Growing up with Sri Sri

“What is grace?” she once asked His Holiness Sri Sri Ravishankar and he told her that grace was about making the impossible possible when all that is possible has been done.

The answer reflects in many ways in Shreya Chugh’s life. Shreya first met Sri Sri when she was 3 years old at his nephew Ajay’s birthday party. Since then there was no looking back.

“I practically lived there, going back everyday after school. We used to go to Gyan Mandir, the first center, for satsang. Often we would drive with Gurudev to the ashram and play there.”

Shreya is now the national coordinator and director for the Youth Empowerment Seminar (YES). She also handles the parenting, youth and education desk in India, apart from being a graphics designer, photographer, an artist, an avid bird watcher and an adventurist.

Growing up, she observed how Sri Sri’s family was always steeped in service.

“We would tag along with Amma (Sri Sri’s mother) as she distributed clothes and food to poor. Pitaji (Sri Sri’s father) would also spend a lot of time helping them. Gurudev would go from house to house in the villages enquiring and helping them besides taking care of housing, administration and kitchen in the ashram.”

Motivated by Sri Sri and Pitaji , Shreya and her friends started the Sunshine Magic Club and Library, renting out their books and comics to raise money for Pitaji’s Vista India.

“Looking back, it seems incredible that a 9 year old could think about social service. But the inspiration came from the family.”

It was Sri Sri who helped Shreya uncover her talents as she grew up.

“I could never paint. And when I was about 14 or 15, there was a national level painting competition which Gurudev and his sister Bhanu didi encouraged me to take part in though I told them that I had never sketched. They even gave me color pencils.” The topic was ‘The final solution’.

“The previous day Gurudev was saying that if you don’t like somebody, imagine them headless. How can anyone get angry with a headless person? So I drew a meditating figure with no heads or hands and wrote that the final solution is meditation.”

Shreya won the first prize in the competition. “When I finished my painting, I looked at it and realized that I had not done it, it had happened through me. I still don’t know how I did it.”

But it did not stop there.

Shreya is still passionate about art and has a collection of sketches largely of mythological figures and cartoons. She has also worked on many projects for the Art of Living Foundation, including designing the packaging and logo for Sri Sri Ayurveda during its inception, by the time she finished college.

“When the invites for the inauguration of the Visalakshi Mantap were being selected, Gurudev rejected the designs from seven art agencies and asked me to do it. That card was to go to the heads of state around the world. At that time I didn’t know a thing about graphics.”

Her first experience of the Sudarshan Kriya was just as sudden.

“We were just pushed into a course. It happened during my summer holidays when we were all playing. Gurudev told us do something useful in the ashram. We went in group of 7 or 8 and simply found ourselves doing the Sudarshan Kriya.”

And slowly the transformation that Shreya saw Sri Sri bring in people around the world, inspired her to become a vehicle of the knowledge and the techniques.

“I had a strong desire to do something good as I was watching Gurudev serve every minute. I have seen him perform miracles on those who could not speak or hear. I saw him lift so many people out of depression”

As soon as she became a teacher in 2002, she told Sri Sri that she wanted to do something challenging.

“I asked him if I could go to Nagaland and he said yes. That’s where I had my first course.” And sure enough it was one of most challenging experiences. “We ate six bananas everyday for two years because we couldn’t get proper food. We didn’t have a place to stay. Someone would throw us out one day and then somebody else would immediately provide us accommodation. We were given help in places we did not think we would get it.”

Shreya was also the youngest teacher to be sent abroad. She has taught all over the world in countries like China, Surinam, Brazil, Argentina, Bahrain, UAE, Quatar, Egypt, in all the Mediterranean countries and across India, travelling from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Gujarat to Assam in one month, reaching out to lakhs of people.

“I feel at home wherever I go and luckily people come in large numbers. What a master sees in you is beyond what you can see in yourself. He shows you the path ahead like a GPS, the roadmap is there.”

Along with her service, she is able to effortlessly balance her interest in music and her taste for adventure. (“I can play any instrument in the world.”) She has won awards for river-rafting at the national level and has won the Kirmani award for climbing the largest monolith in Asia.

“My creativity is Gurudev’s gift. I can even come up with games in fraction of a second whether it is training, leadership or fun games.” Those prove really useful while conducting the Art EXCEL programs for children. Shreya has also taught lakhs of children.

As a child, for Shreya, Sri Sri was a father figure, her favorite uncle. Gradually their relationship changed from uncle to Guru.

“He has given me chocolates, taken me on joy rides, made me do tree plantation. He taught me how to lead my life. I have grown up playing at the ashram everyday with him since the ashram started in 1982 and I always saw the Guru in the uncle.”