By the inspiration and encouragement of His Divine Holiness Acharya Swamishree, a special 3-day Youth Convention was held at Shree Swaminarayan Temple New Jersey.
Jeevanpran Swamibapa taught His disciples the manner to live a devoted and principled life in many different ways. He took a personal interest in each of His disciples and appropriately tailored His preaching in a manner that was best suited to them.
His Divine Holiness Acharya Swamishree has also placed a greater emphasis in encouraging the young disciples of our Satsang. Through play, He has instilled knowledge into them all. If the youngsters are told to sit in a sabha and listen to philosophical debates, they will become disinterested. If they are given a notebook and pen and told to write mantra, they will not. However, if a mantra writing competition is held, they will eagerly join in. Once they have experienced the joy of writing the name of God, they will continue this niyam as part of their daily routine. If they are told to sing kirtan, they may experience embarrassment. However, if singing takes place as part of a contest, they will not. If they sense the joy of singing the praises of God once, they will not become embarrassed in the future, when they sing kirtan in the Temple. If they take part in an antakshari competition, they will eagerly memorize kirtan. For this purpose, Acharya Swamishree holds youth conventions such as this. Through playing and learning together, the manner in which to live together peacefully, as a team, as a family and as a Satsang, can be learnt. People can learn to accept defeat and eliminate jealousy from within themselves. Even though Acharya Swamishree had a full schedule of other programs, He adjusted this to ensure that He was present throughout this Shibir. If someone made a mistake, Acharya Swamishree Himself lovingly corrected the child. This gave additional encouragement to all the youngsters.
One of the competitions involved standing in the "tap ni maaraa" posture for 5 minutes. Acharya Swamishree Himself assumed this stance throughout the competition and showed the children how to stand in this way. On the final day of the Shibir, a pooja demonstration was held. Acharya Swamishree went round to each child and taught them how to perform pooja. Acharya Swamishree became extremely pleased to see the dedication and conviction of each child to please the Lord.
On 14th July 2003, Acharya Swamishree commenced the Shibir and reminded all that God should be remembered whilst performing all activities. Kirtan bhakti and prartha were held. Then a mantra writing contest took place. For 15 minutes, the children had to write our supreme Swaminarayan mantra in legible handwriting. The child who wrote the most mantra, and the child whose handwriting was the clearest, both got a prize. This contest was repeated in the evening, so that older disciples, who would be working during the day, could also take part.
The second contest. Each child was given 3 minutes to sing a kirtan.
The third contest. Each child was given 5 minutes to give a speech and talk about a divine episode of Lord Swaminarayan.
The fourth contest. Who can stand in the "tap ni mara" posture for 5 minutes.
In the afternoon, everyone assembled in a nearby playground called Loral Hill. 100 meter and 200 meter races were held. Children as young as 5 and older disciples, as old as 65, all joined in. Three legged races and "lemon in spoon" races took place. Acharya Swamishree had sent His sants to be present during these contests. They gave encouragement to the children and ensured that the Lord was not forgotten whilst they played.
The evening Shibir session took place after the sandhya aarti and evening daily rituals. A mantra writing contest and a bhajan antakshari competition were held. Children had dressed up in the costumes of different professions. Each child gave a speech lasting 1 minute about their chosen vocation. A skipping competition was held and finally, they joined together to play musical chairs. Acharya Swamishree presided throughout all the evening's activities and made the events even more joyous.
The following morning's activities were held at the playground. Shreejibapa Swamibapa (kabadi) and Bapa Bapa (khho khho) was played. Sack races and one-legged races were held.
After lunch, a cricket match was played, after which a tug of war contest was held. Acharya Swamishree then came to the ground and distributed prasad to everyone.
During the evening, basketball and volleyball matches were played in the Temple's parking lot. Then, a one minute contest was held. Who can do the most dandvats in one minute? Who can do the best tilak chandlo in 1 minute? Who can thread the most maraa beads in 1 minute? Who can make the most magaj ladoo in 1 minute? Even though it was very cold that evening, Acharya Swamishree stayed and oversaw all the contests.
The final day of the Shibir involved learning the way to properly perform devotional practices, such as aarti, pooja etc. Children who were below the age of 25 were told to wash, wear a fresh dhoti and then drape a shawl around them. Everyone brought their own pooja to the Temple. Acharya Swamishree and the sants went round whilst the children performed pooja and identified where they were not performing the rituals correctly. Acharya Swamishree spent over 4 hours correcting each child.
At the end of the 3 day Shibir, the sants gave speeches about the glory of God and His Satpurush. They talked about the importance of remaining adherent to the commands of God. The importance of tilak chandlo, respect for one another and for the Satsang etc. was elucidated upon. Finally, everyone joined together and performed dhoon.
For the duration of the 3 day Shibir, the children remained in the Temple. They were able to experience the joy and divinity of the Satsang. Many of the elder disciples had taken 3 days vacation from their jobs in order to be present and help in the organization of the events. By the grace of Lord SwaminarayanBapa Swamibapa and His Divine Holiness Acharya Swamishree, the Satsang Shibir was a huge success and was an event that the young disciples will remember throughout their life. This was a joyful learning experience for them all. They all learnt about devotion unto the Lord. This is the most valuable subject that one can learn about.