Sir Cyril de Zoysa’s contribution to uplifting Buddha Sasana


by Ven. Tirikunamala Ananda Thera

The 116th birth anniversary of Sir Cyril de Zoysa who made a immense contribution for the upliftment of the Buddha Sasana in recent time falls today. This article is in respect of the commemoration.

Dullabho purisajanno

Na so sabbaththaa jayathi

Yaththa so jayathi dheero

Than kulan sukhamedhathi

Human beings who possess great virtues are rare. The above stanza, according to the Buddha’s word, means that if such a person is born in a generation or society, that generation or society will prosper. In this context, Sir Cyril de Zoysa, the benefactor was a wise and virtuous person whom we could really appreciate was a great personality, expertise, self confidence, wealth, far sighted knowledge, patriotism, business skills, lover of Buddhism, the man of the era, was born on the 26th of October 1896. Solomon de Zoysa, the Notary and Harriot de Zoysa who resided at Balapitiya, Welitara, Thotamune Kankanam Gedera were his parents.

He received his education at S. Thomas’ College, Matara, Richmond College, Galle, Royal College, Colombo and passed the Cambridge Senior Examination in 1916, entered the Law College and entered into the legal profession. He started his legal career in his village itself and before long he had to serve in Kalutara Courts as a Counsel. This transfer made a remarkable change in the lifestyle of young lawyer, Cyril de Zoysa.

At that time the historical and sacred Bo-tree at Kalutara was unsafe and not in a good condition. The environment was unfavourable that no devotee was able to worship freely. The British Government Agent had ordered the police to chase away the devotees who come there to offer flowers and light oil lamps. The young lawyer who had great faith in the Triple Gem observed this with sorrow. Despite objections, he made a mal-asana (flower trays) under the Bo-tree to offer flowers and later built four mal-asanas. It was after this that the devotees who went away in fear got the opportunity to offer a flower or light an oil lamp.

It may be that, while he was working as an eminent lawyer, he focussed his attention on the commercial sector with the intention of developing the sacred Bo-tree at Kalutara. The bus company which he started by the name of ‘Swarnapali’ was later changed into ‘South Western Bus Company’ and expanded into a company having 300 buses. Cyril de Zoysa who cultivated the habit of making donations to the sacred Bo-tree in every bus journey, utilised all this money for the purpose of developing the Kalutara sacred Bo-tree.

Sir Cyril who bought the circuit bungalow on the hill in front of the sacred Bo-tree and the Kachcheri on the right with its premises constructed a wonderful and attractive Dagoba on the hill and made it a place of worship. On looking at the attractive view at "Bodhirajaramaya"- the quiet environment - the immense benefit deeds of meritorious intentions. Sir Cyril de Zoysa is comparable to none other than Anepidu Sitanan, the benefactor. In order to maintain this Bodhiraja premises after his death for the benefit of the Sasana and society, Venerable Madihe Pannaseeha Thera who always appreciated the noble service of Sir Cyril once mentioned, that anyone would understand how wise it was to establish a Trust to be in charge of the Bodhi by Sir Cyril who was far sighted.

On the 1st of January 1958, the South Western Bus Company was nationalised by the Government. It was one instance that showed well what a gentleman he was. He handed over the number of buses he had with all depots, sub depots and infrastructure after repairing all the buses with new tyres and filling the tanks of the buses with fuel. This shows how much he loved the country and the people.

Sir Cyril, when he was often attacked, was unshaken and became more and more self confident. He thought that all losses incurred were blessings. He proved the wise saying that "a nation that does not make new things will not rise", and he was fortunate enough to become the proprietor of five companies.

In 1941, he became the Chairman of Kalutara UC and later he was appointed to the Senate where he served for 6 years as Vice President and 8 years as President showed well his far sighted, political maturity and wisdom.

Sir Cyril who was appointed as Chairman YMBA Borella gave life to its onward march for progress. He constructed the hall there at his own cost and also made the YMBA building at Fort a large complex. Through his representation, various social institutions like Maha Bodhi Society, All Island Buddhist Association, Parama Vinnanartha Association, Boys’ Scout Association, Prevention of Tuberculosis campaign of Sri Lanka, Ceylon Deaf and Blind Association, Bar Association, Sinhalese Sports Club, Child Protection Association and a series of services of national and social level flourished. He was the President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka for nine years. He converted his "Brooklyn" residence into Kalutara Balika Vidyalaya. He was the founder of Buddhist College Kalutara Vidyalaya.

It was as a result of Sir Cyril de Zoysa’s perseverance, courage and wealth contribution that Kirivehera Dagoba at Kataragama was renovated and the surrounding area that was dark with jungle trees was cleared and made bright as a sacred place of worship. Not only did he fix a large generator to illuminate the whole sacred place of Kataragama, but also provided facilities for resting for pilgrims who visit the place. Not only this, he made big contributions for the renovations and development activities of Kande Viharaya at Aluthgama, Sri Vajiraramaya Bambalapitiya, Saddharmakara Privena at Pinwatte, Kuppiyawatte Temple, Gangaramaya, Bellanwila Raja Maha Viharaya and many other temples.

Sir Cyril de Zoysa will go in Sri Lanka’s Sasana history as a person who rendered yeoman service, bringing the Bhikkus of Amarapura Nikaya which was spread into twenty two sectors into one Sangha Sabha. In 1956 within three days after Venerable Pannaseeha Thera became the Mahanayake of Amarapura Sri Dharma Rakshitha Maha Nikaya, Sir Cyril de Zoysa who was then the President of the Senate, met the new Mahanayaka Thera and requested him to amalgamate the Amarapura Nikaya which was spread into twenty two sectors. For this purpose transport facilities were provided to go to all temples for discussions. The matter was discussed by our Maha Nayaka Thera with Ven. Kapugama Sumanawansa Thera, Ven. Weligama Gnanaratane Thera and all other responsible monks. By this time, as the background was set by Ven. Akurala Seelawansa Thera and Ven. Kogoda Pannaseeha Thera, this matter became fairly easy. Before long all parts of Amarapura Nikaya were amalgamated and the united Amarapura Sangha Sabha was established.

Sir Cyril was a man of the era with high reputation in history. This great benefactor with past meritorious actions, expertise, business management skills, who earned a great wealth righteously spent all this for the upliftment of the Buddha Sasana and social welfare and passed away on 2nd of January 1978 peacefully.

This great person realised what life is. He realised the temporary value of wealth. At the peak of his life, what he had expressed in the following statement indicates a great saying of a follower of the Buddha:

"Now I am free. Whatever wealth you may have, it is useless. I was born without any wealth. I die without any wealth. My joy, my consolation, my strength is Buddha Dhamma. As long as I live God will protect me".


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