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According to classical hindu philosophy, human existence has four main aims: dharma – the compliance of the religious order and social rules, artha – the acquirement of material goods and knowledge, moksha – release from the rebirth, and kama – love. Though not only love itself is meant by this word, but also any desire of the flesh (e.g. need for food), as the original meaning of Sanskrit word "kama" is "desire" and its satisfaction. Love and the god of love are derivatives of that concept. Nevertheless, when Indians themselves said "kama" they meant "love" in the first place. The author of Kama Sutra Vatsyayana wrote that love was like food, as it was a necessity of the human body. The fact that love is one of the key aims of life in Indian culture speaks for itself. Despite the developed concept of asceticism, Indian culture has never denied the carnal passion. Moreover, it has even encouraged it. Indians who did not devote themselves to serving their God and wandering in the woods have always been hedonists. Obviously, this concept relates more to the urban culture. Overall satisfaction of the desires of the flesh and following them unconditionally was never encouraged, but their fulfillment was the point of the earthly existence. Such high aims as unification with the Absolute and reaching Nirvana were not for everyone. Love and other joys of this life were "sufficient" for the commoners.
Another important concept of the Indian philosophy of love is "sringara". It also means "love", but its original meaning is "beauty, decoration", so sringara is not carnal love, it is sublime. This term is incomparably wider than "kama" and even includes it, as the knowledge of sublime love is impossible without sensory perception. In other words, in Indian philosophy sringara correlates with the impulses of one’s soul, while kama with the desires of one’s body; kama is primal, but actually it is just a small step on the way to the perfect union.
Love lyrics in Sanskrit are also called sringara. Even though they are full of eroticism, these poems contain no vulgarity, only aesthetics of love passion is being emphasised in them.
The look of the face of the slender onewhilewith thee below and she above
enjoying theact of lovewhileher disheveled locks fluttering doeswhileher ear–pendants swing doeswhilefine beads of sweat her fore-head blurs alittle doeswhileat the end of love her eyes with languordoes-may that look of the face preserve thee longwhen Visnu Siva Brahman what need of andall the Devas
(Anandavardhana, translation by A. Shelling)
In almost every culture family is considered to be the basis of the society, but Indian philosophy goes beyond that. It regards the union between a man and a woman as the most important social unit. In the Indian pantheon almost every male deity has a wife and, interestingly, a lot of female deities do not appear in the myths without a husband. Of course there are self-sufficient goddesses like all the hypostasis of Parvati, Shiva’s wife, or of Lakshmi, Vishnu’s life, but they are the minority. Most female deities got their name and status from their husbands, as, for instance, Indrani got it from Indra, Maheshwari from Maheshwar, etc. It is because Indians believe that a god cannot perform his divine functions without a spouse, the same way as a human being cannot perform his social functions without a wife. Husband and wife are thought as a single whole in India, i.e. separated they are imperfect, as a man is a body of the union, while a woman is its soul, life-giving energy.
the classic poets make a great mistake
forever of the weaker sex they speak
when gods are subjugated for the sake
of starry glances, are the women weak?
(Bhartrihari, translation by A. W. Ryder)
Indians believe that through love one can behold god and, therefore, the world. Various tantric practices were quite widespread in India, and in them the act of love between a men and a woman and ecstasy itself were considered to be the basis of acquiring the Absolute. Up to now many marginal sects practise these ideas, although they are denied and censured by classical Hinduism.
There is also a sect in Hinduism the beliefs of which are based on the love for god. Surely, all of us have heard about it – that is Krishnaism. The fact is, in this very sect of Vaishnavism the idea of love for god reaches its climax. Krishna is the essence of the world, everything and anything is him and he is each and all, so an adept must cultivate the inner love for god and everything that is around. The are five stages in the development of this feeling: 0 – adept's indifference, 1 – slave-adept's attitude towards Krishna as to his master, 2 – adept treats Krishna as a child treats his parent, 3 – the relationship between them is as the one between friends, 4 – lovers relationship. On the last stage a Krishnaite is awaited by supreme bliss and bathing in the waters of endless pleasure with Krishna. The incarnation of the last stage is Krishna's beloved Radha, who was the first to nurture the forever love for god in her heart, so all the adepts worship her equally, even though she is not a goddess, and try to reach the same level of love feelings in their hearts.
While Europe came to the relationship psychology only in the 20th century – yet, most likely, under the strong influence of feminism – in India for over two millennia there had already existed comprehensive philosophy of love, the fundamental treatise of which was Kama Sutra. We are going discuss this work in the second part of the article.