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‘Discover – Follow – Realise’
National Bal-Balika Shibir 2011

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London
Saturday 10 September 2011

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.
  •   Become proud and confident in speaking to others about their 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 their 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 children even though globally recognised.

The second session focussed on the topic of ‘Follow’ through a series of interactive classroom sessions in which the balaks and balikas learned how to become an ideal child, an ideal student and an ideal satsangi.

The ‘Ideal Child’ classroom examined 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 9 and 10, the importance of forming good habits from an early age and how to tackle laziness. Anandpriya Swami spoke to the 11-12 age group on the importance of focusing on one’s education as well as on offering devotion to God, as ultimately studying is another form of bhakti. Finally, Amrutvihari Swami addressed the 13-14 age group on how to excel in education and provided useful tips and motivation.

The ‘Ideal Satsangi’ classroom focused on how children can develop their observance of niyam-dharma in order to progress on the spiritual path.

All classes were based upon the six principles which Swamishri had given to balaks and balikas at the shibir in Catskill, New York in 1996:

        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 spiritual form of Pramukh Swami Maharaj as the Gunatit Satpurush, Aksharbrahma, and the ideal devotee of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. The session included a drama, innovative methods of engagement with the young audience, and a thought-provoking speech by Anandpriya Swami. Anandswarup Swami concluded the shibir with prasangs which revealed the spiritual greatness of Swamishri.

In addition to the shibir this year, a national competition had been held for all balaks and balikas 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 their guru.

The winning entries were:

 1st  Jatin Parekh (Leicester)
 2nd  Premal Pattani (London)
 3rd  Parag Parekh (Ashton-Under-Lyne)

 Janki Limbachia, (Preston)
 2nd  Janki Chohan, (Birmingham)
 3rd  Ria Parekh, (Crawley)

All the balaks and balikas thoroughly enjoyed the shibir and left having developed a better understanding of and closer bond with their friend and guru Pramukh Swami Maharaj.

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.”