CaoDai, a faith of unity

This week, the Faith Column explores CaoDai. Hum D. Bui starts the series with a look at its history

In order to relieve humankind’s religious crisis, in 1926, via spiritism, the Supreme Being founded an innovative faith called CaoDai in Vietnam, with the principle that all religions are one, have the same origin and principle, and are just different manifestations of the same truth.

Because of human conflict, God has come to offer a way to bring people and religions together in harmony. CaoDai the Supreme Being said: "Formerly, people lacked transportation, and therefore did not know each other. Thus, I founded at different epochs and in different areas, five branches of the Great Way: the way of humanism, the way of Genii (or of Angels), the way of Saints, the way of Immortals, and the way of Buddhas, each based on the customs of the race. Today, transportation has been improved, and people have come to know each other better. But people do not always live in harmony because of the very multiplicity of these religions. This is why I have decided to unite all these religions into one to bring them to the primordial unity.”

In 1920, CaoDai revealed Himself to Ngo Van Chieu, the then-governor of PhuQuoc, a beautiful island in the Gulf of Siam. CaoDai informed Ngo that all the world’s religions should return to the One from which they originally sprang. This message was to be delivered to the world. Ngo asked CaoDai for permission to worship Him under a visible form. He then had a vision of the All-Seeing Eye and was subsequently ordered to use it as the symbol of CaoDai.

In mid 1925, three minor civil officials in Saigon – CaoQuynhCu, PhamCongTac, and CaoHoaiSang – were practising spiritism. One spirit contacted was unique for His outstanding virtue and knowledge. He introduced Himself as AAA. On Christmas Eve of 1925, AAA revealed that He was the Supreme Being, coming under the name of CaoDai, to teach the Way. He said: “Rejoice this day, it is the anniversary of My coming to the West to teach the Way (God came to the Middle East in the form of Yeshua - Jesus – Christ to found Christianity). This house will be filled with blessings. You will see more miracles which will lead you to further belief. For some time now, I have used the symbol AAA to lead you to religious life. You are soon to found a unique religion under My instructions.”
CaoDai structure consists of spiritual and earthly powers.

The spiritual power is the Bat Quai Dai (Eight Trigram Palace), headed by CaoDai the Supreme Being who gives orders and messages to the earth via spiritism.

The earthly power is the Cuu Trung Dai (The Nine Sphere Palace), the executive body which consists of nine ranks:
1- One Giao Tong (Pope)
2- Three Chuong Phap (Legislative Cardinals)
3- Three Dau Su (Cardinals)
4- Thirty six Phoi Su (Archbishops)
5- Seventy two Giao Su (Bishops)
6- Three thousand Giao Huu (Priests)
7- Le Sanh (Student priests)
8- Chuc Viec (Sub- Dignitaries)
9- Disciples

Besides, the Hiep Thien Dai (Heavenly Union Palace), or the legislative body has the role of mediumship communicating the Spiritual Power and the Cuu Trung Dai. It consists of:
The Ho Phap (Law Protector), head of the Hiep Thien Dai
The Thuong Pham (Head of Religious Affairs)
The Thuong Sanh (Head of Secular Affairs)

Under each of them there are four Zodiac Dignitaries for the total of 12 Zodiacal Dignitaries who can all have the ability of mediumship in the spiritism seances.

The Hiep Thien Dai is the sacred place where the Supreme Being manifests to give spiritual direction to the Cuu Trung Dai, and is also a place where the Giao Tong communicates with the Superior Spirits to ask for the salvation of humanity, and is entrusted with the maintenance and application of religious rules and laws.