I hate to break it to you, Google trends, but anyone who is searching for the “karma sutra” has got a problem!
Okay, I can see why some people might get these words confused. After all, in the west we hear a lot about the concept of karma and not at all about kama. These are two different words.
In case you are one of those people looking for the “karma sutra,” allow me to give you some help….
Karma: direct translation is “action.” It is the doing of things. Doing things involves consequences which is where the western conception of karma comes from. Karma does not mean “what goes around comes around.” It means doing an action. And it’s a natural law of the universe that your action will have a reaction.
Kama: direct translation is “lustful desire” or “sexual pleasure.” This is one of the four goals of life in Hindu philosophy. During the marriage ceremony, the spouses promise to help each other achieve these goals:
- Dharma: Virtuous living.
- Artha: Material prosperity.
- Kama: Aesthetic and erotic pleasure.
- Moksha: Liberation.
The book you are thinking of is the Kama Sutra, which literally means The Thread of Desire. Although the word “sutra” (where we get our word “suture” from, as in surgical suture) means thread, it also came to mean poetic writing thousands of years ago, so Kama Sutra is often translated more as The Book of Desire. (Threads join things together and threads of poetry join into a book)
The real Kama Sutra is an ancient book about social obligations. It’s a very fascinating read, giving insight into a culture thousands of years old. If you’re interested in such things, I recommend this translation:
Wikipedia has a detailed explanation also.