Buddhist devotee and philanthropist
Sir Cyril De Zoysa
The culture and history of any land are adorned by exceptional personalities. The Sinhala Buddhist culture of Sri Lanka has achieved the status of a great tradition due to these outstanding men and women.

Sir Cyril De Zoysa was one of them. Born on October 26, 1896 in Galle, he had his early education at Matara. Eventually, he joined Richmond College, Galle. The next phase of his education was at Royal College, Colombo, from where he entered Law College at the relatively young age of 20.

Even in those early years, his personality was suffused by a sense of humanity. As a law student, he earned additional pocket-money by giving tuition and saved enough money to buy a brand new buggy-cart and a bull for his father, who was being driven at that time in a rickety old cart he hired.

Buddhism was part of his life from his childhood. His family lived the Buddhist way of life.

When practising the law, he moved to Kalutara and as destiny would have it, this paved the way for his lifelong service to the cause of Buddhism.

At this time, the Sacred Bodhi Tree at Kalutara had become a controversial spot. Security personnel appointed by the Government Agent drove off devotees who came to worship there.

Defying the decrees of the Government Agent, young Cyril took charge of the shrine. Using his own funds, he renovated the shrine, enabling worshippers to congregate there unobstructed.

Today, millions make offerings to this shrine, with Kalutara's Sacred Bodhi Tree, becoming a landmark not only for Buddhists but for people of all faiths.

Sir Cyril used a good part of his income from his thriving business enterprises for religious, cultural and educational activities. The Colombo YMBA, is a glittering monument to Sir Cyril's service to Buddhism.

When financial constraints retarded the building effort, he turned to Sir Earnest, a Buddhist philanthropist for assistance. Sir Ernest gave him a stamp, saying; "Cyril take this to that dealer. He will give you Rs. 100,000 for it."

Sir Cyril was also the foremost force in the restoration of the Kiri Vehera at Kataragama. The Buddhist shrines, sites and institutions that received his generous assistance are beyond count. He also focused on the development of education and was concerned about employment for rural folk.

In politics too he achieved success. He was the Vice-President of the Senate for six years and President for eight. He was conferred a Knighthood.

Despite his busy schedule, he never neglected the Buddhist way of life. Each morning at 4 a.m., he started the day's work by making offerings to the Sacred Bodhi Tree at Kalutara. Towards the end of his life he attained a deep spiritual serenity which was evident from what he said. "Now I am free. How rich you are does not matter. These are all illusions. I was born without any wealth. I will die without any. Buddhism is my consolation, my happiness and my strength."

He passed away at the age of 82 on January 2, 1978.
May he attain Nibbana.
Ven. Dr. Udugama Saddharmakeerthi Sri Dhammadassi Ratanapala Buddharakkithabhidhana Thero, Mahanayaka Thero of the Asgiriya Chapter

An epitome of forbearance and grace
Mrs. U.S.M.S. Samarakoon
Mrs. U.S. M.S. Samara-koon, retired principal, passed away on April 17 this year at the age of 76. We have lost a multi-faceted lady with sterling qualities. She spent more than half her life as a devoted teacher and astute principal, serving in about seven schools in Kurunegala and Kandy.

As a pensioner, her main pastime was reading Dhamma books and listening to the Dhamma. She took delight in meditating and visiting temples.

She was controlled in both word and deed and never spoke ill of others.

She shied away from amassing wealth and instead gave away a substantial portion of her pension to religious or social work. Serene was the disposition that she had cultivated.

She brought up her four sons and two daughters in an exemplary manner giving them the best of education.

She would have accrued an abundance of merit by serving society and playing different roles in worldly as well as spiritual matters. This will keep her in good stead in her Samsaric journey.

May she attain the supreme bliss of Nibbana!
P. Lokugamage

Sailor on the burning deck
Bala Mahadewa
The 1960s were the years when we were young, the world was young and we were in the Navy. Three of us, all from the same vintage of the only university then - Robert Abeysingha, Bala Mahadewa and I. Robert was the first to go. Then, it was Bala.

Bala was my closest friend in the Navy. We had been contemporaries in the university, but after one term at Thurstan Road I went up to Peradeniya 50 years ago. In the programmes of our stage plays then, Bala's name occurs among the group of "Ludeken's boys" who handled the lights, sound and curtains. But our friendship was to blossom far away in time and space from the groves of academe, in a naval training school, Her Majesty's Ceylon Ship "Rangalla", amongst the rolling hills of Diyatalawa.

We were Instructor Officers, both of us, teaching different subjects to recruits. We shared a spacious cabin in the wardroom, till he left us bachelors to marry Pathma, who had been a year junior to me in Peradeniya. I would spend much of my time in their house. Pathma and Bala knew my tastes in food (he and I shared a liking for what he called "village vegetables") and when, in time, I got married they taught my wife my favourite foods.

In those days, a good friend became the good friend of all the family. So Bala became close to my family and my father was "uncle" to him. They had much in common, particularly in the matter of punctuality: so much so that, when I delayed to reply a letter, Bala would get one urging him to prompt me! Like an elder brother he got me to open a bank account. I remember his brother meeting my father, a Buddhist worker, to plead that the plight of the Hindus be also linked to that of the Buddhists. How right he was!

Our families grew specially close when we were in Trincomalee. Pathma and Bala loved children and were all the children's favourites but, alas! they couldn't have any of their own. Our children were part of their lives - peering over shoulders while Bala experimented with potato and beet "wine"; sitting at their feet to enjoy the wholehearted attention they got (unlike at home!); sitting on the steps of the kovil to get the "goodies" that were passed around on festival days; taking part in the celebrations of Maha Siva Rathri and other festival days. What a wonderful way for children to learn that it did not matter whether we were Sinhala or Tamil, Buddhist or Hindu!

We both finished with the navy around the same time and found careers in the mercantile service. He became manager of Palm Garden Hotel virtually building it up. Later, he managed both that and Confifi Hotel, built the Riverina and became a director of Confifi Hotels Ltd. This was the most comfortable time of their lives and we would spend many happy days together.

Not long after, the bad days hit him, us, and the country. Bala was essentially a cosmopolite, having been born and raised in the Federated Malay States, where he had lived under Japanese occupation. But he was much attached to Jaffna, where he had grown up, and where he hosted us on holidays, keeping our daughter for an extended holiday. But he was a citizen of the world. So after 1983 he continued to live in Colombo till man's inhumanity to man drove him to seek refuge in Jaffna as a deck-passenger.

Jaffna, though, was too stifling for him and he made the trek back to Colombo, "to die among friends", if necessary. Once again, he was with Confifi Hotels, but his second stint was not as pleasant as the first. Finally, much against his inclination he sought refuge in Australia.

Another life began for Bala and Pathma, as civil servants there. I can speak little of that life save for my memories of a weekend spent with him. He was a staunch supporter of the Army and Navy Club, which must have given him a service atmosphere. Without children, however, life had lost its flavour.

The events in Sri Lanka upset them. Each, in turn, brought their mothers to Australia and looked after them till they passed away. They looked after their brothers, their nephews and nieces unselfishly. But the lack of children and the sorrow at what was happening here were too much, and life became bitter for him. Ill-health in retirement is not pleasant. To the end he remained a hard worker in the senior citizens' groups, working for others, as always. When we heard of his last illness, there was little we could do: telephone calls, last-minute letters and common naval friends in Australia who went to see him, for us.

No man, not even an Arahat, can avoid the consequences of his karmic past, as Bala understood well. But he who follows downstream from Bala will, I know, benefit from all the selfless good that Bala generated all throughout his life.
Anicca vata sankara
Somasiri Devendra

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