The Indian Myth of Kamadeva, the Hindu God of Love

Many modern Western symbols of love date back to the early Greeks and Romans. Eros was the Greek god of love, while Cupid was the Roman god of love and desire.

The image of a chubby Cupid aiming love arrows at unwary people’s hearts appears to be a typical Western symbol of love. Americans and Western Europeans can widely see him on greeting cards and chocolate boxes on Valentine’s Day.

What about Eastern cultures, such as Hinduism? Does Cupid trick them too? Or do they have their own “Cupid”? People from all over the world, especially Indo-European cultures, have sacred stories that are a lot like Hindu stories about gods.

Who Is Kamadeva, the Hindu God of Love?

In Indic traditions, Kamadeva represents the Hindu equivalent of Cupid and Eros. Kamadeva is known as the Indian or Vedic Cupid. He is the Hindu god of love, desire, and infatuation.

Jeffery D. Long, Professor of Religion and Asian Studies at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, USA, explored the old Indian scriptures about Kamadeva.

Kamadeva is the god of desire and love. The word Kama comes from Sanskrit, meaning “sensual desire.“ He is accompanied by his wife, Rati, a goddess of love and sexual passion.

Different from Cupid, however, Kamadeva is depicted not as a plumpy cherub but rather as a handsome young man who rides on a majestic green parrot named Suka. He is riding a parrot’s back with a sugarcane bow, a honeybee bowstring, and flower arrow points. Kamadeva, the Hindu Cupid, also shoots his love darts into people’s hearts.

This is how the Rigveda, the most ancient of Hindu scriptures dating back at least 3,000 years, describes Kamadeva.

Each of these elements of his description represents the inherent sweetness of love. Additionally, they elicit the spirit of the spring season, when new life arises in the world. Suka, the parrot of Kamadeva, symbolizes both the spring season and the notion of love, as parrots frequently live in pairs.

The Tensions of Hindu Love

The stories of love in Hindu culture illustrate the tension between the most deeply held Hindu values. Love is a highly valued belief, especially in the context of families.

The highest ideal of life, however, is liberation from the cycle of rebirth. To reach this goal, spiritual people must give up worldly attachments, including love relationships. They should seek meditative solitude instead.

Shiva, a highly esteemed Hindu deity, embodies this tension by combining the qualities of a devoted yogi with a loving husband and father.

What Happens When Kamadeva Intervenes Life with His Love Arrows?

One time, during a period of intense meditation, Kamadeva was going to pierce his heart with an arrow. Then Shiva, angered by the interruption of his meditation, blasted the unfortunate god of love with a powerful beam of energy emanating from his renowned third eye.

Actually, Kamadeva’s intention was good. It was not meant to whimsically pierce Lord Shiva’s heart. According to the Indian story, a dangerous demon, known as Taraka, endangered the world. None of the gods could defeat this terrifying demon.

Only Kartikeya, the son of Lord Shiva, and his wife, the Mother Goddess Parvati, could defeat this demon, according to a prophecy. However, Kartikeya had not yet been conceived. Shiva was the patron deity and embodiment of yoga, so he unlikely could do this anytime soon given his dedication to meditation. So, the Hindu gods sent Kamadeva to do just that: to make Shiva fall in love with Parvati and wake him up from his meditation so he could have the child who would save the world.

Shiva demonstrates mercy despite his proneness to anger. Heartbroken over the death of her beloved, Rati begged Shiva to bring Kamadeva back to life, which he did. Following this, Shiva and Parvati had a son named Kartikeya, who later killed the demon.

What Was the Message of This Story?

It says that erotic love is important in all religions, even ones that value asceticism and meditation as ways to reach the ultimate goal of freeing people from the cycle of rebirth and its pain. Not only is Kamadeva a fun thing to look at, but it also does good things in the world.

The Golden Age of Love Marriage in Western Societies

Love marriage appears to be a valuable cultural value in many countries throughout Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as many other modernized societies around the world. However, it was not always true in history. In the 20th century, industrialization, urbanization, increased social mobility, and social and cultural modernization brought the hope that love would finally conquer marriage.

When Was Love Marriage’s Golden Age? 

It turns out that the decade of the 1950s, which began in 1947 in the United States and lasted until the early 1960s there and until the late 1960s in Western Europe, was a truly remarkable time for marriage. Romantic love transformed marriage in the 20th century. Love finally conquered marriage. Romantic love and sexual fulfillment became the realities of premarital and marital relationships. In the Western world, marriage entered its heyday during this time period.

In that decade, there was a surge of support for the view that a happy marriage should be one in which each spouse feels they have received their fair share of sexual satisfaction, emotional closeness, and the opportunity to realize their full potential. The majority of people believed that they would not only find the greatest happiness in marriage but also the greatest meaning in their lives. Marriage had become nearly universal by the 1960s in many western European countries and North America (see for review, Karandashev, 2017).

What Was Good About the Golden Age of Marriage?

During that period, about 95% of all men and women strived to marry and married younger. During the 1950s, the norm of young marriage was so prevalent that an unmarried woman as young as twenty-one might be concerned about becoming an “old maid.” Many men and women relished the opportunity of courting and dating the partners of their own choice. They enjoyed marrying at their leisure and establishing their own households. The life span increased, married people felt happy, and divorce rates held steady. Married couples felt independent of their extended family ties. They enjoyed the freedom of their marital relationships (Coontz 2005, pp. 226–228).

By the 1960s, it looked like marriage had found the perfect balance between the personal freedom of a love match and the limitations needed for social stability.

Would the Golden Age of Marriage Spread Throughout the World?

Many social scientists thought that as industrialization spread around the world, love-based marriage and the male breadwinner family would replace the many other marriage and family systems in collectivistic societies. They predicted that love marriages would prevail over the consanguinity and arranged marriages widespread across many societies in traditional cultures.

For example, American sociologist William Goode (1917–2003), an expert on family life and divorce, conducted cross-cultural analyses of marriage and divorce across many societies. He examined family data from the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, India, China, and Japan available at the time.

Based on his analysis, Goode revealed that the above-mentioned cultural evolution of conjugal family systems and the “love patterns” in mate selection were evident in all of these world regions and societies. In his pioneering and seminal book “World Revolution and Family Patterns” (1963), he presented these results and conclusions in an explicit and direct way.

People across cultures prioritized their material and psychological investments in the nuclear family as well as their emotional needs. They believed that each spouse could legitimately expect to rely on the other, prioritize their relationship, and put their loyalty to their partner ahead of their responsibilities to their parents.

The Love Marriage Ideology 

According to William Goode (1959), the ideology of love-based marriage declares the individual’s right to choose his or her own spouse. This cultural ideology also emphasized the value of the individual over inherited wealth and ethnic group. Goode provided statistics and other data to show that love marriages were gaining popularity around the world at the time.

Many social scientists agreed with Goode and supported this conclusion. They believed that in Western societies, love marriage and the nuclear family increased their popularity in the 1950s and 1960s. They thought that the cultural evolution of marriage had prevailed in Europe and North America and had reached its culmination.

Their scientific prediction was that the rest of the world’s cultures would soon follow this marriage pattern that will soon be prevalent across many societies. This way of thinking about relationships was very appealing to young and educated people, especially women (see for review, Karandashev, 2017).

Sexual Love in Cultural Contexts

As I explained in another article, many scholars and laypeople equate sex, sexual love, and erotic love. However, I believe researchers should distinguish between these concepts because they mean somewhat different things (Karandashev, 2022). Sexual love is

  • intense feelings of sexual desire, interest, and attraction;
  • various sexual emotions and feelings;
  • various sexual acts between two individuals.

Sexual love is biologically rooted and, therefore, cross-culturally universal. Nevertheless, its cultural understanding can be specific. People in different societies deem sexual love in their cultural contexts.

What Does “Coitus” Mean for Sexual Love?

The roots of the word “coitus” convey the meaning of “a coming together.” So, the broader meaning of coitus extends beyond physical satisfaction. For men and women, the intimacy of intercourse is more important than the intensity of masturbation (Hite, 1976/2004, pp. 61-78; 1981/1987, pp. 485-502).

The Greek and Latin Origins of the Western Lexicon of Sexual Love

The Latin word “libido” and the Greek word “epithymia” conveyed the meaning of sexual love in Western cultures. Their meanings include yearning, longing, and the desire for sensual self-fulfillment. The sexual love in the words “epithymia” and “libido” conveys the meaning of the desire for sensual pleasure of the body and the gratifying release of sexual energy. All other feelings and emotions of love are of secondary importance in the case of sexual love (Tillich, 1954; Larson, 1983).

What Is the Greek “Epithymia”?

The term “epithymia” refers to “the longing for coitus, the hungering and thirsting for sexual closeness and union with a partner” (Karandashev, 2022). The general physical attraction to a partner is essential in this case. A lover centers his or her emotions not only on sexual desire and the partner’s body but also on the person as a whole. Coitus gives not only physical but also emotional satisfaction (Larson, 1983; Lomas, 2018; Tillich, 1954).

The Sexual Love of “Epithymia” in Other Cultures

Many other cultures of the world express the term “sexual love” in a way that is similar to the Greek word “epithymia.” For instance, Eastern cultures have their own lexical equivalents for sex and sexual love. Some of them appear surprisingly similar.

The Arabic Origins of the Sexual Lexicon

Professor of Linguistics Zaidan Ali Jassem discovered that the “love and sexual terms” in English, French, German, Greek, and Latin could have Arabic origins (Jassem, 2013). For example,

“English, French, Greek and Latin erotic (Eros) comes from Arabic ‘arr ‘intercourse, making love’; English, French, and Latin abhor obtains from Arabic kariha/’akrah, kurh (n) ‘hate’ via /k & h/-merger; English and German love/lieben derives from Arabic labba (‘alabba) ‘to love, live/stay’, turning /b/ into /v/; English hope (hobby) and German hoffen is from Arabic 2ubb ‘love, hope’, turning /2/ into /h/ and /b/ into /f/ in the latter”.

(Jassem, 2013, p. 97).

The modern Arabic terms for sex and sexual love are الجنس والحب الجنسي (aljins walhubu aljinsiu).

The Sexual Love Lexicon from Other Cultures of the World

Here are several other examples from other cultures around the world.

In the Philippines, the word “kilig” refers to the subjective experience of butterflies in the stomach when a person thinks of or interacts with someone sexually attractive and desired.

In the indigenous language of Yagán (Chile), the term “mamihlapinatapai” refers to the way people express unspoken mutual desire through their appearance.

According to American historian and ethnologist Daniel Brinton (1837–1899), several American languages have their own special lexicon of sexual love, which is different from the words for sex and other forms of love (Brinton, 1886).

How People Experience Emotions in Collectivistic Cultures

People in collectivistic societies commonly have a personal identity strongly integrated into their group. Accordingly, the cultural norms of collectivistic societies assume interdependent relations with each other and with a group, such as extended family and kin. Their relational values determine how they experience and express their emotions. Interpersonal relationship harmony is a more important determinant of emotional experience than individual assertion (Karandashev, 2021). Researchers revealed that some Asian countries, such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Pakistan, as well as some South American countries, such as Peru, Chile, Venezuela, and Colombia, are among the most typical collectivistic cultures in the world. The societies of African, Arab, and Eastern European countries are also collectivistic, however, to a lesser degree (Basabe & Ros, 2005).

How People Feel About Themselves in Collectivistic Cultures

Men and women in collectivistic cultures are tightly embedded in so-called in-groups, such as kin and extended families. An individual’s loyalty to a group is its greatest value. People in collectivistic cultures regard their “in-group” values as more important than individual values. Individuals tend to subordinate personal motivation and emotions to group goals.

The sense of personal identity that a person has is determined by their place in a group. Personal privacy has little value and is vulnerable to the intrusion of other members of a group. Individual assertion is less important in collectivistic cultures, while interpersonal relationship harmony is more important (Noon & Lewis, 1992). The group encourages members to adhere to particular norms of emotional experience, expression, and behavior in order to facilitate mutual support and shared experiences. People rely on a group for emotional support.

Relational Emotions in Collectivistic Cultures

Cultural beliefs in collectivistic societies regard emotions as interactive rather than individual experiences. Their emotional experiences reflect people’s social context rather than their internal selves. Emotions are regarded as situational cues about interpersonal relationships.

The Collectivistic Cultural Value of Engaging Emotions

Several cultural studies show that people in collectivistic societies experience more typically socially engaging emotions such as friendliness, sympathy, and respect more frequently. On the other hand, they experience less socially disengaging emotions such as pride, frustration, and self-esteem. (Kitayama et al., 2000; Kitayama et al., 2006; Uchida & Kitayama, 2009).

The Dialectical Mixture of Emotional Experiences in Collectivistic Cultures

Cultural norms of collectivistic cultures acknowledge that positive and negative emotions naturally coexist and can occur simultaneously in our daily emotional experiences. People are used to feeling a dialectical mixture of both positive and negative emotions in their lives (Aaker, Drolet, & Griffin, 2008; Hong & Lee, 2010; Kim et al., 2014; Williams & Aaker, 2002).

Collectivistic Societies Are the Cultures of Emotional Moderation

Collectivist cultural ideals advise people to restrain or moderate their emotional experiences and expressions. The cultural norms suggest appreciating both positive and negative feelings while remaining calm, composed, and at peace. People should prefer emotions of low frequency, duration, and intensity (Bond, 1993; Tamir et al., 2016; Tsai, Knutson, & Fung, 2006; Tsai, Miao, Seppala, Fung, &Yeung, 2007). This is why, in real life, people in collectivistic cultures typically feel their emotions with relatively low intensity (Basabe et al., 2000; Markus & Kitayama, 1991; Scherer et al., 1988; Matsumoto, 1991).

The Collectivistic Value of Emotional Control

For people living in collectivistic cultures, the external interactional aspects of emotions are essential for their emotional experience and expression. They commonly consider how one’s behavior and emotions affect others. Therefore, the cultural norms in collectivistic cultures place a high value on emotional control and cultural support for the suppression of emotions. People usually show their emotions in a limited range of situations and social contexts (Potter, 1988; van Hemert et al., 2007).

Cultural Values in Collectivistic Cultures

Collectivism and individualism were among the cultural constructs and dimensions that early cross-cultural psychologists identified and elaborated on in the 1980s and 1990s (Hofstede, 1980/1984; Marsella et al., 1985; Triandis, 1995). Since then, researchers have widely used the cultural parameters of collectivism and individualism in their cross-cultural studies. The characteristics of societies as collectivistic or individualistic have been the most popular among researchers in many social, economic, cultural, and psychological disciplines.

What Is Collectivism?

The key attributes of collectivism and individualism are

  • The normative relations between an individual and a group and
  • The degree to which people in a society are integrated into groups.

Societies are characterized as collectivistic or individualistic when these value orientations characterize the majority of their members (Hui & Triandis, 1986). People within a given society certainly vary in their personal cultural orientations, either collectivism or individualism.  The degree of collectivism and individualism can also vary across different types of interpersonal relationships. People can be more or less collectivistic and individualistic in their relationships with their kin, parents, neighbors, friends, and coworkers (Karandashev, 2021a).

What Are Collectivistic Cultures?

People in collectivist cultures are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, such as extended families. A paramount value of a collectivistic society is an individual’s loyalty to a group. The group in turn protects an individual’s interests and well-being while opposing other groups.

Collectivistic cultures prioritize in-group beliefs over individual beliefs. In terms of personal motivation, individuals subordinate their goals to group goals. Group goals take precedence over individual goals. In-group norms are higher in value than individual pleasures and personal motivation. In order to facilitate mutual support and shared experiences, the group encourages individuals to follow certain norms of emotional experience, expression, and behavior. The value of personal privacy is low and can be violated. One’s place in a group determines an individual’s sense of personal identity. People are emotionally dependent on a group.

The Values of People in Collectivistic Societies

The key collectivistic values emphasize:

  • interpersonal bonds,
  • unity, loyalty, and integrity,
  • group harmony and solidarity,
  • family relationships and obligation,
  • awareness of and responsiveness to the needs of others,
  • emotional interdependence,
  • and a sense of interconnectedness.

(Hofstede, 1980/1984; 2011; Hui & Triandis, 1986; Gelfand, et al., 2000; Kashima, et al., 1995; Triandis, 1995 ; Triandis, Bontempo, Villareal, Asai, & Lucca, 1988).

The central tenets of collectivist beliefs are group cooperation, a sense of obligation, duty toward the group, and in-group harmony (Oyserman, Coon, & Kemmelmeier, 2002).

In-group versus Out-group Bias in Collectivistic Cultures

People in collectivistic cultures feel highly embedded in their relationships. Relationships with kin, family, and friends develop early in their lives.

People in collectivistic cultures tend to strongly differentiate their behavior toward in-group versus out-group members. They have different standards for members of their in-groups and out-groups. (Hofstede, 1980/1984; Smith&Bond, 1999).

Men and women are collectivistic in their interactions with in-group members (family, friends, etc.), but individualistic in their interactions with out-group members (strangers, people from other cultural groups).

The Chinese Culture of Altruistic Love

Western scholars and the educated public are well familiar with the concepts of altruism and altruistic love. In the ancient Greek philosophy, the word “agape” defined this kind of altruistic, selfless, and all-giving love. Later, Christian teachings elevated the concept of universal altruistic love, characterized by unconditional kindness and compassion for others. However, these Western cultural ideas of altruistic love are not unique in the history of human civilizations.

In different parts of the world, especially the Eastern cultures, the ideas of altruistic love appeared quite early in the history of Chinese civilizations.

The Confucian Contributions to Chinese Culture

Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism are the three Chinese religious philosophies that have had the greatest influence on Chinese culture. Their schools of thought also substantially affected the Chinese understanding of altruistic love. The ancient Chinese philosopher and prophet Confucius (trad. 551–479 BCE) is perhaps the most significant social reformer in East Asian history. His name is associated with many of East Asia’s foundational concepts and cultural practices. He was known in early modern Europe as an originator of “Eastern” thought. He had a substantial impact on the social and cultural development of China in its early history. This is why his name is well-known as a global metonym for the culture of traditional East Asian societies.

Confucian religious and philosophical teachings have been the foundations of Chinese values’ ethics and social and moral philosophy. Altruism was a prominent theme in Confucian ethical teaching.

So, the concepts of loving kindness and altruistic love played a central role in the ethical teachings of Confucius. One of his frequently quoted sayings says:

“Do not do to others what you would not like to do to yourself.”

It is easy to see how this Chinese concept of love is comparable to the Christian teaching of agape love, which I mentioned earlier.

On the other hand, this Chinese concept refers to love in a structurally graded form and not the unconditional love advocated by Christian teachings. The concept of altruism in Christianity takes on a more egalitarian form. It emphasizes love for all people rather than the establishment of hierarchical structures as in Chinese cultural concepts.

The Chinese “Ren”

The fundamental virtue of Confucian moral ethics is the concept of “ren.” It’s important to note that the idea of “ren” is also highly valued in Buddhist and Taoist cultures (Chan, 1955; Dubs, 1951).

The word “ren” is frequently translated as kindness, altruism, compassion, benevolence, and benevolent love. Confucius defined the term “ren” with the common Chinese term “ai”, which means “love.” It is important to note that the Chinese character for “ren” consists of two parts: “human”and “two.” Therefore, according to Confucius, ren is an essential human quality in which two humans express benevolent and altruistic love for one another.

How Is Confucian Ren Different from Christian Agape?

In contrast to the Christian ideal of agape love, the Confucian concept of ren reflected the hierarchical social structure of Chinese society. The five (“wu-lun”) zones were distinguished by the hierarchy of their group relationships.

In Chinese culture, these five cardinals of wu-lun are, in descending order,

(1) Emperor-Ministers (state level),

(2) Father-son (family level),

(3) Husband-wife (family level),

(4) Older-younger brothers (family level), and

(5) Friends (individual level).

In Chinese culture, these five wu-lun of social relations establish the relationship web of society. In Chinese culture, the social life is made up of these five wu-lun of social relationships.

The Hierarchical Nature of Love Attitudes in Chinese “Ren”

Confucius viewed “ren” primarily as the love attitude of a bountiful lord. The superior must demonstrate generosity and kindness toward his subordinates.

Confucian ethics did not expect subordinates to show superiors benevolent love since this would be presumptuous. The culturally proper expressions of love from subordinates toward superiors are loyalty and submission (Chan, 1955; Dubs, 1951).

According to Confucius, people tend to feel and show more natural love towards their parents, relatives, and other close relatives. He taught that altruistic love between members of a small network of relationships is stronger than between members outside of this relationship network.

The Cultural Legacy of Confucian Teachings on Love

Confucius and his disciples in the following times believed that equal love for all was unnatural (Chan, 1955; Dubs, 1951). Therefore, the Confucian cultural ideas of this graded love have been prevalent in many Asian societies for a number of centuries (Ma, 2009). As a direct consequence of Confucius’ legacy and his cultural roots, the hierarchical model of love is still widely accepted in Chinese society. Such a hierarchical conception of love is also widespread in other East Asian cultures that are dominated by the Confucian philosophy (Karandashev, 2022a).

Three Surprisingly Unusual Matriarchal Cultures in Asia

Many of us are familiar with traditional patriarchal societies that are widespread across the world. In patriarchy, the father is both the home and family head in many respects.

Can a matriarchal culture of gender relations be possible and viable? In a matriarchal system, the mother is the head of the home and family. Some matriarchal communities are successful worldwide.

Is Patriarchy the Only Possible Type of Culture?

Many of us know about patriarchal societies, which have been prevalent throughout history in many traditional societies of the past. In a patriarchal system, the father is the head of the household and family. In a patriarchy, the father holds the position of authority within the family and is in power. Over the course of history, cultures around the world began to adopt a more patriarchal framework, which is prevalent in most traditional societies and communities. That social system entails many consequences for gender inequality and corresponding stereotypical gender roles. Cultural norms and customs favor men, who have higher status in gender relationships. Women in such patriarchal societies presumably have lower status and lower rights in family relationships. Women are respected and admired mostly for being able to bear and raise children.

What Is a Matriarchal Culture?

A matriarchal system, on the other hand, is a social system in which the mother is the head of the household. Some of these societies with matriarchal cultures of social relationships have been successful across the world. These matriarchal communities have managed to survive to the present day. In these societies, women are the most important guiding force in politics and the economy, as well as in all other areas.

Let us look at some of them, which the editorial fellow at Town & Country, Sarah Madaus, briefly described. Let us learn about how these cultural communities have deviated from the western-patriarchal cultures. Within these communities, located in different parts of the world, women are in charge of everything, including the political system, the economy, and the larger social structure. This article focuses on three cultural groups in Asia.

The Minangkabau people of Indonesia

The Minangkabau people, commonly referred to as Minang, are an ethnic group that lives in the Minangkabau Highlands of West Sumatra, Indonesia. The Minangs are the largest matrilineal culture in the world. It has a complex social system built on matrilineal clans and property passed down through female lineage, including land and homes.

The cultural beliefs of Minangs are that the mother is the most important person in society. Women in their society rule the domestic sphere. In Minangkabau society, marriage is permitted, but partners must have separate sleeping quarters.

The Khasi people of India

The Khasi people are an ethnic group native to Meghalaya in north-eastern India. Even though most Khasis live in Meghalaya, a large population of Khasis also reside in the neighboring state of Assam and certain regions of Bangladesh.

In the hilly Indian state of Meghalaya, property names and wealth are passed down from mother to daughter instead of from father to son. This is because in Meghalaya, the Khasi people have a matrilineal system of inheritance in their communities.

In this particular system, lineage and descent are determined by the clan that one’s mother belongs to. When women marry within the Khasi tribe, their surname is passed down rather than their husbands’.

The Khasi family is referred to as a “ling.” A ling commonly includes a mother, her husband, her unmarried sons, her married daughters, their spouses, and their offspring. In matrilineal families, such as those of the Khasis, the husbands visit their wives. Only mothers and mothers-in-law are permitted to care for children. Men are usually not permitted to attend family gatherings.

The Mosuo people of China

The Mosuo people are a small ethnic group that lives in the provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan in China. They are also known as the Naxi amongst themselves. Geographically, they reside close to the border with Tibet. They adhere to the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism.

The Mosuo people have a system of matriarchy in their society. The family lineage is determined by the women of the family. Their society is matrilineal, which means that ownership of property is passed down the same line of female ancestors. The mother has the primary role in raising the children in the family.

The Mosuo live in a surprisingly modern way. In many regards, women are equal to men. In other gender relationships, women are superior to men. Both women and men can have as many or as few sexual partners as they want without judgement. Extended families raise children and care for the elderly. Mosuo men build houses. They are responsible for livestock and fishing. They also assist in the upbringing of their sisters’ and female cousins’ children.

Religions in Cultural Perspectives

How Are Religious Cultures Different from National Cultures?

Religious cultures are similar to national cultures yet differ in several ways. Religion, like national and ethnic cultures, can be thought of as a type of culture and a cultural system (Cohen, 2009; Saroglou & Cohen, 2013).

Religious parameters of culture can strongly correlate with other cultural dimensions of the country. Such a correlation between the religious elements of culture and other cultural characteristics makes it difficult to disentangle the unique function of religion from that of other aspects of cultural life. Nevertheless, I argued in another article that the main reasons why religions should be considered as cultures with their own sets of cultural meanings, values, norms, and practices.

Cultural experts believe that religion has a considerable impact on the cultural characteristics of societies, but cross-cultural researchers overlook this factor (e.g., Cohen, 2009; McCutcheon, 1995, see review Karandashev, 2021a).

Four major cultural dimensions of religions

Researchers identified four major dimensions of religious cultures, which are present in many religions and denominations with some cultural variation (see Saroglou & Cohen, 2013 for a detailed review). These are

  1. Fundamentalist (orthodox) expression vs. questing expressions of religious beliefs and practices.
  2. Intrinsic vs. extrinsic reli­gious orientations.
  3. Traditional reli­giousness vs. modern spirituality.
  4. Mystical dimension of religion, focusing on the spirituality of the mystics

For example, the distinctions between fundamentalist and questing expressions of religious beliefs and practices are identified among Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Hindus. The differences between intrinsic and extrinsic religious orientations are found among Orthodox, Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and Muslims. Variations in the dimension of organized traditional reli­giousness vs. modern individual spirituality are discovered in many religious cultural contexts. The mystical dimension of religion, centered on the spirituality of the mystics, appeared to be common to many religions. In particular, it was found that mystic experiences are similar among Iranian Muslims and American Christians. They are also similar in religiousness among Indian Hindus, Tibetan Buddhists, and Israeli Jews (see for a detailed review, Saroglou & Cohen, 2013).

How Do Religious Cultures Influence National Cultures?

National cultures are the sets of cultural meanings, values, norms, and practices that have evolved due to the impact of various cultural factors, such as ecological, ethnic, social, political, and religious ones. All those variables, in a historical perspective, merged to form specific national cultures. On a daily basis, religions interact with other cultural factors, affecting people’s emotional and cultural lives.

Religious cultures have profound ties with national and ethnic cultures. Religions and religious cultural variables are among the strong factors that determine the national cultures of countries. So, countries with similar Christian, Muslim, or Buddhist religious cultures can have a lot in common with each other culturally.

Religions have historically shaped the cultural patterns of nations. However, the opposite effects have also occurred when a country’s culture influenced religious development in some ways (Norris & Inglehart, 2004). Religious culture comes into the national culture being modified and transformed.

For example, according to anthropological studies, Islam in different countries advocates different cultural values. The Muslim populations of Egypt and Bali maintain different cultural traditions, despite sharing the same faith and adhering to the same Islamic principles (Wikan, 1988).

The Ways How Religious Cultures Shaped Eastern and Western Civilizations Let’s look at how cultural differences between the West and the East have evolved and persisted for hundreds of years, in part because of their shared religious history.

The difference between individualistic Western societies and collectivist Eastern societies is the most well-known cultural difference between the West and the East.

Eastern societies tend to be largely collectivistic cultures, while Western societies are mostly individualistic.

The Buddhist religion is quite collectivistic in many respects. This can explain why Japanese culture tends to be a collectivistic culture. And generally, collectivistic cultural values and beliefs are commonly associated with Eastern religions. The cultural worldviews, social perspectives, and schools of thought of Eastern societies are substantially determined by their religions. Confucianist societies tend to be collectivistic, while Islamic societies are frequently hierarchical. On the other hand, Christianity, and Protestantism in particular, is strongly related to individualistic values and beliefs. This can explain why many Western European and European American societies are individualistic cultures. For instance, Protestant societies are often individualistic and egalitarian. Many aspects of Western national cultures and their worldview biases are substantially shaped by Christianity. Their scholarly, social, cultural, and political approaches to the modern world are Western and Christian-centric (Basabe & Ros, 2005).

The Religious Cultural Values of Interdependence and Independence There are several ways in which religious values can predispose people to think and feel in certain ways. For instance, in general, religious people are more interdependent than those who are not religious (Cohen & Rozin, 2001; Cukur, de Guzman & Carlo, 2004, Triandis, 1995). Religions differ in their values of interdependence. Those who are monotheistic are more self-sufficient, while non-theistic are more interdependent (Basabe & Ros, 2005).

Erotic Love in Cultures Around the World

Many laypeople and academics are interested in sexual and erotic themes. The topics of this kind are related to how people experience and express love.

As I said in another article, love and sex are intimately interconnected and sometimes difficult to distinguish. For their better understanding, several questions should be answered. Among those are: What is sex? What is love? What is sexual love? What is erotic love? I recently explained what erotic love is. Here I talk about erotic love across human cultures.

Erotic Art and Erotic Love

People had sex from the early origins of human evolution. It was natural and biologically embedded in their species. However, erotic love appeared on the scene with the onset of culture.

The cultural ideas of erotic art and literature have been depicted in painting, sculpture, music, songs, dances, theater, and fashion design. These artistic mediums conveyed the aesthetic values of body shape and movement, the structure and expressiveness of the face, and the melody and rhythm of music and singing.

What is “erotic” in erotic love?

In the same way that erotic art does, erotic love characterizes the physical attractiveness of a person and the setting in which they are situated. A person who is feeling erotic love looks at the body with admiration. He or she perceives the beautiful body as “nude” rather than “naked.”

Look at the dictionaries, and you’ll see the meaningful differences between the two. The impression of a beloved’s nude form is about the presence of his or her attractive physique, but the impression of a naked figure is about the absence of clothes. Both can have various connotations hidden beneath the surface.

When you are in a museum of sculpture and painting, you look at the nude figures and admire their beauty. Looking at a nude figure in the museum, you don’t experience sexual arousal every single time, don’t you? It is because you experience erotic love, not a sexual one. You experience erotic feelings, but usually non-sexual ones. Both together are not compatible in that context.

In the same way, when you are alone with your beloved being without clothes in bed, looking at her or him, you see them nude and experience erotic feelings. Yet, you don’t feel sexual arousal every single time you look at them. You feel erotic rather than sexual love.

At another time, however, you can experience both erotic and sexual love for them, perceiving them both naked and nude. One of these experiences can prevail over another or not. 

Two Examples of How Erotic Love Was Represented in European and Eastern Cultures of the Past

In the course of the history of art across different cultures, a wide variety of cultural models of erotic art and erotic love have been portrayed. Both men and women were depicted as the objects of erotic love in ancient Greek and Roman art, as well as in Indian art, yet in different cultural contexts and settings. They can still be seen today in the form of paintings and sculptures in the museums of the world.

European Examples of Erotic Art

The depiction of nude women and men in art during the Renaissance period was fashionable and generally conveyed positive associations. Erotic images of women and men can be found in the works of many poets and painters. In nude figures, artists personified their ideals of beauty, graciousness, soul, and love. During the Renaissance, great artists like Giorgione, Leonardo, Titian, Michelangelo, and Veronese created works that praised erotic beauty.

For instance, the “Venus of Urbino” painting depicted “a humanly beautiful nude woman whose pose is borrowed from the idealized beauty of Gorgione’s “Sleeping Venus.” This love allegory represents a European cultural model of love of that time, depicting the victory of love over temptation and time (Grabski, 1999, p.9).

Eastern Examples of Erotic Art

The Sanskrit aesthetic philosophy and art of Indian culture elevated the feeling of “shringara,” one of the nine rasas. “Shringara” means “erotic love” as an attraction to beauty. This feeling is related to the feeling of “rati,” meaning passionate love and sexual pleasure. Nevertheless, these two feelings are still emotionally different.

The love lyrics in Sanskrit and ancient Indian paintings and sculptures beautifully portrayed the stunning pictures of shringara, an Indian culture of “erotic love.” The concept was described as being evidently different from “kama” as presented in ancient Indian medical literature. The diverse feelings of kama were about desires and sensual pleasures of the body (Orsini 2006, p. 10). The Kamasutra, an old Sanskrit text dated to 400 BCE–200 CE, presented a lot of ancient Indian knowledge and wisdom about sexuality, erotic pleasure, and emotional pleasure. This literary text identified and vividly described four types of sexual experiences. Those distinctively referred to sex, sexual love, erotic love, or associated feelings.

Four types of sex and sexual love in “Kamasutra”

Sex and love are among the topics of great interest for many, yet in different ways. Laypeople and academics believe that sexuality and love are inextricably linked to one another. Numerous authors in the scholarly literature frequently consider these two concepts together.

Researchers in many scientific areas have different ways of conceptualizing the connections between sexuality and love. Some academics believe that “love is really sex,” while others believe that “sex is really love.” Still others believe that these two experiences are distinct yet connected. Opinions about how they are connected also vary.

Although their forms and expressions are behaviorally similar, sex and sexual love have distinct psychological roles. Therefore, it is worthwhile to distinguish them (Karandashev, 2022a). To put it briefly, these two concepts have the following different meanings:

Sexual desire is easily aroused, fleeting, and short-lived. Any attractive individual is capable of satisfying sexual desire. Sexual love is a collection of more intimate and complicated feelings related to a certain other person. Only a specific individual can fulfill a person’s sexual urge.

What is “Kamasutra”?

Ancient cultures of the far past were quite elaborate in this regard. The Kamasutra is an ancient Indian Sanskrit text that comprehensively describes what sexuality, erotic, and emotional pleasure are.It is widely known as a sexual manual for men and women. People could learn from the book about different ways to enjoy sex in different positions and with different sexual techniques.

The ancient Indian Hindu Sanskrit text of the Kama Sutra, dated to 400 BCE–200 CE, was attributed to the Indian philosopher Vatsyayana. The book was largely not about sex positions or sexual techniques. Instead, it was written first of all as a guide to the art of living well, the nature of love, finding a right life partner, keeping your love life going, and other things that have to do with the pleasure-seeking parts of human life.

How many types of sex and sexual love can we distinguish?

In the book of Kamasutra, Vatsyayana writes about sexuality, sexual and erotic love, and emotional fulfillment in their intricate relations. The Sanskrit word “kama” conveys several connotations, variously meaning “desire, pleasure, longing, love, and sex.” It is also the name of the god of erotic love and desire.

The text of Kamasutra clearly distinguished four types of sex and sexual love:

  • “First was a simple love of intercourse that resembles a habit or drug.
  • Second was like a separate addiction to specific aspects of sex such as kissing, embracing, or oral intercourse.
  • Third was the love consisting of mutual attraction between two people, instinctive, spontaneous, and possessive.
  • Fourth was the kind of one-sided love that often sprang from the lover’s admiration for the beauty of the beloved.” (Tannahill 1992, p. 203).

According to the text, satisfaction of the first and second types of sex depends just on physical proficiency in intercourse and adherence to the rules and techniques. These are mostly sexual interactions between lovers. The third and fourth types of sexual experience represent true sexual love. These kinds of sexual love are above and beyond the rules. Lovers should just follow their sensual intuition of love and natural feelings of sexual harmony (Karandashev, 2017, p. 71).