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Sir Cyril de Zoysa, the great Buddhist devotee

On January 2, 2010, 32 years are completed since the demise of Sir Cyril de Zoysa. This article is to commemorate his death anniversary.

On October 26, 1896, a son blessed with luck was born to the couple, Solomon de Zoysa, Notary Public and Harriet de Zoysa who lived in the well-known house named 'Thotamune Kankanam Gedara Watta' in Welithara village in Balapitiya. This lucky son, who was the second child in the family, was named 'Cyril' by the parents.

Master Cyril de Zoysa, who received his primary education at St Tomas College, Matara, was subsequently admitted to Richmond College, Galle. Student Cyril de Zoysa was later admitted to Royal College in Colombo for higher education where he exhibited an exceptional ability in studies and passed the Cambridge Senior Examination in 1916 and was, fortunate to enter the Law College.

Mastering the subject of Law showing his great skills, Cyril de Zoysa was sworn in as an Attorney and took up the legal profession at the Kalutara Bar.

Though he was a lawyer by profession, in no time he became popular among the people as a great philanthropist and a social worker because of his relentless dedication to serve the Buddha sasana and society at large by generously spending his earnings following the foot steps of his illustrious parents.

Having started the Swarnapali Bus Company and the South Western Bus Company, he provided employment opportunities to a large number of people. He was the proprietor of many more business ventures being prominent as a Buddhist entrepreneur and spent generously the wealth earned through his entrepreneurship for the well being of Buddha sasana and the common masses.

Many are the temples and viharas constructed and renovated with the money spent by Sir Cyril and the most prominent among them is the sacred chaithya at Kalutara and its premises with the sacred bo tree. This land which was owned by a white colonial Government Agent was purchased by him and the dagoba, bodhi premises and the temple buildings were constructed under his patronage and offered to the Buddha sasana. It' is no exaggeration to say that the great chaithya at Kalutara which stands visible from a great distance in the sea is like a symbol of Buddhism.

Having spent a massive proportion of his wealth on the construction of this chaithya, he offered an opportunity for the masses of Sri Lanka too to contribute towards its construction by keeping a donation box for them to do so. The contribution of money so collected provides a strong financial assistance for the well being of the sasana even today.

Sir Cyril de Zoysa spent his wealth for the renovation of ruined temples and viharas scattered throughout Sri Lanka as well. Thus, having spent his wealth and time for the restoration of the Kiri Vehera in Kataragama, Sir Cyril saw the successful completion of its renovation activities and crowned his efforts by getting the then Prime Minister Hon Dudley Senanayake to lay the pinnacle on the chaithya. He was also instrumental in illuminating the walkway of Kataragama Kiri Vehera which was in dark at that time, by donating a generator for the purpose. In addition to that, he constructed a Pilgrims' Rest for the convenience of devotees who visit Kataragarna.

Apart from spending money and time on the above mentioned places of worship, Sir Cyril donated unreservedly a great deal of wealth on the restoration and development activities as well as the requisites of the bhikkus at temples like the Kande Vihara at Aluthgama, the Vajirarama at Bambalapitiya, the Gangaramaya Temple, Hunupitiya, Colombo; Kuppiyawatte Jayasekararamaya, Colombo and the Bellanwila Raja Maha Viharaya. Such activities earned him the honorary title of the Great Philanthropist or maha daanapathi from the grateful public.

Having donated money for the development of the London Buddhist Vihara, Sir Cyril de Zoysa contributed to the restoration activities of the Ananda Bodhi in India too. Apart from that, he looked into the requirements of the Bhikkus in a number of pirivenas too and made whatever donations possible, generously, for their wellbeing.

Sir Cyril was an active member of Buddhist organizations such as the Maha Bodhi Society; the Colombo Young Men's Buddhist Association, the All Ceylon Buddhist congress etc. and held the honorary office of patron and president of such organizations.

Besides being engaged in the service for the sasana, Sir Cyril was actively involved in social work and the well being of the public and made generous donations for such activities and provided the necessary guidance as well.

He was also instrumental in starting the Kalutara Vidyalaya and the Kalutara Balika Vidyalaya by donating the necessary lands and started a textile production factory too for the benefit of the people of Balapitiya.

Holding responsible offices in organizations such as the Lanka Anti-Tuberculosis Association, the Sinhalese Sports Club, the Scouts Association etc, Sir Cyril de Zoysa provided the necessary services to those organizations in full measure and functioned as President of the Ceylon Bar Association for 9 years.

The people who were the beneficiaries of the religious and social services and the generosity and honesty of Sir Cyril showed their gratefulness by electing him as a Member of the Senate. Thus, he occupied the coveted position of the deputy president of the Senate for 6 years and president for nine years, bringing dignity to the House of Senate.

Proving to the world the immortal teaching of the Buddha that the body decays and good deeds remain for ever, the devout Buddhist, the great philanthropist, the generous social worker and the distinguished lawyer, Sir Cyril de Zoysa, having rendered an everlasting service to his mother land, breathed his last on January 2, 1978 and bade farewell to Mother Lanka.

I would like to end this tribute to this great son of Sri Lanka by quoting a meaningful sentence he uttered once:

"It means nothing even if one has a lot of money and wealth. They are all useless and empty things. I came into this world as a simple being and leave this world as a simple man. My only refuge is the Buddha Dhamma; the only wealth is the deeds I have done."

Let the meritorious deeds done by you lead you to reach the supreme bliss of Nibbana.

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