“There’s only one thing I seek from God,” the young girl said. “Forgiveness. Other than forgiveness, there’s nothing else I want.”

“My father was HIV positive and his last days were extremely painful,” she continued. “He couldn’t even move and needed constant care. I’d developed such disdain for him that I ignored him completely. My mother was the sole breadwinner of the family and she couldn’t be around throughout the day. I could have cared for my father, but I didn’t. It’s been a while but I haven’t been able to forgive myself.”

“I just pray that my mother leaves this new man in her life who beats her so brutally that blood oozes out from fresh facial wounds every other day,” a different girl shared her plight with me.

“I wish I could meet my real mother who died of HIV,” another young girl said to me, teary-eyed. “I didn’t know that the woman I’d been living with was not my biological mother. She too died of AIDS. I couldn’t serve her either.”

I met an incredible group of young girls this week.

In 2016, I discoursed for roughly 400 hours, gave 2000+ hrs. to writing (books & posts), 300 to piano, traveled far and wide spending 120+ hrs. in the sky and 100+ at the airports. Nearly 300 hrs. on the road and 1000+ I spent meeting people. Over 1000 hours went in emails. That’s 5200 hrs. out of the 8760 available in a year.

But, the six hours with these young children in the last three days and the ninety minutes I spent one-on-one were some of my most memorable moments. Why, you ask? These children constantly reminded me of something phenomenal – the four truths – about human existence.

These were not your usual children with functional families. Most of these young girls were sexually abused as children and are daughters of sex workers from Mumbai’s red-light district. Some have been witness or subjected to unthinkable acts. Robin Chaurasia, founder of an NGO called Kranti, had brought them to us and we did a three-day residential retreat for them at the ashram. Listening to them, at times I struggled to hold back my tears.

In the past 40 days, I addressed over 1500 people and personally met over 1200 in one-on-one meetings. They ranged from multi-millionaires, top bureaucrats, unemployed youth to these kids. While everyone’s dealing with a set of challenges in their life, some of us are more positive than others. Compared to everyone else, what was particularly striking about these girls was their sense of positivity, zest for life and a spark of hope in their eyes.

This leads me to share with you the four truths of life. No, these are not the 2500-year-old noble truths of Buddha but my own, a modern version you can say.

1. Certainty is a myth

Not only nothing is permanent in life, absolutely nothing is certain either. The sooner we understand that life offers no certainties whatsoever, the easier it becomes to handle life. Take it as a given that no matter how sure you are about anything in life, as you evolve, those certainties will disappear.

You can plant a seed and offer it all the nutrition and right conditions and yet there’s no assurance that it would ever sprout. On the other hand, a seed you discarded by chucking it in the rocks may turn out to be a giant tree. Either way, there are no guarantees.

No matter what decision you make, which path you take, you will not be greeted by certainty but by doubt, challenges and self-doubt (and eventually rewards too). Keep walking. Our future is not set in stone, not everything is predestined. You can rewrite your script and work towards any desirable outcome, provided you understand that the goal you aim for may not be the outcome you actually seek at all. Or that the result you desire may not give you the fulfilment you anticipate. A lot can change, and often changes, from the moment we begin our journey to the time we reach our destination.

This uncertainty, unpredictability and impermanence is what makes our life both intriguing and beautiful.

2. Contradictions co-exist

If you really want to live your life and make the most of it, begin with the premise that life can be deeply confusing and even unfair at times. Bad things, terrible things, happen to good people all the time. If you think that those undergoing suffering are doing so purely on account of their own karma, think again. Frequently, we step into karmic field of other people that affects us too. If someone wears a strong perfume and comes in your vicinity, you too are forced to inhale that fragrance, for example. The karmic orbit is something like that.

To say that the law of karma, or any other, is absolute is to violate the first truth of certainty. Nothing is certain or absolute (even this statement isn’t). Sometimes, some things have no explanation. Contradictory truths and paradoxes co-exist like darkness and light come together in twilight. Whatever be your belief and however sure you are of it, you will find enough evidence that will negate it.

The only thing you can do is to lead a truthful and meaningful life to the best of your ability. You do this for you, for your own peace of mind. Life is a good master but a bad trader. It does not really care about being fair or conforming to a standard, it knows no reason.

At any point in time, life will carry in its core plenty of confusions and contradictions. Accept it. While reasoning may douse our curiosity and help us grow, it doesn’t mean it will make us any happier. Happiness doesn’t come from reasoning, it comes from our understanding and acceptance. And as far as life is concerned, there’s little to understand.

3. Life is a blessing

No matter how dire the circumstances, mostly, life is a blessing. There are only two ways to lead your life: you can either live it like it’s a blessing or it isn’t. Either way, the most important thing to remember is that no one’s life has ever got better by complaining about it. Life doesn’t hear our complaints and that’s often a good thing because mind is always complaining about one thing or the other anyway. It would be impossible to function if life actually started listening to our whining.

Whatever be your past, wherever you were, could or should have been, the truth is you are here, now. This is it. This is life. And really, there are only two choices: start living it or keep complaining. If you want to start living your life, all you have to do is start from where you are now bearing in mind that you can only walk the path and be prepared at the most. It might rain when you expected sunshine. I’m not saying it’s a gamble but the outcome is not entirely in our hands.

If you want to see how your life is a blessing, simply take a notepad and write down what’s good in your life. There has to be something you like about your life. Write it down. It’ll evoke positive emotions of gratitude and admiration in you so you may see the brighter side.

4. There is hope

By hope, I don’t mean that your dreams will come true (life can be uncertain and unfair, remember). I simply mean that it only takes a spark to ignite a wildfire. That spark can come from anywhere. While life may disappoint you by not turning out the way you once envisaged, it will still end up somewhere beautiful if you are open to possibilities.

To give your hope(s) a chance, you have to be real. Day dreaming is fine at times but be real. Get back to the basics, go back to the drawing board and start from where you are. Don’t lose your dream or the action required to realize it. Something or the other will work out. It always does in some way. Life does not stop for anyone, for any reason. Have faith, have hope.

Maybe you’ve had a tough life, perhaps you dealt with a lot and maybe you are under a lot of stress, your problems are grave and things are really difficult. Agreed. Fine. Such is life. Now what?

We live in a world where countless people suffer on a daily basis for no fault of theirs, where some of our fellow beings are dying because they can’t afford food or medication, where millions of people lead incredibly lonely lives, where millions of children are abused, women beaten and innocent killed.

We don’t need more religion, division, politics or talk shows. We need harmony and compassion, neither of which are possible unless we are hopeful and positive, unless we begin to see life as a blessing, until we start to accept the ways of our existence. Harmony is happiness. Repeatedly, I’ve seen that when we are ungrateful, Nature takes away the good from us and gives it to the one who will value it.

If you feel that your life could be more beautiful, take charge and work towards it for our actions alone steer our life. No doubt that our thoughts, words, emotions and desires influence, but ultimately what greets us in the future is what we create with our acts in the present. The more real your action, the more positive the reaction (from nature).

You can slither about in mud and complain what’s not right about your past or present. Or, you can take the world in your stride and see where life takes you. Think, act, create.

Step out of your shoes and take a walk on the path of life. Allow the morning dew adorning the green grass like pearls sprinkled on some divine ground to touch your feet. Let the grandeur, splendor and love of nature seep into your heart so you may befriend your life with all its uncertainties and intrigue. Bliss will radiate from every pore of your existence. Create something beautiful. Do something meaningful.

Happy 2017.