AGAMPODI PAULUS DE ZOYSA was born 80 year ago on April 5. in a small house, which still stands by the sea In Rendombe near Ambalangoda. He died on a Poya day two Years ago, working till the till the day of his last book an abridged edition of the Majjhima NikŒya.
It was his ambition, to produce the whole of the Buddhist xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx so that all could read it. Many parts of the Buddhist Scriptures had been translated, both into English and Sinhalese from the original Pall texts, but this was the first attempt to translate the whole work.
It took over 20 years-and ran Into 48 volumes. After printing the Sinhalese Tripitaka in its complete form, Dr. de Zoysa started on a shorter edition which he hoped to compress into about ten volumes, but he only got as far as the first two books. The Digha NikŒya and the Majjhima NikŒya.
Besides his MAGNUM OPUS the Tripitaka, he compiled and printed in 1948, his English - Sinhala Dictionary and also a cheaper, concise edition of this for the benefit of school children. In the following year his Sinhala Dictionary in two volumes, appeared. A second enlarged edition of this was Published in 1967 in three volumes. This colossal task put a severe strain on him and he spent three months in hospital but made a remarkable recovery and went straight back to his printing press.
As a child Dr. de Zoysa had his first lessons in the temple, writing his letters in the sand and learning his religion from the bhikkhus. Later he attended Mahinda College. Galle, and came under the influence of its dedicated principal, F. L. Woodward. His next move was to Wesley College in Colombo where he proved to be not only a good student but also a keen sportsman, besides being something of an actor.
After some time in a teachers' training college he was appointed Art Master at Royal College but soon decided to go to England for further studies. He had made some money out of a book on mathematics and with the help of his uncle was able to meet the initial cost.
Dr, de Zoysa's parents had died on the day he was eleven years old. So he had to rely on his own efforts to support himself in London. He was a born teacher and soon became a popular coach to overseas students.
He was appointed examiner in Slnhalese to the Universities of London
and Cambridge. In 1921 he was called to the Bar at Gray's Inn and
in 1929 obtained a doctorate in London University. During this time he
was active in the Buddhist movement in London, and addressed meetings in
Hyde Park and also visited Ireland and New York where he lectured
After about 15 yeas in England he returned to Ceylon. From the ship the sight of Sri Pada against a clear sky was for him a good omen. He was greeted by Bhikkhus chanting pirith and large crowds of friends and former pupils.
Poor man's lawyer
xxxx xxxx began the struggle to earn a living at the Bar and with odd jobs of teaching. He soon became known as a poor man's lawyer and when he decided to contest Colombo South in 1936 he found many good friends to help him. One of his former students, the late Mudaliyar Madanayake of Kelaniya, sent a whole fleet of buses, newly arrived from England, to take voters to the polls. Dr. de Zoysa won the election, was unseated, but was re-elected with an increased majority.
Under the Donoughmore Constitution each member Of the State Council was on a special committee with a Minister as chairman. Dr. de Zoysa joined the Education Committee. He war deeply interested in promoting a better system of education from the elementary school upwards and the granting of more scholarships to deserving students.
Soon after becoming a State Councillor he started a press, producing his own books on educational subjects including two historical plays Vihara Maha Devi and Kuveni and two volumes on ayurvedic medicine. Then he began his larger works "the Tripitaka" and "the Dictionaries"
In his spare time he made a comparative study of Christianity and Buddhism which he had always found a fascinating theme. Although an ardent Buddhist he was greatly interested in Christian teachings and his copy of the Bible was underlined at the passages which appealed to him such as "Provide neither gold nor silver nor brass for your purses." Dr. de Zoysa found a great deal that was common to the two religions and the way of life of their founders.
In the simplicity of his own life, his total unselfishness and his dedication to his work he would have been an ornament to either religion. He was a man of rare integrity and great courage, often unorthodox and obstinate as for instance in his views on social reforms.
He cared neither for praise nor for blame. He loved learning and remained a student to the end of his days. When he wanted to do something, no trouble was too great. His patience, perseverance and powers, of endurance was almost limitless
He left no money and no property, only his invaluable books and the smile that lights the faces of those who knew him whenever his name is mentioned.
By G. P. Malasekera