Tantra and the Kama Sutra are often lumped together by sex writers today. But as you'll find out below, the two, very worthy subjects are only distantly related!
Modern sexual marketing has ensured that the first things most people envision when they hear "Kama Sutra" are images of statues with entwined limbs and bodies in exotic sexual positions. These images are the frequently re-printed photographs of explicitly sensual statues in the Dakini temples of Southern India. These are tantric temples - but the only relationship between the pictures and the Kama Sutra is the 30 or so love positions mentioned in that Text...
Many illustrated books and websites about the Kama Sutra contain only these few chapters - the ones on sexual positions, methods of embrace, kissing, scratching, biting, touching...
But only getting these excerpts is to limit yourself as a sensualist. The Kama Sutra is much more. But it's not, strictly speaking, tantric...
Any good lover can tell you that arousal and captivation are more than just sexual techniques, that knowing 30 sexual positions isn't enough to keep a lover thinking about your naked body, even years later... Understanding the mind and senses of your lover fosters an eroticism far more ecstatic and profound than just learning techniques... Tantra takes that one step further and couples spiritual ecstasy with this sensual and sexual bliss. This step is what's missing from the Kama Sutra...
"Kama Sutra" is frequently mistranslated as "the arts of love," but really, Kama means "love, pleasure, and the life of the senses" and a Sutra is a group of aphorisms - short, pithy sayings.
The Kama Sutra was written by Mallanaga of the clan or sept called Vatsyayana. Mallanaga was a holy man, a seer, and a sage, and in all of the spiritual senses of the word, a tantric. He worshipped the Divine as both feminine and masculine, and lived primarily a religious life.
He wrote the Kama Sutra for the ruling class, which at that time in India's history was the Kshatriya, or Warrior caste. Based on mentions of 1st Century historical figures in the Kama Sutra, and on mentions of the Kama Sutra in early 5th Century works, we know that Mallanaga Vatsyayana wrote the Sutra sometime between the 1st and 4th Centuries A.D.
In writing his treatise, Mallanaga Vatsyayana wrote:
"...an intelligent person, attending to Dharma (the spiritual life and obligations) and Artha (worldly welfare and the obligations of society), and attending to Kama also, without becoming the slave of his passions, obtains success in everything he may undertake"
Kama Sutra begins with a salutation to the Divine balance of these three principles, Dharma, Artha, and Kama.
There are no tantric sexual or spiritual practices (puja) in the Kama Sutra. There are, however, a few examples of simple magical tantra - the making of charms, potions, and amulets - in the final chapters titled "On Attracting Others".
In fact, most of the spiritual and sexual Tantras (tantric teachings) were only oral tradition in Vatsyayana's time. It wasn't until several centuries later that the Tantras were turned into scripture (The tantras were written down beginning in the 5th century, and continuing through the 19th century...)
To someone who has bought "Tantra for Dummies," or any similar books written by a marketing-savy western sexologists with no Tantric background, the lack of "tantric" material in the Kama Sutra may be quite a surprise. Vatsyayana, like his peers, kept the tantric secrets secret - as oral tradition.
So don't look to Kama Sutra to spiritualize your lovemaking, but do look to it to understand sensuality and human nature.
Look to the Kama Sutra for exactly the purpose for which it was written: As a manual for satisfying, balancing and enjoying the realm of the senses.
The Kama Sutra is simultaneously a manual of matchmaking, flirting, sensuality in life and in sex, romantic love, human nature, attracting a man, turning on a woman, how to seduce a man, how to captivate a woman, how to get a man or woman to marry you, arranged marriages, affairs, gold-digging, the economics of love, affairs with courtesans, keeping the affections of a lover or spouse, love potions, charms, and everything in between...
Mallanaga was brilliant in his insight that sexuality begins before the bedroom -- in the realm of the senses and in the imagination. He expresses that attitude, bearing, and mystery are as important in love as technique. That simply knowing positions and techniques doesn't captivate a lover. You must first capture their sensual experience through suggestive conversation, smell, and brief touches...
This understanding of the importance of mental and emotional attitude, and of bodily focus, is distinctive of a tantric. But it is applied only in its worldly form in the Kama Sutra.
In his own spiritual pursuits, Vatsyayana applied the same understanding to the pursuit of Realization and Liberation. He was an acknowledged spiritual master of his time. It also seems quite certain from his knowledge of women and their pleasures that his spirituality was sensual, and not celibate.
So why did Mallanaga Vatsyayana *not* include tantric sexual practices in his most famous work?
Because he knew that sexuality is only an appropriate spiritual tool for some. He wrote the Kama Sutra for the ruling class - so they could balance and enjoy their sensual appetites with their social and spiritual obligations as rulers. Not to pass on secrets he knew would be lost on many of these students.
So feel free read the real Kama Sutra, exploring the power of your sensuality, just as you explore your worldly and spiritual life. And if you want something deeper, if you feel drawn to Divine expression within everything - including your sensuality - you won't find it in "Tantra for Dummies." You'll find it by learning from real Tantrics!
For every student, there is a teacher.
Keep in touch, smile, breathe right, and keep your tongue up!