Renee Lynn is an Activist, Columnist, Published Author, and Founder of Voice for India. Renee Lynn was born and brought up in New Jersey. Best known for raising issues and awareness about India’s political and social issues, she is also the writer of the book India Stripped. She has witnessed a lot of cultures while travelling around the world, but Indian culture turned out to be the most life changing one. Dr. Munish Raizada got an opportunity to chat with her and get to know her better. Here are some excerpts from the interview:
Dr. Munish: So, Renee tell me something about you. I know you live in New Jersey and how you got interested in India as such or eastern philosophy and I know you write a lot about India and on various social and political issues also. So, tell me the background of all this.
Renee: I like to travel. So, I’ve travelled around the world, so many different countries and there in my travels I was struck by India and just India’s culture, it’s people, you know, I love the Indian philosophy. It just blew me away compared to other countries because with all the other countries, I’ve been to even Japan, Taiwan, Australia all throughout Europe, you know all these countries in Europe in the far East Israel. They just don’t have the hospitality. They don’t have that great culture. It’s like when you arrive in India you have this distinct connection. It feels like a big conglomerate, like one big happy family you get that feeling when you arrive in India. Because a lot of it is the Indian people’s hospitality. You don’t find in any other country as you do in India and as a world traveler, it really struck my heart and soul and that’s why I’ve been to India 23 times because I’m really addicted to India.
I say I felt, definitely, some definitely some past life connections maybe. You know, it’s just amazing. The country is, it’s the best country in the world. I just love it. I know I sound biased but it’s the truth. Honestly all the countries I’ve traveled to, there’s no comparison to India. Its people, hospitality, its culture born on it’s just not India is an amazing country in just in love with India. So that’s how my love for India started.
Dr. Munish: When was the first time you went to India?
Renee: That was January 2009. That was my first trip and I went to Chennai first. I didn’t tour all through South India and went to Kerala which is amazing and beautiful, you know, all through Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry. Others are really, I cant think of the name…Auroville, Auroville is really beautiful. That was very different and unique.
Then from there, I took a trip to North India, and I went to Mumbai, Delhi, all through Rajasthan, so it was a great experience, my first time going to India.
I will admit the first time when I arrived in Chennai and I came out of the airport, it was like 11 o’clock at night and there was all these people around and I had to wait for my driver and I’m like oh my god, this is 11o o’clock at night, there’s no one in the airport and there’s all these people out here and they wait for foreigners, they love foreigners and the next day, I couldn’t wait to get outside and explore and people are just coming up to me and they’re like Namaste, namaste and touching my feet.
I’m a stranger and I’m like wow, you don’t get this in another country, like they see the god in you and they’re touching your feet, like this is the respect that they show, even to foreigners, it’s amazing! This love and respect is amazing! So, that was my first trip to India in January. I stayed there January and February 2009 and from there it didn’t stop. I’ve been going to India twice a year since then, one time I went three times a year.
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Dr. Munish: Are you a practicing Hindu?
Renee: Yes I am, so actually I was learning Hinduism before I came to India. I was learning about Hinduism and Indian philosophy and I really took a deep interest in it and if you compare, um you know I was born a Christian, die hard Christian, I’ve been to a Baptist church kind off you know all the crazy radical Christians you know, different angles so, Hinduism is so esoteric, even though Christianity is so esoteric, but I thought this was logical and it was so interesting so I thought I should learn about Hinduism and the people are so nice and a lot of it I believe stems from Hinduism, because the love and the respect that they give, even to all living things, animals, nature, like they have this love and respect for all living things, and in Hinduism they try to practice vegetarianism, which they don’t do that in Christianity or Islam, but in Hinduism they do!
And It’s that the beautiful principles in Hinduism again I love and respect for all things that are living , it just blew my mind, so I wanted to learn more about Hinduism and I started learning about Yoga, I love Yoga, I always practice and preach to other people, you know, try yoga, it’s just amazing, like what it does to your body, it’s just amazing, so then from there I just, like everything has like a cycle, like it takes a snowball effect, so it was like that with me, slowly slowly, and I noticed that Hindus are the nicest people.
And it’s really sad but a lot of the Christian Ideology, like if you read their books, things they say, that Hinduism is evil, its demonic, they are worshipping all these gods and this one pastor, he was preaching hell, Hindus are born demonic, now that is really radical and crazy to say that Hindus are born demonic.
This is how people, some pastors reach to the congregation what they write in their books, its just horrible, so I was like you know what, I said, this is so much hatred and you’re going to burn in hell forever if you don’t accept Jesus, like how it is in Islam, if you don’t accept Allah or Mohammed as your saviour, you’re gonna burn in hell, the same with Christianity, so there is so much hate there, like they make it look like god is revengeful, hateful and it’s not like that in Hinduism, its your own Karma and it really sets you free and it set me from a lot of anxiety that I was going in my life, feeling like I had to be perfect, I couldn’t do this, couldn’t say this, it gives the people a lot of depression and anxiety and that was another reason why I wanted to learn more about Hinduism and the oldest religion in the world, there’s no founder, logically it makes sense so that’s how everything started with me.
Dr. Munish: So, you said this you know, that how Christians were like, kind of ridiculing Hinduism, but is this narrative that criticising Hinduism by Christianity, is it a common narrative, in this country or elsewhere?
Renee: Oh, in the United States? Yeah because not so much do you get to say a catholic church, they don’t really have their sermons so to speak, it’s a little bit, it’s different, it’s a different approach. They read like some hymns from the bible, but when you go to like Pentecostal, Baptist, all these other branches, yes because I must have been to a hundred different churches throughout my life and that’s what they preach when they get on stage, the pastors they preach that you have to accept Jesus as your personal saviour or if you walk out of this building, if you’re gone, you’re gonna burn in hell forever and ever, so come up to the platform and give your life to Jesus Christ. Like this is how they preach even if you watch them on YouTube, I mean the hatred they have, they say it’s not hatred, they’re so in love yeah but they such horrible things about Hinduism and it makes me angry because, you know they say we’re not hateful, we love the Hindus, were just trying to save them from hell but in the meantime they call them demonic, they call them evil, they’re worshiping all these gods so, that’s how they preach and that’s how their books are. I know I’ve lived it my whole life and I’ve had books in the past that I bought where they’re saying Hindus are born out of their mother’s womb demonic, I mean it’s really horrible.
Dr. Munish: Tell me one thing Renee, I’ve also been living here in the United States for almost 17 years now, but I think you are in a better position to give me that perspective about how Buddhism, Jainism or Sikhism are offshoots of Hinduism? What is the take about these philosophies in the US, in general? Are they kind of indifferent to this? Are they just alert about it?
Renee: You mean that America’s predominantly Christian, you’re saying how do they accept Hinduism or Buddhism. Some people are accepting of it, not like the whole United States isn’t against it or non-accepting and they’re not all like Jesus Christ is their personal saviour. There are a percentage of people here that are, you know not Indians, say people like me who are Hindu or Buddhist, they’re not a big percentage but there is a small percentage and also then you have people here now that get into Yoga, they love Yoga but now they’re doing things like Christian Yoga because you can’t do Yoga like say the Hindu way, or like how its taught in India, so now they’re converting Yoga and they’re calling it Christian Yoga and they’re doing praises in the name of Jesus and then you have some other branches of Christianity saying you can’t do Yoga at all, that you’re letting the devil in and the devil is going to control you and the demons, you’re going to let in all the demons, so a lot of Christians here say no. They completely banned Yoga, you can’t do it because you’re letting in demons and this is a really big problem because a lot of people and it’s true, I was one of them years and years ago. The pastor used to say don’t do Yoga, so when I became a Hindu and started learning Yoga, it took awhile for me, I had to take baby steps because this is how they brainwash you when you don’t know any better, don’t do research and you start believing that so that’s what they’re telling everybody now that you cant even touch yoga, and I’m saying how crazy is that? So you’re doing like a downward dog and lets just say you’re not even listening to no Hinduism, no Mantra or something you’re just basically doing a downward dog or you know fish pose or a backbend or something in the yoga format, that’s demonic? Stretching your body? To me, it’s radical and it’s crazy and you have people like that, that scares the hell out of people that they won’t do it, it’s crazy! It really is crazy.
Dr. Munish: What is this radical view about yoga? Is it coming from the church or is it the general population also believes like that?
Renee: It’s really stemming from the church, the pastors, the deacons, the elders, people or even a lot of them have YouTube channels.
Dr. Munish: But is it wide prevalent? Is it wide prevalent? This kind of attitude by the church towards Yoga, is it widespread or is it just some fringe elements talking about?
Renee: Oh is it just just the white people you’re saying? I’ve seen people, I have seen one church I went to, Chinese people, people from different countries that are living here even said that they converted out of that and now they don’t like Chinese people, they get acupressure or acupuncture. The one with the needles they say that is demonic, don’t even go near that. I remember some Chinese guy, years ago, saying that he had a business here, doing acupuncture and he gave it up because later it was revealed to him that it was demonic. So he stopped doing it. And you hear this from other foreign Americans, from different countries that don’t do acupuncture no more, they don’t do yoga, it’s like Jesus came to them and showed them that it’s from the devil, the roots where it started from is demonic so…yes not just like the occasions here, the majority of it is yes, but there are people, I’ve seen them in here and from other different countries that has realisation that it’s the devil and it stands from demonic roots. So yeah…
Dr. Munish: Moving to the topic of cow and cow worship, i have read your articles and comments about you know, you adore, how much you care about cows and cow worshiping. So tell me a little bit about this, how you got so much interested because here, I mean if you talk like this that cow is something to be worshiped, people definitely you know like, they give you a very surprising look at that, because here cow and beef is eaten.
Renee: Yeah so, even when i was a kid, i just always loved cows but i used to eat beef, years ago. But when I started learning about Hinduism, Indian Philosophy and all that, I became a vegetarian. It’s weird, it’s like it grosses me out. And then here, I read an article several years ago, how people here, like cows, give so much love, they are such smart emotional animals. To butcher them up is just sickening. Actually any animal is sickening. But the cows, they give us so much milk and other products to nourish us, and to just butcher these animals.
Ugh….when i go into a food market, and when you see meat or packaged in the refrigerator, in the freezer it grosses me out. I can’t stand it. Even if i go to a food market and not just beef, even pork or chicken, it is disgusting. These are precious beautiful animals, I feel they should all have a chance to live. Especially the beautiful cow. You know, everything it gives to us, and love. And they’re just butchering it.
It’s like, for the western world it’s nothing, they don’t look at it like the people in India do. And even thousands of years ago, you guys were practicing that. So it’s just amazing. I just love how the Indian people worship the holy cow. I loved it when I was in India, it crosses the street, everyone stops at the holy cow. I just think it’s so beautiful.
Dr. Munish: In India, frankly speaking, when people talk about cow worship and all that, people walk that. I mean, particularly the educated, young generation they look at all this scenario with a little bit of walking attitude. What’s your take on that? Do you sense that attitude in India too?
Renee: Oh you see, especially a lot of people in bollywood, the liberal type crew, yes? They do mock Hindus, they mock Hindu Gods, there’s a lot of discrimination and it just blows my mind because India is 80% Hindus but nobody says anything. When Eid comes around , Islam festival, they butcher and torture these animals in a lot of pain and suffering and there is blood everywhere. That’s acceptable you know. But you make fun of a Hindu that’s loving a cow. Caring for it, loving it, you may get mocked
I honestly don’t know why these people discriminate against Hindus, mock Hindu Gods. I honestly don’t know but i think that they have no respect for Hindus and Hindu Gods. And these bollywood stars, they just come around and mock the Hindus and the Hindu Gods. I just think that this is very disrespectful.
Dr. Munish: Doesn’t it get covered under freedom of speech, I mean they’re just talking about that, what’s wrong with that?
Renee: Yeah i know. I can’t think of the situation right now but there is quite a lot of fuel if a Hindu were to say something, Freedom of speech is communal you know. But if a Christians says something, or a Muslim says something then you know it’s fine. But if a Hindu says something, it’s communal.
This is discriminating against Hindus. And there are majority in if they do something, they always got to say it’s offending me, it’s offending me. It’s so unfair, it’s so wrong.
That’s why I always take to Twitter mainly and I tell everybody that we have to stand together. This is so unfair, what they do to the Hindus.
(Part-II of this interview will be up on NewsGram.com very shortly. Stay tuned!)