The Bodhi Gnana Library is the latest project designed to cater to the million readers in Kalutara District, which consist of schoolchildren of about 600 schools, Samanera Bhikkus and students of 50 Pirivenas, students of numerous Dhamma Schools and for those who are in work places.
The Kalutara Bodhi Trust founded and fostered by the well-known philanthropist, Sir Cyril de Zoysa, provides an array of services to the people. The idyllic Bodhi premises provide ample opportunity for devotees to engage in their religious observances and for those inclined to meditation.
The famous Australian monk the Ven. Ajahn Brahmavanso conducted a session on medication here recently. The latest project undertaken by the Trust is the setting up of a library.
The Bodhi premises are an ideal setting for the devotees in search of spiritual peace. The majestic Bodhi tree with its luxuriant foliage towering above the vast expanse of the waters of the Kaluganga is one main attraction.
Thousands of devotees congregate daily to worship the Bodhi tree in veneration, for it is under a Bodhi tree, the Buddha attained enlightenment.
Pilgrims from all over the country often on their ‘Vata Vandana’ (pilgrimage round the Island) throng this site to perform rituals, while hardly a vehicle passes the place without stopping to drop a coin as a donation.
On an elevation on the land side is the huge Chaitya overlooking the beautiful river and rising starkly upwards to the heavens.
This Chaitya which happens to be an extraordinary architectural feat designed by the celebrated Sri Lankan engineer Dr. A.N.S. Kulasingha housed inside its great dome is a shrine to be reached by ascending a staircase.
Here, there is a smaller dagoba at the centre and several Buddha statues in meditative posture around it, while the inner wall of the dome is decorated with murals depicting the previous births of the Buddha, reminding the devotee the ‘Samsaric Journey’ made by the great teacher.
Within the premises on the land side is a Bodhi tree on a beautiful terrace on the same level as the Chaitya with its adjoining Dharmasala (Preaching Hall on a lower land bordering the main road) is the image house with a magnificent Buddha statue and the Ananda Bodhiya which is believed to have been an offshoot of the original sacred Bodhi tree in India.
The founder Sir Cyril de Zoysa, lawyer by profession, one time Chairman of the Kalutara UC and later Chairman of the Senate, pioneered the preservation of the Bodhi tree. Subsequently, the Kalutara Bodhi Trust was established in 1951.
Since then the services rendered by the Trust ably led by this great patriot, are innumerable.
Supporting the ordination and education of novices (Samanera Bhikkhus), providing books to them, maintaining a sick ward for the Sangha at the Kalutara, Nagoda Base Hospital, donation of houses to the tsunami victims, conducting weekly sermons and meditation programmes, releasing cattle ear-marked for slaughter are some of the noteworthy services provided by the trust, currently chaired by Ajita De Zoysa, nephew of Sir Cyril De Zoysa.
The objectives laid out include promoting a reading culture in the society, guiding readers to acquire knowledge and skills necessary for effective living, promoting research and exchange of ideas in social, economic, educational and cultural spheres implementing projects related to community development, building up an environment conducive infrastructure to inculcate democratic ideals in people thereby enabling them to play useful roles in the community and helping promote peace and harmony in our plural society.
The Library is housed in a spacious two-storied building on the Colombo-Galle Road in Kalutara North with convenient access from any part of the District.
Three major goals of the library are, firstly, to broad base its subscribers by strategies such as research, seminars, workshops etc. conducted by well-known intellectuals, secondly, promoting comradeship among all ethnic groups by means of community development activities and thirdly, provision of facilities to acquire a good working knowledge of English. To achieve these targets a programme of work is being planned.
There are two projects, short term and long term. Short term projects will last a maximum period of one week with tentative subject areas like dictionary use, browsing in the library to obtain information, learning about classification of books.
Long term projects like the history of the Kalutara Bodhi, construction of the twin bridges spanning Kaluganga the history of temples and other religious places in Kalutara, ancient buildings in the area, the development of education in Kalutara, Pirivena education in the area.
The acquisition of books for the library is effected through several channels. Apart from what is directly purchased by the Trust itself, donations from various quarters, are anticipated in order to augment the collection.
A considerable quantity of books has already been donated by Lak Saviya Incorporated, an organization of Sri Lankans in Sydney, Australia. This humanitarian endeavour by Sri Lankans abroad enhances the quality of education and thereby upgrade the standard of life of their compatriots.
Their generosity displayed by donating 15,000 books to the Bodhi Gnana library together with an assurance of further held is an act deserving high commendation from all Sri Lankans particularly the reading public, who will benefit by the new library. Asia Foundation too has donated a large consignment of books of very high quality.
Individuals who wish to contribute may donate books either by purchasing them or from their private collections. It is a meritorious act of encouraging the development of wisdom and the committee earnestly appeals to the public to contribute their might to this great intellectual crusade.
The trail blazed by Sir Cyril De Zoysa remains to be trod upon by generations, born and unborn. His brother, later Chairman of the Trust, Advocate V.T. de Zoysa ably continued with the work.
Today his son, Ajita de Zoysa together with his team of Trustees keeps the flame not merely flickering but fully ablaze with old programmes sustained and new ones in place. The newest is the library. A library is a source of knowledge. It is knowledge that keeps the vision sharp.