The Sacred Mind: Newar Cultural Representations of Mental Life and the Production of Moral Consciousness
Author: Steven M. Parish
Source: Ethos, Vol. 19, No. 3 (Sep., 1991), pp. 313-351
For the Newars of Nepal, mind, self, and emotion are sacred and moral; the "inner" world is absorbed in a religious ethos. This sacralization of mental life in Newar culture is consistent with the way religious forms-sacred beings and symbols and a moral order based on a religious worldview-provide the fundamental grounds for the Newar construction of reality. Newar life has not been secularized; the world and the mind have not been disenchanted. The concept of mind Newars bring to the experience of an "inner" life, of mental existence, helps Newars create themselves as moral beings. As Newars evaluate and experience themselves in terms of cultural theories of mental life, they produce states of moral consciousness, ways of knowing themselves as moral agents. Their concepts of mind, formed within a religious and ethical worldview, mediate the development of a "moral self." Their vision of mind sensitizes them to "moral" emotion, shapes insight into self, and structures efforts to alter self. In sum, their cultural concept of mind helps generate what I would term "moral knowing."