Atmiya Youth Shibir (AYS) is an international conference where thousands of youths gather to attain spiritual wisdom that will help them live a purposeful life. This year’s shibir took place on July 1-3, 2016 at the University of Pittsburgh Johnstown campus with the theme “One Step Forward,” which demonstrated practical approaches on how to live a positive lifestyle with pure senses. The central goal of this shibir was to inspire youths to live a disciplined lifestyle that focused on taking one step forward towards a life Guruhari Param Pujya Hariprasad Swami Maharaj likes. Speakers ranged from saints (P. Bhaktipriya Swami, P. Anandsagar Swami, P. Dharmakishore Swami, and P. Gungrahak Swami) and youths that focused on improving the mind, body, and soul. Cultural dramas and dances depicted the importance of having a God realized saint in a youth’s life in order to advance spiritually.
During the shibir, a career night event was organized with distinguished speakers that are successful in the medical and IT field. Renowned cardiologist, Dr. Mehul Patel provided professional guidance by emphasizing the importance of living a balanced life with strong spiritual practices and hard work ethic.
A special Yuvati-Shahid (for females) cultural program was organized with more than 150 participants in the presence of Bhaktiashram benos (P. Sarveshwar Ben, P. Sahjik Ben, P. Stavan Ben, P. Samatva Ben, and P. Shubham Ben). The cultural program consisted of drama plays, dances, and speakers that focused on the personal touch (atmiya sparsh) and influence His Divine Holiness Hariprasad Swami Maharaj has had on each Yuvati’s life.
On Saturday morning, Saints organized a grand samu pooja for only Yuvakos. During the pooja, saints stressed the importance and benefits (mental and physical) of performing daily pooja. On Sunday, Bhaktiashram Benos organized a samu pooja for only Yuvatis. During the pooja, Benos modeled how to set up one’s pooja, perform meditation, and ask for blessings. Youths learned how performing daily pooja could help the mind and body start the day with peace and harmony.
During session breaks, youths played sports (cricket, volleyball, or basketball) or carnival games. Many mandals across North America formed teams and participated in friendly competitions. Games ranged from relay races, building structures, and scavenger hunts. In order to win, each game required strong teamwork and communication.
Many youths shared the transformation they experienced in their lives after attending shibir and associating with good company. By the end of the shibir, hundreds of youths vowed they would stop watching TV shows. Others said they would perform daily pooja. Many youths firmly committed they would do sincere 30 minutes of bhajan everyday, while others said they would read more of the Vachanamrut, Swami ni Vato, or Prite. Every youth made a vow to improve his or her life by taking “one step forward” towards living a life P.P. Hariprasad Swami Maharaj likes.