Making the most of their summer vacation, 32 balaks and 27 balikas from many Satsang centres throughout the USA have arrived in India to participate in this year's month-long shibir. The first phase of the shibir involved a 4-day stay with Pramukh Swami Maharaj in Bochasan.
As the children prepared to leave from Amdavad for Bochasan, torrential seasonal rains accompanied them. Despite the heavy downpour, their enthusiasm was not dampened and their eagerness to have the darshan of Swamishri was evident on their faces.After stopping by at Jetalpur and Dabhan for darshan of some important sacred sites, the children arrived in Bochasan just as Swamishri finished his lunch. So the balaks had the chance to meet Swamishri personally. Recognising some familiar faces, Swamishri's interaction with the youngsters produced several moments of fun and laughter.In the evening, the children had darshan of Swamishri's evening walk. Thereafter, a special sabha was held in the presence of Pujya Tyagvallabh Swami, who explained the history and background to the Bochasan Mandir.During Swamishri's dinner, the balaks were introduced to Swamishri and their special talents and achievements were highlighted.
The balaks praying for Swamishri's health at his birthplace in Chansad After having the darshan of Swamishri's morning walk and puja, the boys and girls left for darshan of some famous holy places near Bochasan.The balaks first went to Chansad, the birthplace of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, then Atladara. In the afternoon they went to Vidyanagar, Vadtal and then Mahelav, the birthplace of Shastriji Maharaj. Here, the boys had darshan of the sandhya arti, before returning to Bochasan, just in time for darshan of Swamishri's dinner. During dinner, the introductions were completed.Meanwhile, the balikas went from Bochasan to Mahelav to Vadtal to Vidyanagar to Chansad and then to Atladra, before arriving back to Bochasan.
During Swamishri's morning walk, many of the boys recited Swamini Vatus and shloks which they had learnt by heart. In the remainder of the time, other boys sang devotional songs.In Swamishri's puja, the boys sang devotional songs and some of them performed a traditional dance, which they had prepared before arriving in India.During Swamishri's breakfast, the boys presented, in Gujarati, reports of the activities which take place at their local centers.Then at 11.00a.m. Swamishri arrived in the large assembly hall, for the first of two special sabhas with all the shibir participants.In this sabha, the boys took part in the 'Gujarati Master' quiz, in which the balaks were asked questions in English. Their objective was to translate and speak them in Gujarati.The final two questions of the quiz were asked by Swamishri. Swamishri's two questions were:
I see Shriji Maharaj everywhere.
Shriji Maharaj will take you to Akshardham.
After this highly amuzing quiz, Swamishri narrated the story of the deceptive lion and the clever monkey. Swamishri used many English words during his narration, thus helping the children to easily grasp the content and moral of the story.This sabha lasted about 45 minutes.A little later during Swamishri's lunch, the balaks completed the presentations of their center activity reports. Then other balaks began to deliver speeches, again in Gujarati, on various topics they had prepared. Topics included: Bapa's Millennium Vision, Bapa's Balaks in the USA, USA calendar of festivals, Kids and the Internet, and others.In the evening, everyone had darshan of Swamishri's walk. Then Pujya Mahant Swami spoke to all the children about the importance of faith and belief in the form and nature of God and Guru. Then during Swamishri's dinner, the balaks continued with the presentation of their speeches.
In the morning walk, the remainder of the speeches were delivered, followed by the singing of devotional songs.During Swamishri's morning puja, the balaks sang some more devotional songs and some balaks performed a traditional dance.After Swamishri's breakfast, the final preparations for the second special sabha with Swamishri began.At 11.00am, Swamishri arrived for this special sabha.The first item on the agenda was a quiz. The questions were based on the places the balaks had visited and the history and stories associated with that place. Swamishri was to select the balak who would have to answer the question in each round.In the first round, slips bearing the names of all the balaks were thrown from a basket in front of Swamishri. Swamishri grasped one - thus selecting that balak.In the second round, Swamishri was given a tennis ball. He threw the ball to one of the balaks sitting before him, thus selecting him to answer the question.In the third round, a group of 8 balaks sat around Swamishri's seat. Swamishri closed his eyes and then placed a garland around the neck of one of these eight balaks, who would then have to answer the question.In the fourth round, Swamishri was given a list of 8 names. From this list he selected one and wrote it down on a piece of paper. Thus this balak was selected to answer the question.In the fifth round, Swamishri recited a traditional Indian rhyme while pointing to the next group of 8 balaks. The balak he was pointing at when the rhyme ended was selected to answer the question.In the sixth and final round, Swamishri was given the control of a remote control car. He was asked to maneuver the car to any of the 8 balaks in the last group. The balak before whom the car stopped was selected to answer the question.In this way, this highly enjoyable quiz was completed.Afterwards, Swamishri was asked four questions, selected from the many which had been submitted by the balaks and balikas.Finally, at the end of the sabha, each balak approached Swamishri and vowed to undertake at least one of the following niyams:
To use TV and internet only for educational purposes.
To do tilak-chandlo daily.
To do ten minutes of Satsang reading daily, in addition to personal puja and ghar sabha.
To abstain from eating outside foods.
To learn to read and write Gujarati.
The balikas also submitted a list of the niyams they had undertaken for which Swamishri conveyed his blessings.In this way, the first phase of the shibir was concluded.In the second phase, the balaks and balikas will complete their pilgrimage to the major mandirs and holy places, learning the history and significance of each place.In the third and final phase, they will spend 10 days in Sarangpur, where they will receive intensive training in several areas important to Satsang.