Dec. 13, 2022

Best of 2022: Ananta Ripa Ajmera | The Way of The Goddess - Part 1

Best of 2022: Ananta Ripa Ajmera | The Way of The Goddess - Part 1

Ananta Ripa Ajmera shares a wealth of daily rituals, mindsets and beliefs that will deepen our spiritual practices and help us reconnect with our higher selves and fulfill our divine purpose.

Ananta Ripa Ajmera returns to the show, this time to give us an even deeper look into her personal journey of overcoming trauma through the power of love. She shares a wealth of daily rituals, mindsets and beliefs that will deepen your spiritual practices and help you reconnect with your higher self and fulfill your divine purpose.


Listen to Part 2 of this episode - The Way of The Goddess - Part 2

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Ananta Ripa Ajmera: That's a fascinating question. I have actually been reflecting on that very thing recently. I grew up in the Jain religion, which is a subset of the Hindu faith. Buddhism is also a subset of Hinduism as is Jainism. They all derived from Hinduism as the mother religion. I grew up doing Fasts once a year; we would have a fast where you would actually stop even eating root vegetables because they would be harmful to insects underground.

Ananta Ripa Ajmera: Not only did we eliminate meat completely, but we would even get down to the vegetables that would harm insects. In a nutshell, Jainism is really about nonviolence to a very extreme extent. And I believe that really influenced me growing up to be considerate of how my actions would be affecting others and to really care for others and to be compassionate towards others.

Ananta Ripa Ajmera: It also instilled in me a really deep value of self-control and having control over the senses, which was really an interesting thing to have in a Midwestern town in Ohio growing up without really any other Indian American kids. It was a culture where a lot of people did drink and go out and did things that were very opposite to controlling the senses.

Ananta Ripa Ajmera: And yet, I believe it was the seeds of wisdom that were planted in me in childhood that really instilled that value into me and made me really curious eventually to explore that relationship further. I believe that taking nonviolence and self-control to an extreme also influenced my mind in a way that I felt that I needed to stop eating meat.

Ananta Ripa Ajmera: And I confused the religious understandings I grew up with (with) self-harm, and I didn't understand from what I understood growing up that it's not only important to be compassionate with others, but we can't forget ourselves in that equation. I didn't quite get these two messages about being able to control the body and its senses, but also to care for it in a healthy way, and to be able to be compassionate with others, but also to be compassionate with ourselves.

Ananta Ripa Ajmera:  So I think I had these two traits in me: self-control and compassion. And then I had a lot of questions and I went to a Catholic high school because I felt like I was really confused about what my religion was. Why did it demand that I have to do so many routines and disciplines and have such extreme control when it seemed nobody else had this kind of self-control?

Ananta Ripa Ajmera: How do I actually take care of myself and be spiritual at the same time, and how do I care for other people without losing myself? These were questions I had growing up and I felt in my teenage years that Jesus, Mother Mary, and the whole idea of the Catholic faith were a lot more accessible to me when I was a teenager.

Ananta Ripa Ajmera: So I begged my parents to actually send me to a Catholic private all-girls high school because I wanted a connection to God and spirituality that I felt I could connect with. When I was a child, I had gone to Bible school because my mom was working in the daytime and I was an only child and I didn't have a babysitter.

Ananta Ripa Ajmera: So I used to go across the street to our neighbor's house where they had a babysitter. They were Catholic, so they had Bible school in the summertime, and they asked my parents if they could send me along with their kids to Bible school, even though I obviously didn't grow up there. So they said, "Sure, she can go."

Ananta Ripa Ajmera: So I remember going to Bible school and being told that I could actually close my eyes and invite Jesus into my heart. And I remember that it felt really good to do this idea that I didn't have to go to a temple. I didn't have to go to church. I didn't have to go to any religious institution, but I could actually create a direct connection.

Ananta Ripa Ajmera: With divinity within me, I remember I said, "Yes, sure. I would love to invite Jesus into my heart." It was the same childhood when I was raised with Jainism, but because my parents said I could go to Bible school, I had this experience of welcoming Jesus into my heart. And as I grew up and got older, I remembered that experience and I remember how good that felt to have a.

Ananta Ripa Ajmera: Connection to God and how it made all these far-away things feel a lot closer to me and a lot more direct. And so I think that influenced me to want to go to a Catholic high school to be able to know who Jesus was in my heart because I did feel that there was a presence in my heart that I could go to and turn to in times of trouble and distress.

Ananta Ripa Ajmera: So even though I had developed an eating disorder before going to high school, I also didn't have it for as long as I feared I may have if I had not known that actually there is this divine presence in my heart, and I do have the power to heal myself and to love myself as a way to love others. I feel that.

Ananta Ripa Ajmera: A message that I understood, and then I went to a Catholic high school and I had an amazing experience there. I really enjoyed all the learning that I had. And then towards the end of high school, I began to again question what I was raised with. I still don't really understand that.

Ananta Ripa Ajmera: And it wasn't until after I went to college that I ended up going to a yoga class in New York City and listening to all this chanting of Sanskrit, which I used to hear in the Hindu temple that we went to, even though I wasn't raised Hindu, we didn't have a Hindu temple in the city that I grew up in. We had a Hindu temple, so I was used to going to the Hindu temple.

Ananta Ripa Ajmera: I was accustomed to celebrating many different kinds of gods and goddesses beyond what is included in the Judeo-Christian tradition. And I was reminded of the temple as I went to the yoga class and I saw all these people of different backgrounds really going into this. And I remember receiving the chanting sheet and how it said that yoga is a spiritual practice that prepares you to live a life of service and to connect with the divine.

Ananta Ripa Ajmera: An ambassador of non-violence and to develop self-control, and it just brought me back to the beginning and I was like, Whoa, this is really interesting. Here I am in a totally different setting as a stressed-out college student in New York City and I'm being reminded of what I heard in childhood that I never understood, but it felt like they were explaining it to me in a way that I could actually grasp this time.

Ananta Ripa Ajmera: And that became a beginning of a whole new journey of then deepening my understanding of what Hinduism and the VALIC spirituality of yoga, which is so widely accepted amongst yoga practitioners around the world, is really all about. When I went to the yoga class, I was also quite fascinated to see all of these photographs of gods and goddesses, like Laksmi and Saraswati, Ganesha and Durga, and I'm like, Wow.

Ananta Ripa Ajmera: American, quote-unquote, right? American people, they're not Indian, but they have all of our Indian cultural sounds, sights, and smells of incense, and it was just really fascinating. So it inspired me to take a deeper look at what is this Hindu religion that has given birth to my religion.

Ananta Ripa Ajmera: I grew up hearing about Buddhism and seeing sexism. And then it was so amazing to find out, wow, Hinduism is not just called a religion, but in actuality, it is one religion that truly says yes to all religions and that there are many paths to the one truth. And I'm like, wow, it feels like such a full circle to come back home in a way and realize this.

Ananta Ripa Ajmera: And I felt that understanding completed the puzzle and was the beginning of really going a lot deeper into the spirituality of the Vedas, including Yoga and Vedanta, which is the end portion of the Vedas that gives us the spiritual philosophy of yoga and Vedanta.

Srini: The reason I started with that question is much like yourself, I was raised Hindu.

Srini: But I always say that I'm a spiritual skeptic. I believe that there are things that are spiritual, but I also am willing to write off a lot as new-age bullshit. And my friend Matt is, you realize some of the things you don't guess come to talk to you about would be classified as what you call new age bullshit. I'm like, yeah, I'm aware of that, which is why I'm willing to actually have a conversation with them about it. But the thing that I think struck me in particular, the why I want to start with that question, particularly with you, is because you mentioned early on in the book that you felt nothing when you looked at sort of these deities and these idols.

Srini: And I think my biggest frustration with my religious upbringing was that there were no answers to questions. Yeah, people just did things blindly. Like, we didn't get our haircuts on Tuesdays, which I had mentioned on the show. You might know this, so I don't know if this is a Jane thing or just a thing, but you're not supposed to get your haircut on Tuesdays.