The Sanskrit word Kama means enjoyment. Its higher meaning, i.e., para-kama, refers to a higher desire for the Supreme and apara-kama, lower meaning, refers to base desires such as sexual enjoyment. It is one of the four Purusharthas.

Etymology
The primal root to Kama (in Sanskrit) is “Ka” and the Taittiriya Samhita from the Krishna Yajur Veda states that Ka is Prajapati, the Lord of creation. ‘ka’ can be a reference to the soul, sun, Vishnu and much more.

The Bhagavad Gita refers to Kama in the context of demoniac qualities or those of a lower nature.

Kama in the Veda
The Rig Veda discusses rituals aimed at the fulfillment of desires such as receiving cows, prosperity, etc. The Atharva Veda also has rituals that aim to help a person fulfill their desire for a husband, wife, etc. These desires have both lower (para) and higher (apara) meanings. For example, a cow can represents physical, mental, and spiritual prosperity. Occasionally these are also referred to as the inner and outer forms.

The Vedas describe begetting a progeny as one of the most important duties of mankind. Man without a progeny is compared to a barren tree without flowers and fruits, indicative of his uselessness to others in the society. The Vedas and Puranas describe in detail about death, its aftermath and what happens to the soul when it leaves the body. The Garuda Purana provides an account of how the soul travels to the abode of the ancestors, how comfortable its journey is made by the rituals that are performed by its progeny and how the offerings given in their name reach them, et al. Rebirth, the possible effect of good and bad actions in the next birth and the life after, inspired man to beget a progeny so that he would be comfortably led to the abode of his ancestors by his son who will perform all the rituals for the same.

The Atharva Veda also deals with the desire for health and wellness. Certainly these are desires that do need to be addressed and would be valued by most people in society. So obviously there is a more expansive view toward Kama than the narrow meaning of just sexuality. Was kama ever intended to be limited to a base bodily function and mere mindlessness of the senses? Most likely not, as we find kama referenced in numerous ancient texts such as the previously mentioned Rig and Atharva Vedas. Kama appears within texts such as the Taittiriya Samhita from the Krishna Yajur Veda, offering mantras when desires are not fulfilled 2.3.3. These particular mantras have nothing to do with sexuality or sexual desire, but with other types of desire.

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Kama in Tantra
Within the Tantric teachings, kama manifests as a shakti known as kamala. She is ultimately a manifestation of Kali, and it is this form of Kali that is commonly worshiped as she is strongly associated with beauty and prosperity in such forms as Lakshmi. But she is also the spirit of giving. It is through giving that one begins to bring an end to the outer seeking of the senses; and one begins to manifest the higher form of kama (para) and discovers the higher desire for spiritual truth and realization. In this sense, many people go through a variety of experiences that inspires a longing for truth. Kamala is located in the heart chakra, which is the seat of devotional worship. This spiritual seat, within the heart chakra, is considered by many as the most important spiritual doorway for the astral and causal body; jnana yoga even values this spiritual doorway.

Kamala and Kama in its higher form, begins as recognition of the divine beauty within the world. This appears on basic levels as an appreciation of art, music, beauty, and slowly starts to manifest as an appreciation of aromas, and other meditative tools such as incense, candle’s, meditative music, and meditation itself. Kama as Kamala can manifest as a powerful desire to meditate and experience the power of the heart chakra.

Kama in Purana's
Kama is presently known more as a Puranic version of the deity than the older Vedic and Tantric teachings. Kama’s energy is reflected in numerous teachings with the quote “God wanted to be many.” This references the original primal desire of consciousness. This idea is taught repeatedly with one of the oldest references being in the Rig Veda, “Desire first arose in it…”[2]. Kama is also mentioned in the Atharva Veda, and at times associated with Agni within the Rig Veda. According to the Taittiriya Brahmana, he is born of Dharma and the deity of Justice. This is a very different view of kama verses the Puranic god of lust and sexual desire. But in reality, kama on the lower levels is reflected in human sexuality, which is only a veiled “urge to merge”.

As kama is experienced in new and different manifestations, a person begins to experience the opening and energization of the heart chakra. This brings a desire to commune with the deities, energies, or the self. It also indicates the awakening desire for truth.

Desire for divinity is a critical step in spiritual growth and development. It inspires people to keep working. It helps a person to awaken to the divine communion that is occurring on a daily basis in our life.

Kama in practical application and daily life:
Kama is desire. Kama is the experience of divinity via the senses. And ultimately it is a vehicle for returning home to the self.

To begin to use kama in a productive way in life, try some of the following:
  • Make a list of all desires, all of them, evaluate which ones are still important, which ones have been fulfilled and which need more time (The key is to be honest).
  • Evaluate different desires, see which ones serve you and which ones cause pain and suffering.
  • Allow the cultivation of bhakti (devotion) with a deity that you are drawn to. This could involve meditation on the deity or basic mantras to the deity.
  • Experience the manifestation of divinity through the senses, using mantra, sacred images, candlelight, incense and spiritual music.
  • Experience the manifestation of divinity in nature.
  • Study and contemplate on sacred texts.
  • Begin the practice of yoga or Ayurveda or both.
  • Begin a daily meditation practice.
  • Practice giving to others.
  • Recognize that Kama as a deity or force is a powerful presence in your life. Examine ways to use this force in productive, positive and balanced ways in your life.
  • Realize that Kama as a goal in life is ultimately for the manifestation of moksha or liberation.
  • Create a list of higher values and start to cultivate them using some of the above techniques.
  • Create positive sensory input by using the above techniques.
  • Recognize that all sensory input is food for the mind and for the body. Ingestion of proper food allows one to move more quickly along the spiritual path just as nutritious food is better for the physical body than ‘junk’ food. Examine the mental foods being ingested and evaluate which ones serve the best.
  • Take initiation in the bija mantra to Kama or Kamala, which is “Shriim” through a qualified Guru.
By: +Prof: Koti Madhav Balu Chowdary

KAMA: The Spiritual Enjoyment

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