Called the new Alan Watts for his teachings and the Zen Gabriel Garcia Marquez for his writings, Daoist Monk Yun Rou (formerly Arthur Rosenfeld) received his academic education at Yale, Cornell, and the University of California. Ordained a monk in an official, government-sanctioned ceremony at the Chun Yang Daoist Temple in Guangzhou, China, his work has appeared in Vogue, Vanity Fair, Parade, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, WebMD, Fox Business News, and numerous other websites and newspapers.
Yun Rou's unique and primary calling is the ability make obscure ideas, arcane information, and transformative philosophy compelling and accessible through story. Yun Rou is the author of more than 20 award-winning non-fiction books and novels of magical realism that have done exactly this for some decades, several earning Hollywood and Chinese film industry options. From 2010 – 2013, he hosted the hit (reaching 60MM households) national public television show Longevity Tai Chi with Arthur Rosenfeld. The American Heart Association profiled Yun Rou as an inspirational resource in 2016.
Respected by academics, practitioners, and lay readers alike, Monk Yun Rou began his formal martial arts training in 1980 and has studied with some of China’s top Chen-style tai chi grandmasters. In 2011 he was named Tai Chi and Media Master of The Year at the World Congress on Qigong and Traditional Chinese Medicine. In July 2014, Yun Rou joined the heads of the five tai chi families on the dais, representing American tai chi at the International Tai Chi Symposium in Louisville, Kentucky. He teaches in Southern Arizona, South Florida, and around the world.
True to its title, this book is a manifesto of prescription. The ebook contains 152 instances of “Let’s” [do X, Y, and Z], listing actions that supposedly anyone would find to be, all things being equal, wise directions that we all better just do more of.
(It also urges readers to imagine if only everyone already acted always wisely, e.g., “Imagine how little need there would be for laws and regulations if we just treated others as we would have them treat us.”)
This approach felt to me too much like atomized bullet-pointing of actions that (probably) are part of the overall solutions, while sidestepping the interdependent needs and incentive structures that have so far made us believe in the rationality of our actions—even with all these horrible externalities we’re increasingly becoming aware of.
I’m all for letting compassion as the central value imply all our actions, but we need to account for the (currently convincing) reasons for why we do what we do before we can see new ways as even wiser.
So (to me at least) this book felt like wanting to sweep away a lot of problems in favor of a better Way, without giving us much help in seeing what interdependencies have led us to maintain our current ways, and how to get from here to there (as if we could simply tap into and start following it).
This understanding of ignorance and interdependence is also what I’ve appreciated in more explicitly Buddhist sources, which this book gives some nods to while in my experience unfairly implying that Taoism is more worth looking into (e.g., “If there is a religion or philosophy that makes sense in the age of science and reason, one that is congruent with our evolution as compassionate and awake beings, it is Daoism and its meditative practices”).
Lastly, my previous reading of Taoism has colored it as a way of effortlessness, which feels inconsistent with talk of moral obligations and imperatives and of how this and that ‘must be outlawed immediately’.
I would rather view everything as empirically more or less the path of compassion (evaluating actions and internalizing their externalities based on their leading to suffering, or dukkha), and always attempt to account for the total context before judging the degree to which things belong on the path, including the dukkha-mediating reasons for why we have done and do what we do, the indirect and systemic effects of immediate changes, the efforts required to maintain the new solutions, and so on.
Rou Y (2018) (08:48) Mad Monk Manifesto, The - A Prescription for Evolution, Revolution, and Global Awakening
Introduction Notes on the Presentation
1. Relaxing and Rectifying • Tuning in the World • The Way We Feel • Cycles and Motion • Nourishing Ourselves • A Sense of Self • Time and Energy
2. Rebalancing Daily Life • Values and Choices • Lifestyle
3. Fostering Community, Deepening Culture • Caring and Learning • Thinking and Thriving • Community and Society
4. Culture, Commerce, Government, and Power • Assuming Responsibility • Moral Imperatives • We and They • Violence and the Use of Force
5. Sensitivity and Environment • Managing Resources • The Illusion of Separation • Our Blue Planet • Finding Our Roots
6. Awakening to Spirit and Service • Rules of Nature • Beyond Organized Religion • Impermanence and Change • Transcendence
This radically visionary book breaks new ground on our personal and societal problems by drawing on ancient Daoist wisdom—just what we need in a world gone mad from obsolete Western thinking, technological intrusions, addictive consumerism and widespread political decay. Daoist monk Yun Rou offers a fresh take on our personal and cultural dysfunctions with honest, provocative insights that hold potential for a countercultural political movement that’s long overdue.
Beautifully written by a seasoned author of numerous books, this profound, practical—and ultimately hopeful—manifesto is accessible to anyone, from any walk of life, who desires a richer personal life and a more just and environmentally sustainable world. Unlike many New Age or self-help books, Mad Monk Manifesto appropriately weds the personal with the political and the spiritual with social and environmental justice.
The monk’s range of knowledge is breathtaking—from physics and psychology to indigenous wisdom and musicology—a treasure trove that will engage readers of all interests, backgrounds and political persuasions. These insights reflect the unusual life of the author, revealed in evocative reminiscences he sprinkles throughout the book. Born and raised in the cultural and political excesses of Manhattan, the author eventually followed a different path and spent decades studying the Daoist “Way” under the tutelage of Chinese masters. A must read for anyone seeking fundamental change!
It’s a book of prescriptions, inspired by Daoist thought, but still, a book of prescriptions. And I find that a bit paradoxical, using Daoist principles to write prescriptions for anything and everything
I've first listened to this audiobook on spotify, and while I got the gist of Yun Rou's ideas, I feel like I may have missed a few spots because I was not fully paying attention to the spoken words. I'm reading it again now. However, what I've heard is 100% resonating with my ethic beliefs, although I may not (yet) follow through with all of them.
Let me quickly give an overview of the contents of this book: Yun Rou is describing the daoist (centering on yourself, yin/yang, mediation, clarity) ideas of how humans are a part (not apart!) of nature, and how they should hence behave and live within it. Crucial ideas are mostly going back to respect.
Respect for nature and all living things within it, especially other sentient beings. This implies the ethical treatment of animals, i.e. not torturing them, exploiting them, killing them (for profit(=food), entertainment or whatever other reason there might be) not soiling or destroying their habitats (rainforest, ocean, your backyard). Respect for nature in the sense that we should practice a mindful use of the non-renewable resources.
I think one of the most important messages was already stated in the introduction: Abusing nature is abusing our selves, since we are a part of nature itself. You can see the truth of this statement in your daily life (assuming you pay attention to your inner self).
The Three Treasures: compassion, frugality, humility. In daoist philosophy, living with these ideas in mind, you will lead a calm and peaceful life.