The Kama Sutra is an ancient Indian Hindu text widely considered to be the standard work on human sexual behavior. A portion of the work consists of practical advice on sexual intercourse. It is largely in prose, with many inserted anustubh poetry verses.
“Kāma” which is one of the three goals of Hindu life, means sensual or sexual pleasure, and “sūtra” literally means a thread or line that holds things together, and more metaphorically refers to an aphorism (or line, rule, formula), or a collection of such aphorisms in the form of a manual.
Contrary to popular perception, especially in the western world; Kama sutra is not an exclusive sex manual, it presents itself as a guide to a virtuous and gracious living that discusses the nature of love, family life and other aspects pertaining to pleasure-oriented faculties of human life.
Some Indian philosophies follow the “four main goals of life”, known as the purusharthas:
- Dharma: Virtuous living.
- Artha: Material prosperity.
- Kama: Aesthetic and erotic pleasure.
- Moksha: Liberation.
Dharma, Artha, and Kama are aims of everyday life, while Moksha is a 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 practiced 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.W.F. Robie
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.