Conscious Community Podcast
Go With the Flow – Interview with Monk Yun Rou
By Janae Jean and Spencer Schluter
Taoist Monk Yun Rou (formerly Arthur Rosenfeld) was ordained a Taoist monk at the Chun Yang (Pure Yang) Taoist Temple in Guangzhou, China. His writings and teachings promote Taoist philosophy and focus on environmental conservation as well as political and social justice. He hosts the Forbidden Rice Podcast. Additionally, he produced a documentary series about the science behind acupuncture, tai chi and meditation as well as the PBS show, Longevity Tai Chi.
We spoke with him about his latest book, Mad Monk Manifesto: A Prescription for Evolution, Revolution and Global Awakening; Taoist ideas, martial arts, movement as a teacher, healthful living and more. This is an excerpt from our enlightening interview. To listen to the entire conversation, subscribe to the Conscious Community Podcast on your favorite podcatcher app. Visit www.MonkYunRou.com.
Janae: What is Taoism?
Monk Yun Rou: American people are actually more familiar with Taoism than they know they are. They know it as the “philosophy of the Jedi masters.” If you are familiar with Star Wars, you know that there is a band of rebels. They are nature-loving people in robes who live in the forest. The battle portrayed in the Star Wars franchise is very much like the battle that gave rise to Taoism in China. George Lucas presumably drew that conflict from the relationship between two major philosophies of Early China, Confucianism and Taoism.
Confucianism believes in very fixed relationships, familial piety, a great number of rituals and prescriptions for how we should live—rules that must be followed. Taoism says, “No, let’s be bacchanalian revelers in the forest and love nature. Let’s go party for six days in the woods. Then let’s step into a cave and meditate for a week or a month. Then we’ll come out and have some more wine.” Very different ideas!
The Taoist ideas are also familiar to Western people in the California surf culture. Surf culture came from Hawaii and was popularized in the ‘60s and ‘70s. When people talk about “Going with the flow; being in the groove (or the tube;) Tubular dude.” All that stuff is from Taoist thinking.
Spencer: I have a martial arts background. What I think is really interesting is how the physical movements teach hard to grasp, vague and abstract concepts.
MYR: Martial arts being the physical embodiment of philosophical ideas is probably the most important takeaway here. To understand philosophical ideas, you have to integrate them into your life. You have to try them like a recipe. You have to cook it; see how it tastes; see how you feel after eating it and whether it sustains you with good health and longevity. If you do all those things you will have a better understanding of that recipe then somebody who read it in a book. It’s just not the same.
There are a number of Taoist arts, which range from divinatory practices to ritual arts that are mostly about devotion to one deity or another in the religious Taoist pantheon. Philosophical Taoists, like me, don’t necessarily have any supernatural belief. So, we don’t pray to anyone, although we cultivate an attitude of gratitude for the sages that went before and taught us these things and left us these lessons.
The most famous and well-known of the Taoist arts is battlefield martial art we call “tai chi.” I have tai chi students who say, “This is not a martial art. I came for peace and love—and to meditate. I heard it was meditation in motion.” I say,