Application of Principles of Buddhism in Co-operative Movement

Dr Prakash H Karmadkar

Published in Issue – I, June 2013

In the recent years India has emerged as a major global power. India’s economic reforms have made the Indian economy as vibrant as ever. A conducive climate for foreign investment has been created. Indian democracy despite its contradictions has given the nation political stability which has no doubt strengthened the country’s developmental plank. However, despite all this India has been struggling with problems of poverty, unemployment, environmental degradation, social inequalities, insurgency, etc. The strategies formulated to tackle these problems have not paid full dividends.


India, known as the land of spirituality and philosophy was the birthplace of some religions, which even exist today in the world. The most dominant religion in India today is Hinduism. Hinduism is a colorful religion with a vast gallery of Gods and Goddesses. Hinduism is one of the ancient religions in the world. It is supposed to have developed about 5000 years ago. Later on in ancient period other religions developed in India.

Around 500 BC, two other religions developed in India, namely, Buddhism and Jainism. In ancient times, Jainism and specially Buddhism were very popular in India. Indians who accepted Buddhist philosophy spread it not only within the Indian sub-continent but also to kingdoms east and south of India. These three ancient religions, Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, are seen as the molders of the India philosophy. In ‘modern’ period new religions were also established in India. One comparatively new religion in India is Sikhism and it was established in the 15th century. About 2% of Indians are Sikhs. Along with the religions that developed in India, there are followers of non- Indian religions. The largest non-Indian religion is Islam. They are about 12% of India’s population. Christians are more then 2% of India’s population. There are also Zoroastrians who even though make less then 0.01% of India’s population, are known around India. There are also a few thousand Jews in India.


The need of the hour for the cooperative sector in the era of liberalized environment is to seize every opportunity available to it.  Thus, the future vision of cooperative movement will have to be based on efficiency parameters relating to promotion of excellence, improvement of operational efficiency and strengthening of financial resource base. Sugar industry has made substantial progress especially in the co-operative sector. Maharashtra is known for the development of sugar industry on co-operative lines in which the farmers acquire a share in the sugar mills, Pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, heavy chemicals, electronics, automobiles, engineering, food processing and plastics are some of the major industries of the state. Maharashtra is noted for the production of three wheelers, jeeps, commercial vehicles and cars, synthetic fibers, cold rolled products and industrial alcohol. The economic liberalization has given a big push and projected as an engine of economic growth and an instrument for eliminating poverty, curbing unemployment problems, opening up new fields of activity and the enlistment of downtrodden sections of society. Cooperatives establishing people-to-people contacts and are given prime importance.

At a time when cooperative sector initiatives have gained thrust in India, the situation is ripe for popularizing the concept of “Peace Through Cooperatives” in a big way through strong advocacy and practical action. Cooperatives as a strategy to promote peace by solving the problems of poverty, unemployment, etc. can succeed if effective inter-linkages are established between “Cooperatives initiatives” and “peace”, and appropriate action plans are devised accordingly. India has strong community and democratic ethos. Community-based initiatives based on people’s participation have been quite effective in India in solving the socio-economic problems of the people. They have also been successful in building up strong collaborations based on people’s efforts which have led to creation of a peaceful and cordial atmosphere. In fact, the peaceful under-currents of Indian democracy are evident in the working of community-based ventures. Limitations of the centralized form of planning have compelled the policy-makers to pin their faiths on such people-based ventures.


Cooperation means living, thinking and working together. It is working together to learn to live in our society peacefully and harmoniously. A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common, economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise. Cooperatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. Cooperative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others. In an age of declining values, peace can remain elusive if the values are not well propagated and communicated to the society at large. No doubt, in this scenario the value-based organizations have an important role to play in peace-building. The cooperatives have a strategic advantage over other organizations in this respect. The principles and values of cooperatives are the best guidelines to create a sustainable and peaceful world. They are intended to safeguard the human rights and enable the members to practice democracy and enjoy freedom of action. Cooperatives are the organizations which have strong community roots. They are embedded within the communities in which they exist. They work for sustainable development of communities through emphasis on values which create a peaceful atmosphere within the community. The basic philosophy of Co-operative movement has been derived from the tenet of Buddhism.


60 million people around the world are members of cooperatives. In Kenya 20% of the population is a member of cooperative, while in Argentina it is over 29%, 33% in Norway, and 40% in Canada and US. The contribution of cooperatives to poverty alleviation can be gauged from the fact that they provide 100 million jobs and in some countries and areas are among the largest employees as in Columbia where a national health cooperative is the largest employer at national level. There are at present 5.04 Lakhs cooperative societies of different type with a membership of 22 Crores, covering 100 percent villages and 67 percent rural households in India.  The transition from controlled economy to open competitive economy in the name of globalization or liberalization has thrown a whole lot of challenges to the cooperative sector.  It was believed that cooperatives would not be able to survive in the face of stiff competition posed by private sector. .  A study of functioning of cooperative societies in various segments such as agricultural credit, agricultural marketing, fertilizer distribution, agro-processing, dairy and sugar industries has shown that there are some strong and viable cooperatives.  But at the same time one must realize the fact that the co-operative structure, as it emerged, has shown few weaknesses. Worldwide the cooperative movement has contributed to peace by helping to eliminate poverty, sustain environment, provide employment, and enrich social standards of the people. The value-based orientation of the cooperative movement has played a crucial role in checking the capitalist tendencies in the society by creating an equalitarian society through which chances of conflict are minimized. In India the cooperative concept has worked wonders. Starting in 1904, the cooperative movement has made rapid strides in all areas of socio-economic activities. Today, there are more than 5 Lakhs cooperative societies in the country with a membership of over 23 Crores and working capital of Rs. 198.542 million. IFFCO and KRIBHCO are two cooperative fertilizer giants which have matched global standards of performance. The cooperative credit institutions are disbursing 46.15% of agricultural credit and cooperatives are distributing 36.22% of total fertilizers in the country. Dairy cooperatives in India with their strong and extensive network have excelled in their areas of operations. They have ushered in milk revolution in the country. India is the largest producer of milk in the world. The housing cooperatives in India have not only reaped economic reforms, but have also contributed to peace through promoting social harmony and community living.

The cooperatives in India have played a pioneering role in saving the poor from clutches of moneylenders by providing them credit at reasonable rate of interest so that they may start economic activities through a long chain of credit cooperatives set up at various levels. Besides, the cooperatives have convinced the poor that they are the institutions for their welfare, not exploitation. In the recent years the Self Help Groups based on cooperative principles have mushroomed in large numbers which have mobilized the rural poor by providing them avenues of income generation. In India the cooperatives have played an important role in employment generation. About 15.47 million individuals are employed in the cooperative sector and the numbers of persons who are self-employed in the cooperatives are more than 14.39 million. The cooperatives have shown their strength in social sector too. For example, the sugar cooperatives in Maharashtra have come up in the field of education and health. In the field of environment, the cooperatives have played an important role in environment preservation. IFFCO has played a laudable role in protecting environment through pollution control measures through its plants and farm forestry cooperatives.


When the mind is stilled, there occurs an experience of Identity Shift. One realizes that one’s true identity is not a body-mind complex. It is rather an eternally blissful awareness. One experience that one’s real self is a divine light. One was all along living in a state of ignorance of this truth. The Self is the core of one’s being. The mind is waved out of it and it also dissolves in it. Mental formations – including perspectives, ego, decisions etc. – are just transient formations arising and dissolving in the eternal expanse of the Self. Considering the contribution of cooperatives to peace and the value-based peaceful orientation of cooperatives, it is natural that the cooperatives are well positioned to strengthen the agenda of peace. If meditation becomes a key agenda of all the nations, a peaceful world order is bound to emerge. The institutions like cooperatives can play an important role in peace building if they are involved in meditation.

The strength of rural area in Maharashtra lies in the villages, and the cooperatives field 100% of the villages. A large mass have a high level of involvement in whatever they do about rural  tourism as they want to participate in cultural affairs, traditional lifestyle, etc. The cooperatives in the rural areas in India have strong cultural affiliations. The cooperatives can not only acquaint the Cooperatives with rich culture of the region, but they can also understand their urge to participate in and experience the local culture closely. The cooperatives can play a big role in strengthening domestic as well as bonds of cultural heritage by making the people feel that they are a part of cooperative culture which is built on peace. Formation of Sangh, Cooperatives for guiding, escorting, maintaining local handicrafts, etc., can generate jobs, and end their poverty. In India the primary agriculture cooperatives are the strength of the cooperative system in the rural areas. They can promote rural Peace directly. Their contribution in poverty alleviation along with potential development of area can be important in promoting peace. The Indian Government is already sensitized on the importance of rural peace and the need for involving community based organizations. The cooperatives which have stronghold over the rural areas in the recent years have taken initiatives to promote infrastructure development. For example, the dairy cooperatives in Gujarat have built up the roads, and have come up with schools. The cooperatives in India due to their effective community inter-linkages can promote ethical conflict ridden zones.


A review of the cooperative trends in the recent times indicates that cooperatives are already on the way to multiplicity in new areas like peace. The rural life is rich in cultural tradition. Cooperative Marketing Development Federation is having branches in village of Maharashtra.  The cooperative products have developed strong brands which clearly indicate that cooperative principles and values which can be used for effective business. For example “Amul”, brand of Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation is a household name in India signifying milk revolution. Like Amul, Lijjat Papad, Katraj Milk etc. these cooperative products spread the message of peace.


To realize who one is. This is the main goal of meditation. But, as there is extreme turbulence and suffering in most of the minds, the first motivating factor can be the cessation of agitation and pain. It is only when one understands that happiness and fulfillment are a state of being independent of external factors that one can learn to outgrow suffering and turmoil. When the mind is able to remain unconditionally peaceful vis-a-vis the external situations, there occurs the possibility of meditation. So the first reason that one should learn and practice meditation is the cessation of turbulence.

It is not only the suffering, but even the apparently harmless agitations of mind have their roots in illusory conditionings. If one wants to experience true peace and happiness, one will have to understand and detach from these unconscious stories. The best de Conditioning happens through deep contemplation. The best way of doing deep contemplation is in a peaceful and solitary place. Doing a retreat is always helpful, but it might not be feasible for one and all. There can be exigencies, beyond one’s control, which don’t allow one to live in a retreat environment. These are revolutionary principles of meditation. Integrating them with one’s practice, one can make speedy and enduring progress in this beautiful mind-elevation. A person can train his or her mind to improve attention and regulate emotions; it can also improve a person’s level of happiness and well-being.


Though it’s predominantly rooted in Buddhist tradition, there are many varieties of meditation in the world. Some involve sitting quietly for hours at a time, while others encourage movement. Some are tied to religion or physical practices such as yoga and martial arts; others are based in psychology. There are also numerous techniques.

India is ideal for formulating effective strategies for promoting peace. For promoting peace, the cooperative strategy merits consideration. The Indian cooperative movement is the largest movement in the world. National Cooperative Union of India (NCUI)  is the apex organization of the cooperative movement in the country. 196 cooperative organizations at all levels are as its members. Being a promotional organization with emphasis on training, education, advocacy, research, publication etc. NCUI has worked hard to promote the cooperative movement in the country. It has always formulated effective policies to promote cooperative diversification. For example, due to strong campaigning of NCUI, the cooperatives were recently allowed entry into insurance. The NCUI has also taken initiatives in the new fields of insurance, electrification environment, etc. IFFCO, a major cooperative fertilizer giant, has already made effective forays in the fields of insurance, electrification etc. The NCUI has effectively popularized the concept of cooperation amongst the rural population by its Cooperative Education Field Projects located all over the country. NCUI is in a good position to promote rural peace in the country, taking into account the strength of Indian cooperatives in promoting peace through cooperatives.


Ahinsa, as preached and practiced by Buddha, is the only answer to problems of poverty and pollution confronting humanity. Gandhiji rightly stated: “Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man. lt is remarkable that unlike Vedic religion, Jainism  and Buddhism stands for pure Ahinsa without any condition: in Maharashtra Saint Eknath, Saint Tukaram, Saint  Gora Kumbhar, Dnyashwar, Chokhomala and many others, showed faith that eventually our heart and mind will lean to let go of all obsessive patterns of thought and desire. Then we can awaken to true peace, love, and joy. When we go to spiritual counseling,  By learning to trust ourselves and to open our hearts and trust the other, Spiritual counseling helps direct us, stop feeling. When we stop cutting the world into pieces with our judgmental mind, everything within us and within the world can then be experienced as Buddha. The fundamental goal of Buddhism is peace, not only peace in India but peace in all over the worlds. The Buddha taught  the first step on the path to peace The Buddhist vision is a world in which all life is sacred, in which selfishness, in the guise of greed, anger and foolishness, does not interfere with the basic interconnectedness of all living beings. That interconnectedness, when freed from the distortion of selfishness, is based upon the potential for enlightenment that every being shares.

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