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>Pleasure and Spirituality

>Four Main Goals of Life

Some Indian philosophies following the “four main goals of life”, known as the purusharthas.

1). Dharma: Virtuous living. 2) Artha: Material prosperity. 3) Kama: Aesthetic and erotic pleasure. 4) Moksha: Liberation.

Dharma, Artha and Kama are aims of everyday life, while Moksha is release from the cycle of death and rebirth. The Kama Sutra (Burton translation) says:

“Dharma is better than Artha, and Artha is better than Kama. But Artha should always be first practised by the king for the livelihood of men is to be obtained from it only. Again, Kama being the occupation of public women, they should prefer it to the other two, and these are exceptions to the general rule.” (Kama Sutra 1.2.14)

Of the first three, virtue is the highest goal, a secure life the second and pleasure the least important. When motives conflict, the higher ideal is to be followed. Thus, in making money virtue must not be compromised, but earning a living should take precedence over pleasure, but there are exceptions.

In childhood, Vātsyāyana says, a person should learn how to make a living; youth is the time for pleasure, and as years pass one should concentrate on living virtuously and hope to escape the cycle of rebirth.

The Kama Sutra is sometimes wrongly thought of as a manual for tantric sex. While sexual practices do exist within the very wide tradition of Hindu tantra, the Kama Sutra is not a tantric text, and does not touch upon any of the sexual rites associated with some forms of tantric practice.

Also the Buddha preached a Kama Sutra, which is located in the Atthakavagga (sutra number 1). This Kama Sutra, however, is of a very different nature as it warns against the dangers that come with the search for pleasures of the senses.

The most widely known English translation of the Kama Sutra was made by the famous traveler and author Sir Richard Francis Burton and compiled by his colleague Forster Fitzgerald Arbuthnot in 1883. Historian Burjor Avari has criticized Burton’s translation as “inadequate,” having had the result that the book gained a reputation in the West of being a pornographic work.

A recent translation is that of Indra Sinha, published in 1980. In the early 1990s its chapter on lovemaking positions began circulating on the internet as an independent text and today is often assumed to be the whole of the Kama Sutra.

Alain Daniélou contributed a translation called The Complete Kama Sutra in 1994. This translation featured the original text attributed to Vatsayana, along with a medieval and modern commentary. Unlike Burton’s version, Alain Danielou’s new translation preserves the numbered verse divisions of the original and includes two essential commentaries: the Jayamangala commentary, written in Sanskrit by Yashodhara during the Middle Ages, and a modern Hindi commentary by Devadatta Shastri. Another noteworthy difference is the preservation of the full explicitness of the original text. All aspects of sexual life have been mentioned — including marriage, adultery, prostitution, group sex, sadomasochism, male and female homosexuality, and transvestism.

It was translated again in 2002 by Wendy Doniger, the professor of the history of religions at the University of Chicago, and Sudhir Kakar, the Indian psychoanalyst and senior fellow at Center for Study of World Religions at Harvard University. Their translation provides a psychoanalytic interpretation of the text.

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