Over 10,000 children and youth between the ages of 8 to 22 were split into three groups and participated in three-day programs from July 1 to 10 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. The 10-day event, unprecedented in the history of Hindus in North America was built around Moksha as life’s greatest pursuit that generates unwavering happiness to be experienced here and now.
According to BAPS, the 10-day event was “unprecedented” in the history of Hindus in North America. And it was built around the theme of “Moksha Now” (ultimate liberation) as life’s greatest pursuit. This broad theme led to a social conversation around “Moksha Now”, a theme that carried throughout the convention.
It was more than two years ago that volunteers of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, around the country began canvassing Hindu youth to learn about their likes, dislikes, desires, challenges and ambitions. Those surveys were distilled into the template for the 10-day BAPS North American Youth Convention 2018.
Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, or BAPS for short, is a ubiquitous presence in the lives of many Hindu families and their children in the United States since it began its ministry in this country in 1971 under the leadership of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, who is now succeeded by Mahant Swami Maharaj, the sixth spiritual head of the global organization.
The delegates learned that the means to achieve Moksha could also allow them to enjoy the world, especially when every task and activity undertaken focuses on keeping God and the Guru in mind. The comprehensive concept of Moksha was taught by explaining the efforts and context of Dharma (roles and responsibilities), Artha (worldly pursuits), and Kaam (desires).
Speeches and presentations by senior swamis from India, Sadguru Pujya Ishwarcharandas Swami and Pujya Anandswarupdas Swami, as well as many others from across North America, simplified how to make Moksha-centered decisions in everyday living. They explained that living life with the goal to attain moksha leads to an elevated experience of daily interactions and an unfailingly optimistic perspective of life and the world around us.
Delegates experienced a grand multi-faceted stage program where the life and challenges of several characters were portrayed creatively and practically as they navigated everyday scenarios that brought out dilemmas of desires versus values. Instead of looking for instant gratification, the young adults were asked to contemplate various perspectives that could lead to a higher way of life.
“We had taken two years to delve into this concept of Moksha, and had to present in two days, what we had learnt ,” said Akhil Patel, 33, event-lead who has been involved in previous youth conventions of 2004, 2007, and 2013, and was part of the logistics planning for this one, involved with the content and guidance for the grade school and college level youth.
Speeches and presentations by senior swamis from India, as well as many others from across North America, dwelt on how to make Moksha-centered decisions in everyday living. “Attendees took home a message of how to be less concerned about what others think of them, and more concerned about what they think of themselves,” organizers contended.
Today, BAPS has a network of more than 3,850 centers around the world, and according to its website, has a million or more followers. This Hindu organization was established in 1907 in India, and today has a global reach. The North American chapter of BAPS describes itself as a “socio-spiritual Hindu organization” rooted in the Vedas, and “founded on the pillars of practical spirituality.”
Hinduism, or Sanatana Dharma (Eternal Way), is the world’s oldest living religion. It is a richly diverse family of philosophies, traditions, and practices that have been followed primarily throughout Asia for thousands of years. Today, Hinduism is a global religion with adherents living on every continent, and comprising majorities in three countries: India, Nepal, and Mauritius.