Good Karma: Cao Dai: A Fusion of Many Religions

Culture Facts

Where: Practised around the world, but its spiritual home is Tay Ninh, Vietnam
What’s it about: Combining the best bits of many different religions from East and West
How to join in: Leave your material possessions behind and join the throngs

Established in the Southern regions of Vietnam in the early 1920’s, 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.

Cao Dai’s 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!

More Information

A detailed description of the religion.

Cao Dai Temple
A visit to the Coa Dai cathedral in Saigon.