University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Queens' Arts Seminar > Why orgies will set you free: sexual paradigms in ancient India and postmodern society

Why orgies will set you free: sexual paradigms in ancient India and postmodern society

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Ancient India is well known as the land and civilization of renouncement and asceticism, a land where passions and desire cannot but play the role of the villains, the worst enemies to be defeated in the spiritual path leading to perfection and liberation from all suffering. However, this clear-cut worldview seems to be easily disproved by the mere existence of two crucial Sanskrit words you may have stumbled upon while snooping around the shelves of bookshops here in the UK: namely, Tantra and Kāmasūtra, the first being a religious and cultural movement and the second being the title of an incredibly renowned work. This presentation will focus, on the one hand, on the role and meaning of sexuality in Tantra and its crucial connection to the religious doctrine of liberation, and, on the other hand, on the role and meaning of sexuality in the Kāmasūtra (and related texts) and its pretty loose connection to any soteriological dimension, with a few reasoned exceptions. Finally, I will attempt to outline the theoretical and historical accidents that determined the proliferation, in many contemporary western bookshops and websites, of titles such as “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Tantric Sex” or “The Cosmo Kama Sutra: 77 mind-blowing Sex Positions”. To trace this phenomenon, we’ll go back to the sixties and seventies in the US and follow the cultural transplant of Indian spiritual and erotic ideas, how they blended in with a very different social reality and contributed to the origin of a plethora of new religious products in the globalized ‘market of religions’ we currently live in.

This talk is part of the Queens' Arts Seminar series.

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