With the grace and blessing of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, balaks and balikas across North America participated in six regional summer shibirs entitled, “The Swaminarayan Sampraday 1781”. The year 1781 is important because the message, philosophy and concepts brought by Maharaj are not only important for balaks and balikas to grasp at a young age, but are also applicable to their lives as they grow up.
The opening day program focused on Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s 6 main reasons for incarnating on earth. Understanding those is the key to understanding His views, thoughts and inner wishes. It was Maharaj’s charisma, sincerity, kindness, care and confidence that were able to start a sampraday based on the pure essence of the scriptures.
The balaks and balikas were split into two tracks by education level, the Ghanshyam track (elementary school) and the Nilkanth track (middle school), in which, they learned about various Hindu philosophies and were given an explanation of the Akshar-Purushottam (Swaminarayan Vedant) philosophy revealed by Bhagwan Swaminarayan. The evening program tied together the entire day’s activities by acting out various prasangs (incidents) that took place in Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s life. Through these prasangs the actors were able to show how the philosophy of Shriji Maharaj can be related to the children’s everyday lives.
Day 2 started with the presentation of how Maharaj’s personality and leadership abilities were the driving force behind opposing the unrighteous practices which proliferated in society at the time. A fundamental part of Maharaj’s philosophy was to correct these fallacies through actual Sanskrit scriptures and references. The presentation detailed specific examples of which practices Maharaj corrected and the different methods which he used.
The importance of the ability to answer questions regarding mandirs and Hindu concepts was the subject of the FAQ session. Questions that the bal/balikas face on a regular basis were asked and insightful answers were given. This session brought together everyone and allowed the attendees to understand how all of the concepts that they had been taught throughout the days of the shibir tied back into the building of the Swaminarayan Sampraday.
The second day’s evening program continued from the prior evening, taking a look at the lives of different balaks/balikas throughout the world that have taken concepts from the Swaminarayan Sampraday and imbibed them in their lives. The presenters showed the attendees that they only need to look to their peers to see how to absorb what they have learned over the past two days in their own lives.
In addition to the learning sessions, each day the balaks/balikas took part in group activities outside of the classrooms that helped further drive the key messages of the shibir in an interactive way.