Established in the Southern regions of Vietnam in the early
1920s, Cao Dai seeks to create the perfect religion,
combining the beliefs of Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity,
Hinduism Confucianism and Islam. It is based in
the province of Tay Ninh, an hour away from Cu Chi and it
currently has 7 to 8 million followers in Vietnam and 30,000
around the world.
"Cao Dai is a metaphor for spiritual growth and
literally translates as high tower or palace.
Its followers believe that God was concerned that the multiplicity
of religions prevented people from living together in harmony
and so gave a third revelation through a spirit called Duc
Cao Dai. This revelation grew into Caodaism.
Its central philosophy is similar to Confucianism,
concerned with how the individual functions within society.
The follower has a duty towards themselves, their family,
the community and the world as a whole. They must not kill,
be dishonest, commit adultery, get drunk or sin by word. Similar
to Christianity and Islam, believers worship only one God
but they also look to numerous superior spirits for guidance.
Like Buddhism the faithful are expected to cultivate
their spiritual growth by breaking free of the material world
and the false impressions it gives us of reality. Only when
this is done can they achieve spiritual enlightenment. They
also believe in the system of Karma, where a good or bad act
in one life has a positive or negative effect on a being's
future existence. The clergy, made of men and women, are vegetarians,
believing that destroying other life hinders its own quest
for enlightenment and creates bad karma for themselves.
Cao Dai amounts to a religion from different customs that
most of us are familiar with. However, a seemingly unique
and essential part of the religion involves spiritual mediums
and channelers. They communicate with departed beings who
are supposed to give spiritual guidance. Some of these beings
include Joan of Arc, Lenin and Shakespeare!