With the grace and blessings of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, more than 400 children attended the National Bal-Balika Shibir on Saturday 10 September 2011, held in the presence of Anandswarup Swami at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London. The theme for this year’s shibir was ‘ Discover - Follow - Realise’.
The aim of the shibir was for the children to:
Develop a deeper understanding of Swamishri and build a closer bond with him (jodan).
Become proud and confident in speaking to others about our guru.
Understand Swamishri’s true form according to the scriptures.
Use Swamishri as a practical role model and implement his virtuous qualities in their own life.
The opening session was titled ‘Discover’ where children discovered what our guru has achieved. The session analysed six famous dignitaries – Prince Charles, Tony Blair, Amitabh Bachchan, Mukesh Ambani, Dr Abdul Kalam and Bill Clinton who have been touched by Swamishri’s pure and divine character. Yogvivek Swami explained how Swamishri can be introduced to others including family, friends and those unfamiliar to him. Six balaks then narrated their individual prasangs with Swamishri, and how this has positively impacted their lives. They illustrated how Swamishri still remains accessible to young balaks even though globally recognised.
Following this session, a series of interactive classroom sessions were held, which were all titled under the banner ‘Follow’. Three separate classrooms were held, in which the balaks and balikas learned how to become an ideal child, an ideal student and an ideal Satsangi, as per the wishes of Swamishri.
The ‘Ideal Child’ classroom examined at how the children can serve their parents, following in the footsteps of Shri Ram Bhagwan, Shravan and Swamishri himself as the young Shantilal. The ‘Ideal Student’ classroom explained how the children can progress in their studies, and fully imbibe Swamishri’s formula for success: Hard Work + Prayers = Success. Manoharmurti Swami explained to the children, aged between 9-10 year, the importance of forming good habits from an early age and how to tackle laziness. Anandpriya Swami addressed the 11-12 age group on the importance of focusing on one’s education as well as one would focus on offering their devotion to God, as ultimately studying is another form of bhakti. Finally, Amrutvihari Swami addressed to the 13-14 age group regarding various tips on how to excel in education and provided motivation in regular personal studying to become the best.
The ‘Ideal Satsangi’ classroom focused on how the children could develop their niyam-dharma in order to progress on the spiritual path.
All classes were based upon six principles, which Swamishri had given to balaks and balikas in 1996 at the shibir in Catskill, New York:
1. Do puja daily
2. Attend sabha regularly
3. Respect parents
4. Avoid bad books, company, TV
5. Study hard
6. Read Satsang books daily
In addition to this, special prasangs from Swamishri’s childhood were also covered in each classroom, to portray how Shantilal was the ideal child, student and satsangi.
The final session of the shibir was titled ‘Realise’, in which the children learned more about the true form of Pramukh Swami Maharaj – that he is the Gunatit Satpurush – Aksharbrahma – and the ideal devotee of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. The session included a drama, in which a professor read the minds of a shishu, a balak, a kishore, a yuvak and a vadil to discover how their thoughts change. He showed that the one constant throughout all phases of life is the fact that we have met Swamishri, and only he can free us from the cycle of births and deaths and grant us Akshardham. The next part of the session revolved around innovative, thought provoking and practical ways to understand the power of Aksharbrahma, and that Bhagwan Swaminarayan is present through Pramukh Swami Maharaj today. Anandpriya Swami then highlighted the need for the Satpurush in our life and how we should follow his words in order to attain moksha. Anandswarup Swami concluded the shibir, narrating prasangs of the power of Swamishri, and how fortunate we are to have found a guru like him.
In addition to the shibir, this year, a national competition was also held for all balaks and balikas to take part in. The balaks and balikas had to prepare poems, essays, paintings, drawings, posters, presentations, videos, songs, etc on the following subject: “Who is Pramukh Swami Maharaj to me?” Over 70 entries were received, with the children providing an array of talent, creativity and ability, as well as showing the love and devotion they have towards Swamishri.
The winning entries were:
1st place: Jatin Parekh, Leicester
2nd place: Premal Pattani, London
3rd place: Parag Parekh, Asthon
1st place: Janki Limbachia, Preston
2nd place: Janki Chohan, Birmingham
3rd place: Ria Parekh, Crawley
The children were also all given specially made gifts, in order for them to attach themselves further to Swamishri.
All the balaks and balikas thoroughly enjoyed the shibir and left having developed a closer bond with their friend and guru and also with a deeper understanding of Swamishri’s true greatness.
Some opinions of balaks and parents who attended the Shibir:
A balika: “I had so much fun in the shibir that I don’t even want to go back home now!”
A balak: “After the shibir today, I feel really close to Bapa like never before.”
A parent: “This shibir has not only been informative for the children, but I myself have learnt so much today. I cannot thank the organisers enough.”