As per the wish of Swamishri, a satsang-oriented visit to India has become a regular feature of the summer vacation for youths living in North America and the UK.
This year, 111 kishores and 104 kishoris from USA, Canada and the UK visited India to experience 'The Journey of Faith'.
The youths were separated into four groups - two groups of kishores and two groups of kishoris - for ease of managing their schedules. During their six weeks in India they had darshan of all the main BAPS shikharbaddh mandirs from Mumbai to Delhi. They also pilgrimaged to Chhapaiya, Haridwar and other holy places in North India, and bathed in the sacred waters of Ganga.
As part of 'The Journey of Faith' all the four groups convened for a special five-day shibir, from 19 to 23 July 2003, in the divine presence of Pramukh Swami Maharaj at Anand, Gujarat. With the generous co-operation of Dr.V. Kurien and all his staff, the shibir was held at the Institute of Rural Management, Anand (IRMA). This 60-acre campus, full of undulating lush green lawns, giant trees and countless variety of flowers and shrubs, was an ideal location. By courtesy of Dr. Kurien, the 300-seat air-conditioned auditorium was made available for use throughout the shibir. Accommodation and a special area for the catering arrangements for the shibir participants were provided on site.
The shibir was entitled 'Pillars of Faith' and each of the five days was designated a theme. Based on this theme, the day's programme had been fixed to re-inforce the theme.
The preparation for the shibir, under the guidance of Vishwaswarup Swami and Chaitanyamurti Swami in India and the sadhus in America and UK, had began two months beforehand. To enable full participation by the kishores, mukhpath, story narrations, skits, reporting, etc., relevant to the day's theme was assigned to all the kishores.
Throughout the shibir, the youths had a personal photo session and conversation with Swamishri, they were blessed daily with the darshan of Swamishri's puja, morning and evening walks, as well as darshan during his three meals. During these sessions also the kishores presented what they had prepared before Swamishri. It provided a unique opportunity for the kishores to interact with Swamishri individually. Even during these sessions, through undivided attention and sharp observation, Swamishri relayed numerous inspiring messages and provided many memories.
The themes for each of the five days were as follows:
* Day 1: Sanskruti Day
* Day 2: Satsang Day
* Day 3: Samjan Day
* Day 4: Satpurush Day
* Day 5: Sanstha Day
For each theme multimedia presentations, interviews and speeches by senior sadhus: Pujya Mahant Swami, Pujya Dr. Swami, Pujya Tyagvallabh Swami, Pujya Viveksagar Swami, speeches by sadhus, involvement games, discussions, skits, etc. were presented to relay the day's main message. At the conclusion of the morning and evening sessions, Swamishri himself blessed the youths with guidance and motivation to understand the message and apply it in their lives.
Sanskruti Day focused on the rich tradition and culture of India. Pride for the wonderful heritage to which we all belong was generated among the youths.
Satsang Day highlighted the importance of practicing satsang, keeping good company and unity.
Samjan Day provided the youths with a clear outline of the essential principles of Satsang that have to be understood to enable one to enjoy the bliss of God.
Satpurush Day focused on the tremendous efforts of Swamishri in inspiring countless people onto the path of God, without concern for his own health, convenience or personal needs.
Sanstha Day gave an overview of the progress of the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha from its formation by Shastriji Maharaj in 1907. The efforts of the gunatit gurus - Shastriji Maharaj, Yogiji Maharaj and Pramukh Swami Maharaj - and their saintliness form the basis of this progress.
Among the many outstanding programs of the shibir were:
* A motivating interview with Dr. Kurien, who himself is 82 years old, in which he emphasized that it is Swamishri's goodness which makes him such a distinguished sadhu. He also spoke of the need for a sound education and self-confidence to succeed in life.
* A question-answer session with Swamishri.
* A program of devotional songs by the sadhus, in which Swamishri also sang two bhajans.
* A special ceremony honoring Shri Harikrishna Maharaj.
Entertaining and enlightening skits by the kishores, including:
1. A skit depicting the influence of a Western lifestyle leading to a wide generation gap and much misunderstanding between parents and children. And also the role played by TV, internet, etc. in eroding traditional Indian values from the lives of youths.
2. A skit based on Vachanamrut Sarangpur-7, 'Naimisharanya Kshetra'. It showed how the mind controls the senses to enjoy worldly pleasures but in the presence of a Satpurush all are subdued and lose their desire for material enjoyment.
* A special assembly for all the staff of IRMA and their families, which Swamishri blessed.
Throughout this five-day shibir, Pujya Mahant Swami, Pujya Tyagvallabh Swami and Pujya Viveksagar Swami were also present and imparted valuable guidance to the youths. On the final day, Pujya Dr. Swami was also present and through his motivating speech instilled great enthusiasm in the youths.
Thus, through this shibir, all these kishores and kishoris learned a great deal about the traditions, culture and heritage of India, the history and achievements of BAPS, the fundamental principles of Satsang and how to attain them through the guidance and blessings of the Satpurush.
It was a memorable and inspiring spiritual camp for all involved.