.: The Triple-Fold Path in CaoDai  

To assist the disciple in attaining peace in this life and liberation afterwards, CaoDai faith offers the Triple-Fold Path which consists of Công Quả or service to humanity, Công Trình or self-cultivation, and Công Phu or return to the Inner Self by meditation.

We shall explain each component of the Path and then why it is important to practice them together.

a- Công quả: Service to humanity

Service to humanity is our practical contribution to the well being of humanity. In CaoDai, it in fact extends to the whole universe. Since human beings can be seen as constituted of three aspects, the physical, the emotional and the spiritual aspects, service can be rendered at those three planes.

At the physical plane, we send to the needy with food, clothing, shelter, we help build houses, hospitals, school, temples, and churches. For the comfort of the mind and the emotions, we offer words of encouragement, understanding assurance. At the spiritual level, we share teachings of morality, duty, scriptures, encourage the person to lead a virtuous life.

Service is provided unconditionally without waiting for rewards. It comes spontaneously from our love for the person and the universe. It helps us pay our previous life’s karmic debt.

CaoDai holy message professes: “You do not need to seek for great philosophy: just look at the life of your human companions and try to serve and nurture it. If you serve humanity with all your heart, the gate of heaven is already open to you.... If you have not paid all your karmic debt and have not accrued enough merit (service to humanity), you cannot become enlightened. In order to be enligtened, you must first accrue enough merit by spreading the Tao, guiding and serving human beings.” CSCDHM 2015, p. 148

b- Công Trình: Self-cultivation:

Self-cultivation is a self discipline in controlling our secular emotions arising from desires, hatred, jealousy, anger, fear... We remind ourselves everyday of improving our demeanor, our behavior, our attitude so as to bring forward love and harmony. Self-cultivation gives the perseverance in our acts of service to humanity and our effort in returning to our inner self through meditation. Self-cultivation is that courage that gives us strength to surmount difficulties while we search for the calm for our meditation. It is a necessary discipline for the success of the other two parts of the Triple Fold Path.

c- Công phu: Return to Inner Self.

Our goal in our spiritual journey is to return to our divine origin. Meditation constitutes a necessary exercise to find the divine Essence in ourselves.

We all inherit a spark of the Divine’s Spirit. In order to unveil that spirit spark, we need to silence our secular attchments and its noisy emotions. “Phàm tâm lặng lẻ, Thánh tâm sanh” or “when the human heart is out, the divine heart will surface.” If we practice the service to humanity and the self-cultivation without the return to inner self, we shall miss the discovery of our sublime nature, of our divine origin.

d- The Triple Fold Path realization

Practicing all the three aspects of the Triple Fold Path forms the basis for our peace during this life. It constitutes the meeting of exoterism (service to humanity) and the esoterism (meditation) with the self-cultivation riding between. It realizes “Phước Huệ Song Tu.”

Phước is the credit accrued with selfless service.

Huệ is the wisdom attained with meditation.

Song Tu means concurrent cultivation.

The CaoDai Triple Fold Path offers a practical means for the realozation of peace within and without.


“When the Triple-Fold Path is realized together,

the journey back to Divinity is completed with ease.

Service to humanity and returning to the inner self with meditation are equally important.

But without the perseverance of self-cultivation, the work will not be completed.

Meditation performed well would still be useless without the foundation of human service.

And despite service to others and self-cultivation, without meditation, charitable work would be vain.

Therefore, the Triple-Fold Path is most essential.”

Huệ Chơn, trans. PMTCTDCD, 1986, p. 15-16

Hong Dang Bui, MD

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