COURSE ON CAODAI
Hum Dac Bui,M.D. and Hong Dang Bui,M.D.
HISTORY OF THE FOUNDING OF CAODAI.
1- HISTORY OF RELIGIONS IN VIETNAM
2- THE FOUNDING OF CAODAI- SPIRITUALISM- THE FIRST DISCIPLES.
1- Know the combination of different faiths in the worshipping of the Vietnamese folklore.
2- Learn about Spiritualism, the basic method of communication between Human and the Spiritual realm for the founding of CaoDai.
3- Know the First Four Disciples and their role in the founding of CAoDai.
I- HISTORY OF RELIGIONS IN VIETNAM
I, Hùm grew up in the midst of the CaoDai faith, among CaoDaists from parents to uncles and aunts, friends and neighbors. Their devotion, practice, peaceful and helpful way of life permeated my thinking, stirred my young mind’s interest and curiosity, as well as shaped my spirituality.
My curiosity stemmed from seeing Vietnamese households worshipping Ancestors (Confucianism), practicing a natural, quiet way of life (Taoism), as well as worshipping the Buddha and/or Jesus. In fact, my wife, Hong, was exposed daily to her grandmother venerating both the Buddhist Bodhisattva Quan Yin and the Christian Mary, Mother of Jesus on the same altar. And Grandma taught that all religions are good; it all depends on our sincere faith and practice. This interfaith exposure at a young age had not a small influence in her life. She understood, assimilated, enjoyed the principle of CaoDai unifying the five Ways of the Dao. Most of all, our relationship as husband and wife was enhanced by our common spiritual path in an encompassing faith, with our love extended to all.
The traditional Vietnamese mind and lifestyle are kind, sociable and respectful. People venerate the elders and Deities. Their mild demeanor and tolerance offered a fertile ground for interfaith already at that time in the early 20thCentury. They accepted well the Christian faith, although the major religions in Vietnam included Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism.
So, I looked into the history of religions in Vietnam, which I hope you find informative.
As stated above, the Vietnamese households combine Taoist, Confucian, Buddhist and/or Christian worshipping.
Taoism, according to CaoDai teaching, was founded in the pre-historic time by Thái Thượng ĐạoQuân, the Great Immortal of the Way of Immortals. It clearly predates Laozi (Lao Tse, 601-531BC) as the Tao Te Ching refers to "The Tao masters of antiquity" in Chapter 15. Moreover, the Yellow EmperorHuangdi (2697–2597 BCE) is often associated with the origin of the Tao. Persons who graduated and passed the examination would have an opportunity to be an official of the cabinet of the king to serve the country. Persons who did not serve the king would retire to be a local teacher and enjoy a Taoist life style. Trạng Trình Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm is a typical example, who after retiring from the highest position of the king’s cabinet (Quốc Công or National Duke), led a Taoist secluded life enjoying nature. He is one of the
three Saints in the painting of The Three Saints displayed at the entrance of all CaoDai temples.
Later,Confucius(551–479 BCE)founded Confucianism based on the I-Ching’s principle as well, and Confucianism became the humanistic or nationalistic religion, a way of governing, or simply a way of life for the country. Vietnamese are known for their reverence for elderly and ancestors, their respect for the order in family and community, a characteristic of Confucians
Buddhism first came to Viet country in the first century CE during the Han dynasty(206 BCE–220 CE) through missionaries from India. It moved to the South as early as the second century AD through the North and via Southern routes from India. Mahayana Buddhismfirst spread from China to Vietnam’s Red River Delta around 300 AD. Theravada Buddhismarrived from India into the southern Mekong Delta region between 300-600 AD. Buddhism as practiced by the ethnic Vietnamese is mainly of the Mahayana school (altruistic practice as embodied by Bodhisattvas), although some ethnic minorities (such as the Khmer Krom in the southern Delta region of Vietnam) adhere to the Theravada school (meditative practice).
Buddhist practice in Vietnam differs from that of other Asian countries, and does not contain the same institutional structures, hierarchy, or sangha that exist in other traditional Buddhist settings. It has instead grown from a symbiotic relationship with Taoism, Chinese spirituality, and the indigenous Vietnamese religion venerating ancestors (Confucianism), with the majority of Buddhist practitioners focusing on devotional rituals rather than meditation (Mahayana Buddhism).
The triple religion(Vietnamese:tam giáo), referring to the syncretic combination of Mahayana Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Vietnamese folk religion (often assimilated), remain a strong influence on the beliefs and practices of the Vietnamese, even if the levels of formal membership in these religious communities may not reflect that influence. One of the most notable and universal spiritual practices common to Vietnamese is ancestor veneration, a practice shared with Chinese and most other Asian cultures. Practically all Vietnamese, regardless of formal religious affiliation, have an altar in their home or business where prayers are offered to their ancestors. These offerings and practices are done frequently during important traditional or religious celebrations (e.g. death anniversary), the starting of a new business, or even when a family member needs guidance or counsel. Belief in ghosts and spirits is common.
Roman Catholicism entered Vietnam through Catholic missionaries in the 16th century and strengthened its influence when Vietnam was a French colony.
Having arrived there, about the year 1627, the Catholics developed their activities in many fields. Their activities were helped by the printing of the first Vietnamese Bible in 1651, and the growing influence of several individuals, who were welcomed in certain powerful circles. Jesuit missionary Alexandre De Rhodes created an alphabet for the Vietnamese language in the 17th century from the Latin script. Today, it is the official writing system, referred to as Quốc Ngữ (or, "National Language") that replaces totally the original characters toward the 1920s.
Islam would not become widespread among the Cham until the mid-17th century. In the mid-19th century, many Muslim Chams emigrated from Cambodia and settled in the Mekong Delta region, further bolstering the presence of Islam in Vietnam.
Adherence to Hinduism in Vietnam is associated with the Cham ethnic minority; the first religion of the Champa kingdom was a form of Shaivite Hinduism, brought by sea from India. The Cham people erected Hindu temples (Bimong) throughout Central Vietnam, many of which are still in use today.
Judaism: The first Jewsto visit Vietnam likely arrived following the French colonization of the country, in the latter half of the 19th century. There are a handful of references to Jewish settlement in Saigon sprinkled through the pages of the Jewish Chroniclein the 1860s and 1870s.As late as 1939, the estimated combined population of the Jewish communities in French Indochina numbered approximately 1,000 individuals.
The introduction of the Bahá'íFaith in Vietnam first occurred in the 1920s; it was mentioned by Abdul Baha as a potential destination for Bahá'í teachers.
In the 1920s, CaoDai was founded by spiritualism by the spirit of God with the principle that all religions have the same divine origin, which is the Supreme Being, the same teaching based on love and justice, and are just diverse manifestations of one same beautiful truth. The goal of CaoDai is to bring religions together (reinforcing the three teachings of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, or tam giáo,and the unification of the five ways of the Tao) in harmony and peace to realize peace among humanity (nhơn đạo thái bình) and spiritual liberation (thiên đạo giải thoát).
Long-established religions in Vietnam include the Vietnamese folk religion, which has been historically structured by the teachings of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism from China (called the three teachings or tam giáo). According to official statistics from the government, as of 2014 there were 24 million people identified with one of the recognized organized religions, out of a population of 90 million. Of these, 11 million were Buddhists (12.2%), 6.2 million were Catholics (6.9%), 4.4 million were CaoDaists(4.8%), 1.4 million Protestants (1.6%), 1.3 million HoaHaoists(1.4%), 75,000 Muslims, 7,000 Baha’is, 1,500 Hindus, and other smaller groups
In conclusion, the basis of the three religions together with the veneration of ancestors make Vietnam a country widely accepting diverse religions including Abrahamic faiths, paving the way to the founding of CaoDai, which embraces all religions in the interest of lasting peace and harmony between religions and all humanity.
II- SPIRITUALISM- THE FOUNDING OF CAODAI FAITH- THE FIRST DISCIPLES.
Before addressing spiritualism in CaoDai, let us search into spiritualism through time. Following is a succinct account of spiritualism in the world.
Spiritualism has existed in one form or another since the dawn of history, and has been defined as, "the belief or doctrine that the spirits of the dead, surviving after mortal life, can and do communicate with the living, especially through a person (a medium) particularly susceptible to their influence." (The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, Second Edition Unabridged, 1983).Human beings have long believed in the existence of a spiritual dimension, from which spirits can assist human beings by guiding them to a better and safer life. Many times, after receiving guidance from the spiritual world, humans established religious organizations in order to guide people to a happy and peaceful physical and spiritual life.Spirituality means related with the spirit, not as in ghosts, but as in the essence of being human — your soul or your inner life. Spirituality often has to do with religion, but it doesn't have to. ... Religions usually have defined beliefs, rituals, and guidelines, which spirituality tends to forego.
In Asia, even before the time of the Buddha (about 5,000 years BC), the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, the Vedas, were originally channeled poetic hymns from the Gods, heard by the sages. They were preserved orally with distinct hand movements, sung in birdlike pitches, and handed down father to son in exacting form for hundreds of generations before written language.
In 2,300 B.C, according to the Old Testament, Abraham received a direct message from God. The Lord said to Abraham: "Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you." And Abraham left and set out for the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:1-6).
In the 14th to 13th century B.C., Moses received instructions directly from God on Horeb, the mountain of God, to guide the Israelites out of Egypt. (Exodus 3: 6-11).
Then the Bible says that Jesus went up to the mountain to commune with Moses and Elias. (Doyle, M.D.: The History of Spiritualism. Arno Press. 1975). Jesus, after being baptized by St John the Baptist, heard the voice of God descending to him as a light: "this is My Son, whom I love." (Matthew 3:17).
In 610 A.D. Muhammadreceived messages from Allah to found Islam for the Arab people. The Angel Gabriel appeared before him and ordered him to read:
"Recite [Actual translation of the Arabic verb "Iqra'"]: In the name of thy Lord who createth man from a clot. Recite: And it is thy Lord the most bountiful who teacheth by the pen. Teacheth man that which he knew not."(Surah 9: 1-5).
Much later, in the 15th century, Joan of Arc (1412-1431) followed the instructions of the voices from Saints and Angelsand successfully defeated the English forces, restoring the King of France, Charles VII, to the throne. Later, Joan of Arc's spirit appeared in CaoDai spiritualism under the name of the 6th Lady Immortal.
Then Joseph Smith, in America(1805-1844), received messages from the Angel Moroni, who guided him to find the scriptures on golden plates. . He founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons). (Hastings. With the Tongue of Men and Angels. 1991. p. 191).
In 1850, Allen Kardec(1804-1869) (whose real name was M. Hippolyte Leon Denizard Rivail), investigated American spirit manifestations through the mediumship of two daughters of a friend.
At about the same time, Victor Hugo received spiritual messages by table tipping séance while he was at Jersey island. The message explained about the purpose of life:
The universe is a school for spirits
Who attend it to increase their erudition
Those who often play truant
Must take the year again.
(Gobron: The History and Philosophy of CaoDaism, 1950, p. 57).
In 1892, through Nao Deguchi,an illiterate Japanese woman, the deity Ushitora no Konjin gave the scriptures of Oomoto by means of the Ofudesaki (the tip of the writing brush). Deity Ushitora no Konjin is believed to be the spirit of Ly Thai Bach, the famous Chinese poet LiPo of the Tang dynasty, and the spiritual Giáo Tông (pope) of CaoDai.
Other Examples of Spiritualism include:
Oahspe, a New Bible, The Urantia Book, A Course in Miracles
Edgar Cayce, Dorothy Jane Roberts, Earlyne Chaney and her husband (with Astara), Ruth Montgomery
Spiritualism in CaoDai
In- regards to spiritualism, the Bui family respectfully received a remarkable experience, which we cannot omit to share with our dear reader/listener:
My grandfather, a high dignitary of Minh Su (a faith that had spread from South China to Vietnam in approximately the 18thcentury, had ten children, who all eventually devoted themselves to spiritual life. Among the nine sons and the unique youngest daughter, the first four (including my father, the fourth son known as number five, since the first born is customarily called the second, reserving the number one to the father or the king) attended classic Sino-Vietnamese schools. The younger ones attended French institutions, including my uncle number six, whose name is Bùi Đắc Nhựơng.
Skeptical Nhựơng did not believe in religion, in particular in CaoDai as the first four brothers did. On coming home from school one day, he found his older brothers trained in Sino-Vietnamese performing a spiritual séance. As a challenge, he wrote a question in French and put it in his pocket. To his astonishment, the answer came in French from younger brother, number seven, who had passed. Upon this experience, Nhựơng converted to CaoDai, practiced conscientiously, and eventually reached the rank of Cardinal, a rank which was the highest in the family. His holy name was Ngọc Nhựơng Thanh.
Spiritualism forms the basis of CaoDai Faith. It is the solemn communication of Human with the Higher Spiritual Realm, with God and the Deities. It is to be taken seriously:
The Medium or the person who receives Spiritual Teaching needs to be fully vegetarian, pure, of at most calmness and devotion to the Dao. He/She is detached from worldly matters and emotions.
The audience, i.e. the persons who attend the seance of spiritualism need also to be pure and calm, non-attached to worldly matters and emotions.
The seance is for learning the Dao. No personal questions, no personal gains are to be allowed.
Interpretation of the authenticity of Higher Spiritual communication relies on the genuinity of the medium, the morality of the teachings, the degree of sophistication of the message, the equanimity for all.
Hereafter, we offer you the spiritualism at the foundation of the CaoDai faith:
In 1926, CaoDai,a novel faith founded in Vietnam via spiritualism with the goal to bring harmony to religions and subsequently peace to humanity, was established by direct instruction from God. The Supreme Being said: "Formerly, people lacked transportation and therefore did not know each other. I then founded at different epochs and in different areas, five branches of the Great Way: the way of Humanity, the way of Local Spirits, the way of Saints, the way of Immortals, and the way of Buddhas, each based on the customs of the race. In present days, 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
those religions. That is why I have decided to unite all those religions into one to return them to primordial unity." (CSCDHM, p 41).
The Supreme Being instructed about spiritualism as follows:
“In spiritualism, the medium must meditate deeply so that his spirit will then be able to come to Me, listen to My instructions, and have his body to write down the messages.
What is a spirit?
The spirit is your second body. It is very difficult for the spirit of a human being to transcend the physical body. The spirits of Saints, Immortals, and Buddhas are marvelous and immortal. The spirit of an enlightened person may transcend the body and even travel the universe. Only the spirit may approach Me.
When the basket with beak is used in spiritualism, the hands of the mediums under the basket transmit with their movements to the beak which writes. if the person is unconscious, the spirit may then leave the physical body, hear My instructions, and have the body transcribe the messages. If the interpreter’s reading is incorrect, the medium's spirit will not agree with the interpretation. They will be obliged to write again. In the other form of spiritual contact known as automatic writing, or inspired writing, I will come to you and make your spirit unstable for a while. During that time, your spirit will be able to listen to Me. Your hand will obey and write. In this form of spiritual contact, I cooperate with you so that you can reach Universal Truths.
Before the session, one must purify both mind and body-do not omit this purification or you risk failure. To practice well, one should keep one's mind pure, not encumbered by everyday living matters, and keep the hands cleansed and deodorized. Deep meditation will allow one's spirit to transcend the body and communicate with Me. The mediums should be chosen for their advanced spirit so that the session will be fruitful. They should practice vegetarianism, and train themselves toward being completely balanced (as good as Saints, Immortals, and Buddhas) to be able to properly achieve the purpose of the session and transmit the teachings. They are considered My assistants in the propagation of the Way. Spiritual contact cannot be taken lightly. In the reception of vibrations from the spirit, each person has personal
vibrations which may be influenced by their own emotions and personality and may interfere: subsequently these writings may not be correct. One should take caution in setting up sessions and in recognizing the authenticity of the writings.
So, after each spiritualism session, you have to wait for My approval before any implementation.”
(CSCDHM, 2015, p.25-26).
The words of God from 1925 to 1934 were compiled into CaoDai Holy Scriptures, the book “Thánh Ngôn Hiệp Tuyển,” The Collection of Selected CaoDai Holy Messages (CSCDHM).
In 1975, when Vietnam became a Communist regime, CaoDai disciples fled the country, bringing with them the mission of CaoDai to spread all over the world. In Vietnam, the spiritualism sessions were forbidden by the new government. The written scriptures were stopped. The scriptures of CaoDai became the wordless teaching (kinh vô tự) of God in the heart of people as in the following prayer:
“Thuận nhơn tâm ắt thuận trời,
Câu kinh vô tự độ người thiện duyên.”
“To please God, you should please your fellow humans,
You should listen to the wordless teachings to serve and save predestined humans.”
(CDEP, 2016, p.116-117.)
In order to be able to hear the wordless teaching, one must use the special key, which is a true love of humanity, the same key that helps humans to open the gate of Nirvana.
Although the scriptures seem like they’ve been stopped, the wordless teachings keep going on forever.
The History of the Founding of CaoDai- The First Disciples.
In 1920, Cao Dai, the Supreme Being, revealed Himself to Ngô Văn Chiêu, the then- governor of Phú Quốc, a beautiful island in the Gulf of Siam. Raised in a family with basic Confucian
education, Ngô was leading a life of seclusion and wisdom,
reciting every day Taoist verses teaching morality. He studied at the French Lycée Chasseloup Laubat, graduated in 1899, and received a position as secretary at the Saigon Immigration Office. In 1909 he passed the civil service examinations and was appointed district chief. Ngô Văn Chiêu first attended séances in 1909 seeking medicine for his ailing mother at a Chinese temple in Thủ Dầu Một. Later he visited Hiệp Minh Pagoda in Cần Thơ. He received three prescriptions for his mother from an Immortal spirit.
With the assistance of a spiritualist form of worship, he maintained contact with the spiritual realm. An apparition which identified itself as “CaoDai” appeared. From the beginning, the name Cao Dai, which literally means high abode, or roofless tower, was given as a symbolic name of the Supreme
Being. The Supreme Being informed Ngô 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.
In 1921, Ngô asked CaoDai for permission to worship Him under a visible form. He then had a vision of the All-Seeing Eye surrounded with radiant beams of sunlight. The light was blinding so he covered his eyes with his hands. The eye remained before him blazing brightly, and terrified him.
He prayed to the Immortal to make the eye disappear if the eye was to mean the symbol to be used for worship. It then gradually faded away, but reappeared a few days later with the same brightness. He prayed again and promised to use the Divine Eye as a symbol of God for worship. The eye
disappeared again and he was subsequently ordered to use it as the symbol of CaoDai.
Ngô returned to Saigon in 1924. To those interested in spiritual self-cultivation, he taught the philosophy and esoteric practice he had learned from CaoDai during his stay in Phú Quốc.
In 1925, three Vietnamese workers of the French colonial government began to explore the table tipping which they had learned about in Western spiritual books. They were Cao Quỳnh Cư (1888 – 1929), his nephew Cao Hoài Sang who worked in the custom department, and Phạm Công Tắc (1893– 1958) who was a clerk of the customs office. Mrs. Cao Quỳnh Cư also participated and had the role of secretary.
On 7 – 25 – 1925, they sat around a four-legged table, their hands resting on its surface, and prayed. When spirits came, the table shook and knocked on the floor. Each successive rap indicated a letter of the Vietnamese alphabet. In 1926, the group received a spiritual message from CaoDai, the Supreme Being, and was ordered to get in touch with Mr.Ngô Văn Chiêu to found CaoDai faith with the goal to bring harmony to religions and subsequently peace to humanity.
To avoid difficulties with the French government, the initial group of disciples submitted their application for the establishment of the new faith to the French Governor of Indochina (who was Mr. Le Fol) on October 7, 1926.
So CaoDai was officially established in 1926.