Sir Cyril de Zoysa and the Kalutara Bōdhi Trust
“Death comes to all but great achievements build a monument which shall endure until the sun grows cold.”
George Fabricius 1678-1707
The legacy of Sir Cyril de Zoysa, the founder of the Kalutara Bōdhi Trust, is every bit a monument which shall certainly endure until the sun grows cold. He was simply a colossus whose endless and multifaceted list of achievements sets him apart as one of the truly great sons of Sri Lanka. Indeed, few can match his accomplishments in the spheres of religion, politics, commerce and of course, philanthropy.
Sir Cyril was born on 26th October 1896, the second of five children to Solomon de Zoysa, Notary Public and Harriet de Abrew, who hailed from Balapitiya, on the West Coast of Sri Lanka. He schooled at St. Thomas’s College, Matara, Richmond College, Galle and Royal College, Colombo, before entering Law College.
As a young man, Sir Cyril displayed a single-minded capacity for excellence and hard work in diverse fields of interest, in all of which he excelled. He was a supremely vibrant and confident person who feared none. Nor did he fear a challenge. Indeed, he faced any obstacle head on, and the greater the challenge, the more resilient he became. But despite his inherent strength of character and his unwavering self-confidence, his disposition was never one of arrogance and conceit. He was simply a most persuasive man.
Sir Cyril’s accomplishments were extensive as they were varied. He was a lawyer of eminence, a Knight of the British Empire and a pioneering industrialist. He was chairman of the Swarnapali Bus Company, which subsequently became the South Western Bus Company; proprietor of two large petrol stations; founder of the Balapitiya Textile Weavers’ training and production unit; and chairman of Associated Motorways Ltd., where he inspired the setting up of several other associated businesses – all of which generated employment for scores of people.
President of the National Council of the Blind and the Deaf; Chairman of the Ceylon National Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis (CNAPT); founder of the Institute of Personnel Management; founder of a Boys’ School, Kalutara Vidyālaya and a Girls’ School, Bālika Vidyālaya, in Kalutara. He was President of the Young Men’s Buddhist Association (YMBA) for nearly 19 years from 1960 until his demise in 1978. He was the President of the Senate, the Higher Chamber of Parliament, from 1955 to 1961.
Sir Cyril also revived the London Buddhist Vihāra which was fading away into oblivion. He led the way in obtaining a four-storey building in Ovington Gardens, London, on a ten-year lease and the Vihāra re-opened for Vesak in 1954. Sir Cyril himself underwrote the annual rent of £700.00 for the full ten years. The Buddhist revival ushered in by Anagārika Dharmapāla, inspired the common man of the land and this culminated in the cultural resurgence of 1956. Sir Cyril was very much inspired as well and he became actively involved in pursuing these ideals of the time.
Sir Cyril’s life-time achievements left an indelible mark on his country. The effects of his remarkable work will surely be felt for generations to come. Arguably, the pinnacle of his accomplishments was the restoration and protection of the Kalutara Bōdhi, culminating in the construction of the magnificent caitya beside the picturesque Kalu Ganga (Black River).