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Religions of the world

Caodaism ("Kingdom of Heaven"):
A Vietnamese-centered religion

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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.:
bullet 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.
bullet 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
bullet 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 Caodaism.

With the unification of Viet Nam in 1975, the Caodaists' activities were restricted by the Communist government. Their Cuu Trung Dai (executive body) and Hiep 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.

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bullet 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.
bullet Animals and humans have two components:
bullet a visible, physical body and
bullet an invisible component which is composed of:
bullet a spirit (conscience) which is part of God's spirit, and
bullet a soul (or perispirit) which is responsible for emotions and personality
bullet 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 self".
bullet They believe in Karma -- the belief that one's future lives are greatly influenced by deeds practiced in this life.
bullet 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.


bullet Members are instructed in their responsibilities to self, family, society and all of humanity. Separation from honors, riches and luxury is promoted.
bullet Caodaists worship and adore God, venerate Superior spirits and worship their ancestors.
bullet Within Caodaism, there are two sects:
bullet Exoterism: in which one's duties (while conducting a normal family life) are to:
bullet practice good and avoid evil
bullet show kindness to humans, other species, plants and nature
bullet follow the Confucian:
bullet three duties: (between king and citizen, father and child, husband and wife), and
bullet five virtues (humanity, obligation, civility, knowledge, reliability).
bullet Esoterism, practiced by the Chieu-Minh Vo Vi sect which:
bullet practice meditation
bullet practice "eradication of the inferior self" and develop the divine element.
bullet At their altar, they worship:
bullet God as symbolized by the Divine Eye
bullet Sakyamuni who represents Buddhism
bullet Lao Tse who represents Taoism
bullet Jesus Christ who represents Christianity
bullet Confucius who represents Confucianism
bullet Khuong Thai Cong who represents Geniism
bullet 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."
bullet They recognize three saints:
bullet Sun-Yat-Sen (1866-1925), leader of the Chinese Revolution of 1911.
bullet Victor Hugo (1802-1885), French poet and author.
bullet Trang Trinh (1492-1587), Vietnamese poet and prophet.
bullet Followers are expected to follow three rules:
bullet Pray at least once per day, at 6 AM, noon, 6 PM, and/or midnight.
bullet Eat from a vegetarian diet at least ten days each month
bullet Observe five interdictions:
bullet Do not kill living beings
bullet Do not be dishonest
bullet Do not commit adultery
bullet Do not get drunk
bullet Do not sin by word
bullet 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.


bullet An American contact group is the CAO DAI Association of Washington DC Metro Area, 14611 Country Creek Lane, North Potomac MD, 20878. Telephone is (301) 424-3326
bullet The Sydney Centre for Studies in Caodaism maintains a home page at:
bullet Hum Dac Bui, "Caodaism, A Novel Religion", Hum Dac Bui, Redlands CA (1992)
bullet Tourism Service of the Tayninh Holy See, "An Outline of Caodaism", Chan Tam, Redlands CA (1994)

Site navigation: Home page > World religions > here

Copyright 1997 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Latest update: 2009-OCT-07
Author: B.A. Robinson

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