Part II — Meeting

Meeting with Admiral J. E. Lawgille

On 2 October 1978 Sri Chinmoy visited the Naval Base in San Diego and met with Admiral J.E. Lawgille, Commandant of the 13th Naval District. The following is a transcript of their meeting.

Admiral: Do you have time for some coffee or tea?

Sri Chinmoy: We just had our breakfast a few minutes ago.

Admiral: Ah, I understand. Would you like to sit down a moment then? It’s a great view here. How long have you been in San Diego? Did you just arrive?

Sri Chinmoy: We arrived yesterday.

Admiral: How long will you be here?

Sri Chinmoy: Only a few more hours and then we will go to Los Angeles.

Admiral: I understand you are going to receive the keys to the city of Los Angeles. It will be a great honour. Have you been in Los Angeles before?

Sri Chinmoy: Yes. I have been there three or four times.

Naval Aide: He’s giving a presentation a little after noon so his schedule is a little tight. The chaplains are standing by, so we’ll have an opportunity…

Admiral: It will be very impressive to see the young men and how much we do with them in a period of about seven weeks. We will now reduce our basic training. And the women, of course…

Sri Chinmoy: Now women are also allowed?

Admiral: Yes. Women are now allowed in the Navy. You will see women recruits being trained, which is novel, if you will. We’ve been taking women in the Navy for some time, and we probably will increase the number of women — not just because of the emphasis on equal rights in our country, but because we need the woman power to supplement the man power.

Sri Chinmoy: Is it because of special talents or simply because of equality of rights?

Admiral: It’s really because of both of those reasons. But more than that, we’re facing a shortage in the male population in the United States. The birth rate is dropping off in the United States, and we no longer use the draft in our country. We depend upon volunteers. With the competition from industry and the competition from the rest of the military, we find that we need the woman power. I believe we have 20,000 women in the Navy now. Were going to probably double that to 40,000 women. We’re now looking at how we’re going to put them aboard ships — some of the ships that don’t go into combat, such as the service ships, the tenders and those types of ships. It should be an interesting experiment.

Sri Chinmoy: Have they already displayed some special capacity?

Admiral: Well, of course, women are able to do a number of jobs in the Navy quite well. And we’ve used them already for things like air control — to control air traffic. They’re very good in the area of computers — computer operations. Of course, we always used them in such things as nursing and we find that there are a number of other things that they do very well.

Naval Aide: Of course, the women that we have here are in communications.

Admiral: Yes. Communications in this building. We have a lot of women that are good in things like communication.

Naval Aide: The Admiral even has a woman here on this staff. She just happens to be out right now.

Admiral: Oh yes. I don’t normally have a driver, and we borrow a driver from the naval station. This happens to be a very nice black woman who is now actually my driver. She drives the Admiral’s sedan.

Sri Chinmoy: They also have the same sense of responsibility that men do?

Admiral: Yes. In fact, the unauthorized absentee rate, the desertion rate — which all services have problems with — is lower with the women than it is with the men. So, one must say that they probably have more responsibility in that sense, if you will, sir.

Of course, we’ve had women at sea in hospital ships. But we no longer have any hospital ships. We also have had women at sea aboard the transport ships. And now we will have them in our auxiliaries, in some of the destroyer tenders. And I think that one of our research ships will probably have some aboard.

Naval Aide: There’s one of the ships going out…

Admiral: That’s the Portuguese tall ship, Cyprus. She’s a tall ship, a square rigger… It’s a pleasure to have you visit us in San Diego.

Sri Chinmoy: It’s a great joy and honour for me. Our philosophy and your philosophy go together. You are working with the sea. For us, the sea represents vastness. Water is consciousness and a boat represents our journey. At every moment, we’re travelling along Eternity’s road. There’s no beginning and no end. It is our birthless and deathless journey. So a boat constantly reminds us of our eternal journey along Eternity’s road.

Admiral: Also, it reminds us of the unknown part of the sea, like the kind of thing we experienced this past week with the death of Pope John Paul.

Naval Aide: Or the tragic airplane crash we had here in San Diego. We all felt that here — especially in all the churches this past week — in the big ceremonies and the big memorial services.

Admiral: Yes. Yesterday afternoon Mayor Wilson had to leave the Portuguese festival to go to the funeral services for the 151 people that were killed when the plane crashed just a few blocks away.

Naval Aide: I had the privilege of showing our guest here our little chapel.

Admiral: Ah, yes! I go there to pray when I can. It’s nice to have a spiritual retreat like that in this big building.

Sri Chinmoy: Yes.

Naval Aide: Well, now we will show you some big chapels.

Admiral: I think you will find that interesting. And perhaps you will have the opportunity to see both the young Navy men and women, and also the young Marine men and women that we drill. They put on a ceremony yesterday. The young recruits that have only been there for seven weeks or less came out and did a very high-precision drill, in which they marched and threw their rifles up in the air and swung them around and then exchanged rifles while they were spinning — with the bayonets on the end. It takes a tremendous amount of discipline to be able to do that in a short period of time. It was very impressive to all the people who were watching, particularly the Portuguese.

Naval Aide: I think if you want to make Los Angeles, we’d better move along.

Admiral: Ah, yes. Well, thank you so much for coming by.

Sri Chinmoy: Thank you.

Admiral: I wish you continued success in your endeavours. Thank you.