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
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.
part of his life from his childhood. His family lived the Buddhist
way of life.
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.
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.
make offerings to this shrine, with Kalutara's Sacred Bodhi Tree,
becoming a landmark not only for Buddhists but for people of all
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.
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
too he achieved success. He was the Vice-President of the Senate
for six years and President for eight. He was conferred a Knighthood.
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. 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.
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!
Sailor on the
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!
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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