Indians tend to worry less that Westerners about missed opportunities, as they believe that what goes around comes will come around again, perhaps in a different guise. Their fundamental beliefs in the continuity of live, and the western notion of ‘seizing the day’ is less current in India than ‘going with the flow.’
The cause of this attitude is the very deep seated belief that what you do in this life will affect you in coming lives. If you had a bad situation in this life, then it may be because of something you did in a previous life. Karma may be good or bad. If I am successful it is good karma: if I have bad fortune it is bad karma. I may do what I can to enhance the influence of good karma or mitigate the influence of bad karma, but ultimately everything that happens in my life is my karma and must be accepted with self-control.
Alongside the belief in karma is the belief in reincarnation. Traditional belief says that we have been born many times and will be born many times more. When we die we are reincarnated according to our karma, what we have done in our previous life. Life on earth is intended to improve our spiritual state by doing well with the good things we have, or working through the harmful things we have done in previous reincarnations. Therefore beggars subsiding in hovels in the center of towns are not a national scandal: it’s just karma. The begum in her stately palace is not socially irresponsible. It’s her karma. If you believe in improvements over many lifetimes, it certainly means you take a long view.
An old proverb sets out the pattern if Indian life. When you are young you grow up and have a family; then you make money to keep your family and yourself in good health. When you are old you stop making money and work to attain wisdom and improve your karma for your next life.