From throughout the UK and France, over 110 balaks (23), balikas (23), kishores (38), kishoris (26) and their sanchalaks visited India to gain a deeper insight into and personally experience the traditions of Satsang. During their month-long stay in India, they pilgrimaged to many of the sacred places of the Swaminarayan Sampraday and the major mandirs of the BAPS.
At each place, they learnt the history of each pilgrim spot and offered their devotion there by performing prostrations, mala and pradakshinas.
Each of the four groups – balaks, balikas, kishores and kishoris – undertook a different route for their pilgrimage to maximize their learning potential at each place.
The highlight of the trip was a 5-day shibir for all four groups in the presence of Pramukh Swami Maharaj. This shibir was held at the BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Atladra from Monday 7 to Friday 11 August 2006.
The youths received guidance and inspiration through speeches by and question-answer sessions with Pujya Mahant Swami, Pujya Ishwarcharan Swami, Pujya Viveksagar Swami and other experienced sadhus.
The messages were further reinforced through discussions and audio-visual presentations.
During the shibir four special sessions were held in the presence of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, in which the balaks and kishores presented topical issues and other entertaining performances. On each occasion, Swamishri blessed the assembly.
In the first session, on the morning of Monday 7 August, the kishores presented a series of skits depicting university life and how even disciplined youths can be distracted from their studies by the many extra-curricular activities and improper company. Swamishri blessed the youths, saying, “Just as a raincoat protects you from the rain, wear the raincoat of satsang to protect you from kusang.” He also encouraged, “All should have the knowledge of our dharma… for this, you must read our shastras. This will strengthen your resolve.”
In the second session with Swamishri, which took place in the evening assembly of Tuesday 8 August, with the devotees of Vadodara also present, the balaks presented speeches in Gujarati, a short drama entitled ‘Premji Vanio’ and a traditional dance. Then Swamishri blessed the assembly.
In the third session, in the evening satsang assembly of Thursday 10 August, the kishores presented speeches, an exposition on the Harililamrut and recited Swamini Vato in seven different languages: Gujarati, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Japanese.
In his blessings Swamishri congratulated the youths for their excellent presentations.
The final session with Swamishri was held on the morning of Friday 11 August. The balaks presented a short skit depicting how youths suffer in life since they ignore the experienced and well-intentioned advice of their parents, seniors and the sadhus.
Swamishri then blessed the youths emphasizing the need for them to respect and follow the guidance of elders, and to stay away from bad company and bad habits.
Throughout the 5-day shibir, the youths made the most of their unique opportunity to develop a closer bond with Swamishri.
The youths also pledged to observe extra niyams, such as, not watching TV, daily satsang reading, singing cheshta every night, no soft drinks, no chocolates, sleeping on the floor, taking only liquids on Ekadashi, waterless fast on Ekadashi, etc.
Overall, the entire trip served to strengthen the resolve of each youth to consolidate their personal practice of satsang.