The 2015 Regional Summer Shibirs for both Bal and Balika wings took place in the six North American regions from June through September. Over 2,500 youths from around the continent between ages 7 and 13 partook in the two-day shibir that was titled, Shanti: Within Reach. This shibir was designed as part adhiveshan (competition series) and part classroom sessions focused on the theme itself. Pramukh Swami Maharaj inspired this initiative as a challenge to youth, to explore the depths of the Swaminarayan philosophy while learning the importance of oral and written spiritual tradition.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s guru, Brahmaswarup YogijiMaharaj, was very passionate about youths partaking in mukhpath competitions. The competition structure serves as motivation for peers to learn and study together in strengthening their Satsang knowledge. As they memorize and recite verses from the Vachanamrut and Swami ni Vato, children are able to cultivate an understanding of the Akshar-Purushottam upasana, and ultimately build a strong foundation of shanti in their lives. During the adhiveshan, Shibir Leads identified skills and talents among the youths who participated, with a goal of working with each participant long-term to advance individual practices of bhakti. Through the guidance of Pramukh Swami Maharaj and Pujya Sadguru Santo, Shanti: Within Reach was built to encourage each participant’s personal and spiritual development.
The second day of the shibir focused more precisely on the theme itself through three classroom sessions:
· Shanti Through Smruti: finding peace through theremembrance of and meditation on our guru, Pramukh Swami Maharaj
· Shanti Through Abhyas: finding peace through spiritual education such as adhiveshan and satsang reading.
· Shanti Through Swamibapa: finding peace by understanding the greater meaningof spiritual tenants and following them in the pursuit of discipline.
Each classroom session was split into four parts, outlined below, to help each delegate explore the overarching concepts of smruti, abhyas, and Swamishri:
1. Brahmaswarup Yogiji Maharaj’s Bodh Katha (inspirational stories) conducted in the form of staged skits to help the youth visualize the stories.
2. Words of Wisdom presented as speeches by Pujya Swamis that covered the inspirational messages hidden in prasangs (divine moments) and real-life scenarios.
3. Experiments that served as an interactive way for the delegates to work alongside each other and use discussion to explore each topic in a personal way
4. Group Experiment Time, a combination of group discussions and activities that allowed the delegates to understand how the concepts introduced throughout the classroom can be imbibed and implemented in their lives.
At the conclusion of this two-day shibir was the recognition ceremony. This ceremony served to commend each youth for his or her participation in the adhiveshan; the hours of effort and committed dedication was deserving of acknowledgement. Some participants learned as many as 125 extensive verses written in literary Gujarati, many of who speak English as a first language. Whether reciting one verse or one hundred, delegates put forth a commendable effort. The pursuit of shanti is a competition within one’s self to choose bhakti in the practice of daily life and create a balanced way of living.