Caodaism ("Kingdom of Heaven"):
A Vietnamese-centered religion
Dao Cao Dai (Caodaism in English) is the third largest religion in Viet Nam (after
Buddhism and Roman Catholicism). "Cao" means "high"; "Dai"
means "palace". Caodai refers to the supreme palace where God reigns
-- that is the Kingdom of Heaven. The word
is also used as God's symbolic name.
Caodaism is a syncretistic religion which combines elements from many of the world's
main religions, including Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism,
Taoism, as well as Geniism, an indigenous religion of Viet Nam.
Their main religious center is in Tay Ninh, about 60 miles (100 km) North West of Saigon. They
currently have 7 to 8 million followers in Viet Nam and about 30,000 members elsewhere,
primarily in Asia, Australia, Canada, Europe and the United States.
They regard the history of religion as being divided into three periods of revelation.
The first was circa 2500 BCE, when God inspired selected religious leaders to found
Judaism in the Middle East, Hinduism in India and Yi king (philosophy of transformation)
in China. A few thousand years later, God led the Buddha to found Buddhism, Lao Tse to
create Taoism, Confucius to start Confucianism, and Jesus Christ to found Christianity.
They believe that, due to the frailty of those religious leaders, the truth became
distorted. A number of religions were formed, but most flourished only in or near their
countries of origin. Religions became adapted to the needs of individual cultures.
Limitations in communication and transportation prevented the formation of a single, true
universal religion which all of humanity could embrace. Followers of Caodaism believe that
God was concerned that the multiplicity of religions prevented people from living together
in harmony. God decided to initiate a third revelation, in which he communicated Caodaism
by spiritist means.
Ngo Van Chieu, a civil servant of the Cochinchina government began to receive
messages from a spirit called Duc Cao Dai (pronounced: Duk Kow Dye), whom he
believed to be God. After three years of studying and worshipping God, he shared his
spiritual discoveries with others in Saigon. At the end of the year At Suu (1926
CE), Cao Dai instructed a small group of mediums to found a new religion. One of the
mediums, Le Van Trung was named by God to be acting Giao Tong (Pope).
Caodaism was formally founded on 1926-SEP-26 by a group of 247 disciples.
Spiritism (called Spiritualism in England) is the method that God chose to
transmit this new religion to humanity. Simple mechanical devices were used as a means of
communication between spirit beings and humans. e.g.:
a small movable platform on a Ouija board which is lightly touched by two or more
mediums. During a s'ance, the platform is seen to move around the board and point to
various letters, numbers and words.
a small table which the mediums touch lightly. During a s'ance, the table is observed to
tip and tap on the floor. The number of taps would indicate a specific letter
a Ngoc co (basket with a beak), which consists of a wicker basket with a radiating stick
about 26 inches long; a pen is attached near the end of the stick. In use, two mediums
hold the basket; the apparatus moves and its pen writes out messages which are interpreted
by a third person and written down by a secretary. This is a very efficient method of
communication, because words are directly written. It is the preferred method used in
With the unification of Viet Nam in 1975, the Caodaists' activities were
restricted by the Communist government. Their Cuu Trung Dai (executive body) and
Thien Dai (legislative body) were abolished and replaced with a Governing Council
under the direct control of the government. Rituals and ceremonies continued without
government interference. A new order dawned in mid-1997, when the religion received
official sanction from the government.
In the beginning was God, formless, nameless, unchangeable and all powerful. God divided
His spirit into many parts, and created the universe, world, and its plants, animals and
material components; each contains a part of God's spirit.
Animals and humans have two components:
a visible, physical body and
an invisible component which is composed of:
a spirit (conscience) which is part of God's spirit, and
a soul (or perispirit) which is responsible for emotions and personality
They believe in reincarnation where a person experiences a series of lives. One can
break free of the reincarnation cycle by "cultivating self and finding God in
They believe in Karma -- the belief that one's future lives are greatly
influenced by deeds practiced in
If a person accumulates excessive negative Karma they will live another life after their death.
Large amount of Karma debt will cause them to be reincarnated onto another planet which is
much colder, darker and miserable. If they have purified themselves spiritually, and
fulfilled all of their duties, they may reincarnate to another, happier life on earth. Or
they might attain Heaven or Nirvana.
Members are instructed in their responsibilities to self, family, society and all of
humanity. Separation from honors, riches and luxury is promoted.
Caodaists worship and adore God, venerate Superior spirits and worship
Within Caodaism, there are two sects:
Exoterism: in which one's duties (while conducting a normal family life) are to:
practice good and avoid evil
show kindness to humans, other species, plants and nature
follow the Confucian:
three duties: (between king and citizen, father and child, husband and wife), and
five virtues (humanity, obligation, civility, knowledge, reliability).
Esoterism, practiced by the Chieu-Minh Vo Vi sect which:
practice "eradication of the inferior self" and develop the divine
At their altar, they worship:
God as symbolized by the Divine Eye
Sakyamuni who represents Buddhism
Lao Tse who represents Taoism
Jesus Christ who represents Christianity
Confucius who represents Confucianism
Khuong Thai Cong who represents Geniism
They venerate statues of Li Tai Pe, (representing Taoism), Quan Am Bo Tat
(representing Buddhism) and Quan Thanh De Quan (representing Confucianism). These
are considered the three "Lords of the Earth."
They recognize three saints:
Sun-Yat-Sen (1866-1925), leader of the Chinese Revolution of 1911.
Victor Hugo (1802-1885), French poet and author.
Trang Trinh (1492-1587), Vietnamese poet and prophet.
Followers are expected to follow three rules:
Pray at least once per day, at 6 AM, noon, 6 PM, and/or midnight.
Eat from a vegetarian diet at least ten days each month
Observe five interdictions:
Do not kill living beings
Do not be dishonest
Do not commit adultery
Do not get drunk
Do not sin by word
Caodaism recognizes 9 ranks of members: Pope, Censor Cardinal, Cardinal, Archbishop
Bishop, Priest, Student Priest, Subdignitaries and Followers. Women are limited to the
level of Cardinal and below.
An American contact group is the CAO DAI Association of Washington DC Metro
Country Creek Lane, North Potomac MD, 20878. Telephone is (301) 424-3326