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


bulletMembers are instructed in their responsibilities to self, family, society and all of humanity. Separation from honors, riches and luxury is promoted.
bulletCaodaists worship and adore God, venerate Superior spirits and worship their ancestors.
bulletWithin Caodaism, there are two sects:
bulletExoterism: in which one's duties (while conducting a normal family life) are to:
bulletpractice good and avoid evil
bulletshow kindness to humans, other species, plants and nature
bulletfollow the Confucian:
bulletthree duties: (between king and citizen, father and child, husband and wife), and
bulletfive virtues (humanity, obligation, civility, knowledge, reliability).
bulletEsoterism, practiced by the Chieu-Minh Vo Vi sect which:
bulletpractice meditation
bulletpractice "eradication of the inferior self" and develop the divine element.
bulletAt their altar, they worship:
bulletGod as symbolized by the Divine Eye
bulletSakyamuni who represents Buddhism
bulletLao Tse who represents Taoism
bulletJesus Christ who represents Christianity
bulletConfucius who represents Confucianism
bulletKhuong Thai Cong who represents Geniism
bulletThey 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."
bulletThey recognize three saints:
bulletSun-Yat-Sen (1866-1925), leader of the Chinese Revolution of 1911.
bulletVictor Hugo (1802-1885), French poet and author.
bulletTrang Trinh (1492-1587), Vietnamese poet and prophet.
bulletFollowers are expected to follow three rules:
bulletPray at least once per day, at 6 AM, noon, 6 PM, and/or midnight.
bulletEat from a vegetarian diet at least ten days each month
bulletObserve five interdictions:
bulletDo not kill living beings
bulletDo not be dishonest
bulletDo not commit adultery
bulletDo not get drunk
bulletDo not sin by word
bulletCaodaism 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.


bulletAn 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
bulletThe Sydney Centre for Studies in Caodaism maintains a home page at:
bulletHum Dac Bui, "Caodaism, A Novel Religion", Hum Dac Bui, Redlands CA (1992)
bulletTourism 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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