What is kama muta?
Kama muta is many things:
Kama muta is Sanskrit for “being moved by love”. In Sanskrit letters, it is written काममूत
Kama muta is our scientific name for an emotion that has names in many languages (but not all). In English, it overlaps closely with being moved to tears.
We use the label kama muta because “being moved” etc. are sometimes also used for other emotions, such as sadness and awe, or even for having an emotion in general. We also use the label kama muta because the English “being moved” or “being touched” are not identical to the translations in German, Norwegian, Portuguese, Mandarin, etc.. There is no reason to put one language or culture’s version of the emotion over all others.
Kama muta is the sudden feeling of oneness, love, belonging, or union with an individual person, a family, a team, a nation, nature, the cosmos, God, or a kitten.
How does kama muta feel?
When kama muta is mild, it just feels a little warm and fuzzy. If you feel more intense kama muta, you may notice
- a warm or other feeling in the center of the chest;
- moist eyes, tears, or weeping;
- chills, thrills, or goosebumps;
- having a lump in your throat or being choked up or, making it difficult to speak;
- a deep breath or pause in breathing;
- an exclamation such as awww;
- moving one or both hands over the center of the chest;
- afterwards, feelings of buoyancy (lightness) or exhilaration.
However, many people experience just one or two or a few of these in many instances of kama muta.
Strong kama muta experiences may make you want to hug someone, or call your grandmother and tell her how much you love her! Although kama muta experiences sometimes occur in sad situations, the kama muta feeling itself is positive; it makes you feel more connected, kind of cozy.
People like to share kama muta: to give it to others, and especially to feel it together with people they care about.
What is kama muta called in other languages?
Kama muta is Sanskrit for moved by love.
Speakers of Sanskrit commonly used the word kama to refer to erotic love, in particular, but we are using kama muta as a scientific term, defining it as a theoretical construct that doesn’t correspond precisely to the original meaning of kama muta or to any word or phrase in any everyday language. In fact, some languages don’t have any word that is specific to our kama muta concept. However, keeping in mind that the translations are never exact, here are some terms that generally designate this emotion (although sometimes people use them loosely, to name other emotions):
English moved, touched, stirred, smitten, infatuated, entranced, transported, have a heart-warming or poignant experience or the feels, feel nostalgia or longing, shed tears of joy, see something tear-jerking, or encounter an adorably cute infant or animal that makes one feel tenderness. When people mention feelings of collective pride (patriotism, team spirit), they are often speaking of kama muta. In religious contexts, people may speak of being touched by the Spirit, slain in the Spirit, rapture, or of mystical experiences.
German: bewegt sein or gerührt sein.
Dutch: ontroerd zijn or geraakt zijn.
Norwegian: å blir rørt.
French: être mu, mouvoir, toucher.
Spanish: estar conmovido.
Portuguese: is comovido (comover).
Italian: commuovere/commozione (commuoversi).
Serbian and Croatian: drljivost, dirnutost, or ganut.
Estonian: olema puudutatud, olema liigutatud.
Finnish: liikuttava, liikuttunut, koskettaa, koskettava.
None of these words exactly or invariably correspond to kama muta, but they are all often used to refer to it, or at least that is what we have been told by native speakers.
When do people feel kama muta?
People feel kama muta in a great variety of contexts, including family, friendship, love, nostalgia, cuteness, religion, ritual, oratory, marketing, poetry, literature, cinema, video, music, art, sports, and war. There are chance occurrences, and also events that are tailored to evoke kama muta. Below is a list of some events that may evoke kama muta.
- You give birth to your baby and you hold her for the first time; she looks up at you, then snuggles against your chest, secure and calm.
- You are at a poetry lounge where the poet on the stage differs from you in gender, age, ethnicity, and dress. He is reading a poem he wrote about being avoided and excluded by people who reject him simply because of his appearance, and the hardships he faced when his parents were killed in an auto accident. You know just what he experienced, since you were an outsider because of a prominent facial scar, and your mother died, leaving you in a foster home; you suddenly identify with him intensely.
- You are driving through a small town and you see a sign boosting the high school basketball team. With a pang of deep nostalgia you wistfully remember the sense of connection you experienced on your high school team: the one-for-all and all-for-one spirit, the team pride, the devotion of the fans, and your girlfriend rushing out to hug and kiss you at the end of every game.
- You are gathered with others from your community at the annual commemoration of the martyred heroes who bravely faced certain death, sacrificing themselves to protect you all. With heartfelt patriotism, you join in singing the national anthem.
- You are hiking on a trail when you hear someone crying, and you come upon a five year-old girl with a broken arm and bruises on her face and neck. You ask her what happened and, sobbing, she tells you her father beat her up because she stopped hiking to look at a butterfly. Your heart goes out to her; you just want to comfort and care for her.
- In worship, you suddenly feel a rapturous union with God; you and He are one.
- After years of wishing and hoping, you are finally able to make the pilgrimage to the holy site. After a long and arduous journey, you have now reached the holy site. You can suddenly see it, you approach, and gently touch it.
- In the quiet forest, you listen to the wind and you feel yourself merge with nature.
- Suddenly you see a litter of four wonderfully cute and playful puppies; you sit down and one by one they come up and climb into your lap. As you stroke their soft fur they lick you, curl up, and fall asleep in your lap on top of each other.
- You have got a bad flu, and you have barely been able to get out of bed. After three days you drag yourself outside to take in your mail. Three hours later an elderly neighbor, whom you only know from greetings exchanged on the sidewalk, knocks on the door. You get up and open the door; she’s brought you homemade soup, fresh-baked bread, and a vase of flowers from her garden. She says, “Excuse me, but I saw you were ill. This is the soup my mother always made for us when we were sick, and I always made for my children and grandchildren when they weren’t feeling well. It will make you feel better.
- You have just had a huge, drawn-out fight with your boyfriend and you’re wondering whether he’s going to end the relationship and move out, which would devastate you. As you’re walking alone in the dark he texts you that he’s sorry, you’re perfect, and he wants to be with you forever.
- A tornado destroys your neighborhood and you can’t find your sister. She was in her room, which was crushed flat by a giant tree. Then you hear her calling your name, you turn, you see her running toward you and she jumps into your arms, crying with joy.
- You come back to your dorm room and find your roommate crying. You ask her what’s the matter. With encouragement from you, she trustingly discloses to you the physical and sexual abuse her boyfriend is inflicting on her and how she is struggling to protect herself. She has never before told anyone about this. Her intimate secrets resonate with your own terrible experiences, which you in turn disclose to her.
- Your unit is pinned down by a machine gun and nearly out of ammunition; the enemy are about to overrun your position. The clumsy new guy who was the butt of everyone’s jokes suddenly grabs a bunch of grenades, says, “I’m not going to let you all die here,” and runs toward the machine gun, tossing grenades to blow it up as he’s riddled with bullets.
- You’re listening to an extraordinary performance of Chopin’s Nocturne. The musicians are inspired, the rapt audience is entirely absorbed; you feel rapturously enveloped, transported and transformed into oneness, experiencing a fusion of yourself, the music, Chopin, the conductor, the performers, and the whole audience.
- You see a video of a dog who faithfully comes and waits at a train station every evening for 10 years for his dead owner to come home.
- After a very long flight, you’re sitting in the baggage claim, next to a tired soldier in camouflage with a bandaged head. A four year-old girl comes running across the room, cries “Daddy!!”, and jumps into his arms. His wife joins them, kisses him fervently, and the three of them start singing a silly song as they slowly dance together.
- It’s your daughter’s wedding. You remember vividly when at six she had leukemia; she was so sick and you were sure she’d die. You never thought you would see her fully recover as she did. The groom is a terrific guy, and they love each other deeply. They can’t stop smiling joyfully at each other as they say their vows.
- You’re at your mother’s funeral, desolate with grief, but now fondly remembering the songs she sang you as she brushed your hair. When her best friend stands up to speak of her memories of your mother, you realize how much she loved her, too. And looking around, you appreciate how in life and now in death, your mother always brought everyone together – she was the link that connected everyone, and still is. You are consoled by the thought of her in heaven with Jesus, while you look forward to joyously joining her in heaven when you die.