters were condensed down to 500 by Shvetaketu. Then Babhravya rendered this in 150 chapters under seven heads. Of these, the general topics were expounded by Charanya; embraces, squeezes, scratching, biting, etc., were collated by Suvarnanabha; Ghotakamukha addressed sexual union; Gonardiya spoke on one's wife, Gonikaputra on the wives of others, and Dattaka addressed the public women of Pataliputra, at their request, on courtesans. The knowledge of sex-aids, tonics, elixirs, medicine and magic, was compiled by Kuchumara, and all of these seven parts were then gathered into thirty-six chapters (of which the first is lost), by Vatsyayan.

Vatsyayan's Kamasutra has been in Indian circulation as an educational treatise for some eighteen hundred years now, but in the last one hundred, archaic translations have been reproduced and sold all over the world to merely titillate tastes that approach sex as something surreptitious and lewd; to be hidden beneath covers, or peeped at in others.

Today, The Art of Kamasutra takes up the old wisdoms on the pleasures of enlightened indulgence, to remould them by the norms, needs, and a language, of new days. This chapter has been concocted to fill in for the lost one of the original, but the rest is rewritten with varied modification, straightforward appropriation, some addition, and selective omission, from the translation of F. F. Arbuthnot and Sir Richard Burton. It is therefore fitting that we now begin from a very slightly rewritten version of their original rendition of Vatsyayan's conclusion:

"Thus have I written in a few words these Aphorisms on Love, after reading ancient texts and following in the ways of enjoyment taught in them.

"One acquainted with the true principles of this science pays regard to Dharma, Artha, Kama, past experience, and the teachings of others, never acting simply by the dictates of ones own desire. As for errors in the science of love contained in this work, I have acted on my own authority as author, to immediately censure and prohibit them.

"An action is never indulged simply because it is recognized by the science, and should be acted upon only when appropriate. This Kamasutra has been composed after reading, considering and thinking over the meaning of guidance contained in the works of Babhravya and other ancient authors, according to the precepts of Holy Writ, for the benefit of the world, by Vatsyayan, while leading the life of a religious student wholly engaged in contemplation of the deity.

"This work is not intended for use merely as an instrument to satisfy ones desires. Rather, a person acquainted with the true principles of this science, and who preserves his Dharma, Artha, and Kama, has regard for the practices of the people, and is sure to have a mastery of his senses.

"In short, an intelligent and prudent person, attending to Dharma and Artha, and attending also to Kama, without becoming a slave to his passions, obtains success in everything he may undertake."

Shankar Barua
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