The Wisdom Of The Kama Sutra

A new translation of the Kama Sutra. We’ll talk sex, ancient wisdom, and how to live right.

Kama Sutra Statues (Nir Sinay/Flickr)

Kama Sutra Statues (Nir Sinay/Flickr)

Say Kama Sutra and everybody thinks sex.  And there is plenty of that in the ancient text out of India.  Carnal engagement every which way and meticulous advice on exquisite form.  For years after its first translation the West was agog.  What a world.  What a view.

But there is much more to the Kama Sutra, it turns out, than the gymnastics of love.  There is a deep and generous meditation on how to live.  How to compose a life, its parts, the work and pleasures within it.  We could use a little ancient wisdom.

This hour, On Point: love lessons, life lessons, from the Kama Sutra.

-Tom Ashbrook


Aditya Haksar, author of the new translation, Kama Sutra: A Guide to the Art of Pleasure. You can read an excerpt here.

Wendy Doniger, Sanskrit scholar and expert on Hinduism and mythology. She’s a professor of the history of religions at the University of Chicago, and author of many books and translations. She published her own translation of the Kama Sutra in 2003.

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times “This clear and elegant new translation is the work of A. N. D. Haksar, a former Indian diplomat and a well-known translator of Sanskrit classics. It’s worth attending to, and not merely because Valentine’s Day is nearly here, and your partner might find this sleek new Penguin Classics edition an intellectual aphrodisiac, though it contains no erotic illustrations, except several sublime ones on its cover.”

CNN “Not that the Kama Sutra has suffered much from neglect in recent decades. But since Sir Richard Burton’s 19th century English translation was widely published in 1962, successive interpretations have funneled its meaning until it shrunk into a graphic synonym for sex squeezed into a book the size of a pocket. ”


Excerpt: Kama Sutra

Reviving Passion

It is said:

Even at its ending, pleasure

still nurtured with caring acts

and words exchanged in confidence,

causes a supreme delight.

Responding to each other’s feelings

which inspire mutual pleasure –

one moment a show of anger,

in the next a loving gaze –

they play at ring around the roses,

they sing, they dance the Lata way,

their eyes rolling, moist with passion,

they stare at the orb of the moon.

Talking of old times,

the wishes they both had

at their very first meeting

and the sadness and pain

when they were parted,

and after this ardent

embraces and kisses.

With such exchanges

passion increases.



“Kaithapoo Visariyumay” by K.J. Yesudas & Madhuri
“Sona Chandi” by Alka Yagnik & Udit Narayan

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