Continuing from previous posts on Dharma and Artha we now come to the third basic pillar of living — the creative part of life – called Kama.
This is mostly understood as having sex or making love. This to my mind is a big misunderstanding since the philosophy is much bigger and wider than that.
How did this misunderstanding arise? The famous Indian treatise on love called Kama Sutra (where sutra means principles) created by a sage Vatsyayana is the cause of such misunderstanding, which of course the sage never meant to create.
How is that?
Just as we have had unraveled the mystery of Dharma and Artha let us discover layer by layer the deeper principles involved in the meaning of Kama.
How is Kama defined in Indian philosophy?
Kama is the enjoyment of appropriate objects by the five senses of hearing, feeling/touch (though they have a subtle difference), seeing, tasting and smelling, assisted by the mind (one of the senses). The principle involved is a contact between the organ of sense and its object that gives rise to the consciousness of pleasure. This pleasure of ever increasing consciousness from sensuous contact is called Kama.
But isn’t that our existence?
We sense the world around us through our sense objects.
We learn through the interaction of the sense objects with the mind.
Our memory is built on the experience of our senses.
We think based on such memory developed through senses
We take all actions based on this particular interaction of our senses with our mind that leads to learning and ever expanding consciousness of spirituality. Spirituality is not devoid of sensuousness. It is the path that leads to it.
Our Layer 1 understanding of Kama is that of sensuous enjoyment that unfolds spiritual development. This is the most fundamental and perhaps the most important underlying meaning of Kama as we would soon discover.
Obviously, it is interesting to note that sex is also a similar type of sensual interaction and creative too.
Strange as it might seem, creating new life (babies, seeds, and plants), creativity and creating new ideas and thoughts replicates the sexual union or interaction. New ideas and concepts emerge when other ideas and thoughts have sex or interactions amongst them.
From another perspective Kama is all about professions one can engage in to build a worthy career to earn money and wherewithal to live and refine life and living. 64 professions are suggested in Vatsyayana’s Kama Sutra and people are encouraged to learn the trades along with lessons of ‘Dharma’ and ‘Artha’. We find the professions, though listed long back, are still relevant in today’s world and might continue to be relevant till human beings live and walk the planet. These are listed under Chapter III (On the Arts and Sciences to be studied).
Some of the professions listed here are: Singing, Dancing, Playing musical instruments, Writing and Drawing, Reasoning, Architecture, Chemistry, Toy making, Games, Mental Gymnastics, …. It is simply astounding.
Yet on another level, it deals with all types of emotional relationships with men and women and with members of society in general, making friends, influencing people and the whole lot of it. This is understandably a skill that can’t be denied, more so in today’s world of increasing complexity and ambiguity.
It also deals with making a home a home that not only deals with arrangement of houses, furniture but also deals with the manner of conducting daily life, duties of citizens, dealing with friends and amusement.
Perhaps the most important part of understanding Kama is to develop Virtue and Love that form the foundation of spiritual development linked to the concepts of Dharma and Artha.
It therefore asks us to live in the present moment with total attention based on sensual awareness but detached from the awareness of the self. This is simply because our consciousness can’t totally experience the pleasure of the interaction between our senses and our mind, while dwelling in the past or in the future. At the same time the important lesson is not to be forgotten – that the present moment contains everything that is necessary since the present is the culmination of the past and the actions taken in the present creates our future.
This most important lesson of present moment awareness is therefore represented by the ubiquitous symbol of Shiva Linga (the symbol of the phallus inside the vagina) that is found and worshipped everywhere in India reminding us to invoke the spirituality or our highest self that lies dormant in all of us waiting to blossom through the careful self organized balance of the male and female energies lying inside all of us.