Thoughts with Richard Bleil
Leave it to Americans to believe that just because a book is about sex, that it’s about sex.
Before we talk about the Kama Sutra, we should talk a bit about the ways of Zen. The philosophy of Zen is that the way to enlightenment is inner calm. I had a book (before I had to give up my library) called Zen and the Ways, which described some of the ways to achieve Zen. New students would be given a puzzle and sent off to contemplate the answer. One of the examples is the dog question. Is a dog living, or is it just a bag of bones?
The new student would go off and consider the question. They would come back and describe why the dog is alive (or a bag of bones), and with every explanation, the teacher would say “no”, and send the student off for further contemplation. The time that the student came back, thinking surely, they failed, saying that they had no answer because their mind wandered and they didn’t think about anything, they were correct.
The idea of Zen is that you are closest to heaven when your mind is empty. It can happen at any time and doing nearly anything. The masters would sometimes send students off to do something like polish silver. The repetitive motion of the mindless task has a hypnotic effect, and one’s mind wanders off. Eventually, the student learns to achieve this state at any time through meditation.
There’s no doubt in my mind that you, at some point in your life, have felt this calm. My friend and I sometimes discuss driving, and how, on occasion, we are simply further on the route than we remember driving. It’s like waking from a dream, or, perhaps closer to a dreamless slumber. The calm of the road melting under the tires, and gentle sensation of the droning engine, and when driving a route of great familiarity, the calm of the knowledge of the way, and we reach our Zen.
Any activity can help us reach this level of spiritual enlightenment. Any activity. Yes, including sex. Enter the Kama Sutra.
Recently I read an article suggesting that the Kama Sutra is a sexual manual. The truth is that it’s a religious text. The Kama Sutra shows the way to higher enlightenment through sexuality. Yes, there are a variety of sexual positions and activities, but for the serious practitioner, it’s more than just sex.
And, no, I cannot really speak with authority on the Kama Sutra beyond this. I haven’t practiced sexual activity since Obama was president, at least not with another person. But, honestly, to me its more of a cautionary tale of adopting other cultural activities without really understanding them. In America, we have a long history of doing this. For example. Bungee jumping became popular after a television special showed it in a report of an isolated South American tribe. In the tribe, it was a rite of passage to become a man, tying a bungee vine to your ankle and jumping off of a dangerously high tower. The closer the young man came to hitting the ground, the greater the honor. But while we Americans are doing it with great joy for the thrill while bundled up in safety harnesses and purchasing extra insurance in case of injury, in the tribe young men would fairly often die. For us, it’s fun, but there it was a matter of life and death, just as we look at the Kama Sutra as ancient pornography, while practitioners of Zen see it as a way to enlightenment.
We’re so good at stealing other cultural activities that we even do it from ourselves. I had a young cashier tell me about how she was planning on getting a tongue stud. As it turns out, tongue studs became popular in pornography, because, receiving oral sex from someone with a tongue stud presumably just kicks the sensation up a notch. Not that I would know, and I certainly don’t judge, but I do believe that people who want tongue studs should at least know the origin of the tradition. After telling her about the origin, she must have changed her mind as I never saw her with one. It’s probably just as well; my understanding is that the studs also wear down tooth enamel.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to suggest that we should avoid things because of their cultural origins, but at the same time, I do think we should at least be aware of it. And if we are, maybe it’ll give us a little more appreciation for what we are doing.