Sree Narayana Guru’s charisma brought together a group of like-minded individuals who started a movement that transformed the course of a community, said Fr. George Thadathil, principal of Salesian College, Darjeeling, at the Cochin Conference on Metaphysics and Politics here on Friday. Fr. Thadathil said Guru’s ideas had changed the perception and self-thinking of a generation. “People individually and collectively came to see themselves differently,” he said at the conference that opened on Thursday. The third Cochin Conference was inaugurated by Viswa Sadasivan, former Member of Parliament of the Republic of Singapore. The conferences have carried forward the philosophical work initiated at a meet in Colombo in 2010. The earlier conferences had included studies on philosophies on Narayana Guru, Chattambi Swami, Gandhi and Tagore.

Science, for the first time, was introduced as a topic in the conference this year. The first session on Friday was a session on ‘Subjectivity, reality, and truth in quantum physics and Narayana Guru’s Advaita.’ G.K. Sasidharan, former vice-chancellor of Calicut University, said discoveries in cosmology and quantum mechanics brought physics closer to the realm of Vedic philosophy.

Mathematician Roby Rajan said while India had been hostile to many Indian intellectuals, Narayana Guru and his teachings had been accepted widely. “He made no long statements about the need for progress,” he said.

In his paper on ‘Re-covering justice in Advaita,’ physicist-philosopher Sundar Sarukkai said Narayana Guru, besides his work for social emancipation, also produced a collection of works on Advaita. His relationship with Advaita and caste emancipation showed “how philosophy can be successful in social practice and how metaphysical enquiries matter to individual, everyday action.” The method to duplicate the balance Guru achieved between the two, however, remained unclear, Prof. Sarukkai said.

The conference brings to the same stage eminent political thinkers and social scientists such as Ashis Nandy, Gopal Guru, U.R. Ananthamurthy, Scott Teitsworth and others. The conference, which will conclude on Sunday, will feature discussions on Buddha, Ambedkar, C. Ayyappan, and Rahul Sankrityayan.

More In: Kochi