Meeting with Admiral J. E. Lawgille

Sri Chinmoy visits the Naval Base in San Diego and meets 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.

Published in The Vision-Sky of California


Meeting with Deputy Mayor Remy of Los Angeles


Deputy Mayor: I apologize for being out. I read that you are an expert in the world of meditation. I had the discomfort of being with an elected official 10 minutes ago, who gave a half an hour speech. I couldn’t get away. It’s nice of you to come to visit our city.

Sri Chinmoy: It is very kind of you to present me with this key. Los Angeles is a foremost city, one of the most famous places in the world.

Deputy Mayor: Thank you. We appreciate your coming to visit our city. We’re very proud of it as a city. We have a diverse culture and a diverse population. I myself am a third generation San Franciscan, as opposed to Los Angeles. I marvel at the fact that our city has the largest population of people of Hispanic, Mexican-American background in any city outside of Mexico. We have the largest Jewish population in this city, except for New York. Also a very large Asian population, including Japanese. Virtually every part of the world has added to the strength of our city.

Sri Chinmoy: It has a cosmopolitan view and a very large heart. It can accommodate all souls, all personalities.

Deputy Mayor: We need all the help we can get. This diversity has characterised the uniqueness of the city. It has a relatively small Black population. As major cities go, our city is only about 16 or 17 percent Black. Yet we have a Black mayor, and there are three Black members of our City Council. We like to think that our community elects people because of their skills rather than their racial, social or ethnic background.

A major issue, as you may know, has been our attempt to integrate our school system. Various and good people in all parts of our community were required in that process. Moving children from one school to a separate segment or separate part of our city in order to upgrade their education is very difficult socially and economically. We have at least been able to do that without violence.

Sri Chinmoy: You have succeeded in doing so? You have already succeeded?

Deputy Mayor: No, I don’t think I could say that. I think our city has succeeded in dealing with a very difficult social issue without community violence. There still is great resistance amongst the people, particularly amongst the white population: fear about the quality of education, fear about the safety of their children. But at least we have been able to deal with this in honest, open debate — through the judicial structure, as opposed to dealing with it in the streets. I know the mayor feels really proud of the city. That’s good. If we could only clean up our air and make the air a little more breathable! And if we could improve our transportation system and provide more job opportunities for people who want to work then we will have achieved an awful lot.

Sri Chinmoy: It will definitely happen in the course of time.

Deputy Mayor: You’re involved in the United Nations. How does that work?

Sri Chinmoy: It works very peacefully and soulfully. I pray and meditate, and quite a few significant people — delegates, diplomats and visitors — come to pray and meditate with us. They feel the necessity of the inner life. The political world, as it stands now, is constantly quarreling and fighting. Peace of mind is badly needed in the outer life. So they come and meditate for about half an hour or so. Then they feel a kind of inner peace.

Deputy Mayor: Very essential, very essential. Sometimes I criticise myself for not spending more time on that sort of thing. But so many things go on in a day that one doesn’t stop and think through what the day should be.

Sri Chinmoy: We believe that if we can pray and meditate in the morning, then the rest of the day will be prayerful and meditative. But if the morning is not soulful, then the rest of the day will have a very hectic vibration and we may not get peace of mind at all. It is like saving money. When we meditate in the morning we acquire spiritual wealth. Then, when the necessity demands, during our multifarious activities we can draw on our spiritual wealth. If we have enough spiritual money saved, then easily we can deal with our problems.

Deputy Mayor: I suspect it’s nice to have a spiritual bank account to draw upon from time to time. But I suspect that our country doesn’t save too much of that kind of money.

Sri Chinmoy: I have been here for fourteen years, and I feel that most people do pray and meditate. There is a soulful inner cry in America. There is an inner cry for justice, for truth. This Watergate incident has really helped America considerably. I feel that the standard of America has gone much higher now and the world has seen something unique in America.

Deputy Mayor: Watergate presents many contrasts for our country. It presented a view of some things that could have been very, very wrong. One of the lasting contributions of Watergate could be that the system of justice is very important in our country. It is strength that our country will always have.

Published in The Vision-Sky of California



Sri Chinmoy meets with Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, at Helmsley Palace Hotel in Manhattan, New York.