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On the evening of Saturday 15 February 2014 at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London, over 600 youths gathered for an awards ceremony and cultural presentation celebrating the culmination of the ‘Become Adarsh’ project – a year-long spiritual development programme for youths in the UK.

The evening began with the ‘Niramay Samaroh’ ceremony, a special Vedic mahapuja in which participants offered their devotion and prayers to Pramukh Swami Maharaj that they may imbibe the virtues of their ideal Guru. This was followed by a selection of performances from participants who had excelled in the project, including the singing of devotional songs and delivery of speeches, presentations and mono-acts.

Interspersed between these performances was the presentation of awards for the various activities and competitions from the first assessments, which included knowledge of daily rituals (arti, thal, prarthana and the cheshta), and the demonstration of skills in the final phase, covering a variety of disciplines such as public speaking – with short speeches, nirupans, akhyans and sankirtans – and singing and playing musical instruments.

Although specific awards were given to those who had performed exceptionally well, the event was an opportunity to reflect upon the collective effort and personal development of everyone throughout the year. The ‘Become Adarsh’ project was not a competition but an opportunity for spiritual improvement as echoed by Sadguru Kothari Bhaktipriya Swami in 2013 where he emphasised that “Become Adarsh is the first step towards your spiritual progress.” 

The overwhelmingly positive support and feedback that was received for the programme is summarised through the words of one youth who shared, “Become Adarsh came at the right time for me, because it has helped both me and my wife realise that if we don’t imbibe the true gnan (knowledge) then our children will also not be able to acquire this.” This was synonymous with the sentiments of Sadguru Tyagvallabh Swami who had mentioned to the participants, “It is essential to take part in ‘Become Adarsh’ otherwise it will be difficult to maintain one’s religious traditions.”

Shashi Patel, one of the lead coordinators of the project observed, “It was touching to see so many youths celebrate a year of tremendous spiritual advancement and equally heart-warming to experience the positive impact that this project has fostered in their lives.”

The evening was aptly concluded with a video of Pramukh Swami Maharaj who offered his guidance and blessings.

The team will now embark upon a continuation of the achievements to build upon the enthusiasm and momentum that has been gathered throughout 2013.

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