A BRIEF HISTORY
Dr. Hum Dac
The philosophy and moral code of the CaoDaists
developed from unification of the most influential school of thought of
the day in Vietnam: Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, and Confucianism. It
was in 1920, six years before the official founding of the CaoDai
religion that Cao Dai the Supreme Being revealed to Ngo Van Chieu, the
then governor of Phu Quoc, a beautiful island in the gulf of Siam. Ngo
was leading a life of seclusion and wisdom. With the assistance of a
mediumistic form of worship, he maintained contact with the spiritual
realm. An apparition which revealed an identity of "Cao Dai"
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 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 tangible form. He then had a vision of
the All-Seeing Eye and was subsequently ordered to use it as the symbol
of Cao Dai. Ngo returned to Saigon in 1924. To those interested in
self-cultivation, he taught the philosophy and esoteric practice he had
learned from Cao Dai during his stay in Phu Quoc.
In mid 1925, totally separated from Ngo Van Chieu, three minor civil
officials in Saigon - Cao Quynh Cu, Pham Cong Tac, and Cao Hoai Sang -
were together practicing spiritism. One spirit contacted was singled out
for His wonderful virtues and outstanding knowledge. He introduced
Himself as AĂÂ. (AĂÂ are the first three letters of the Vietnamese
alphabet). As the session continued, under AĂÂ's advice, they replaced
their rudimentary method of communication with a tool for writing called
Ngoc co (basket with beak). On Christmas eve of 1925, AĂÂ finally
revealed that He was the Supreme Being, coming under the name of Cao
Dai, 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, I have used the symbol AĂÂ
to lead you to religious life. You soon are to found a unique religion
under My instructions.
From that day, CaoDai religion began as
an organized form of worship.
During the same period, one evening, Mr.
Le Van Trung, a former elected official to the Colonial Council of
Cochinchina, happened to be present at a session of spiritism. There,
the spirit of Ly Thai Bach, a great Chinese scholar under the T'ang
Dynasty, revealed the spiritual origin of Trung (who is the incarnation
of the spirit of the Immortal named Ly Thiet Quai) and enjoined him to
accept his future religious mission. From that day, Trung, who was an
opium addict, ceased to smoke without the slightest withdrawal symptom.
He also abstained from alcohol and meat. Later, under Cao Dai`s order,
Cao Quynh Cu and Pham Cong Tac invited Trung to join in the worshipping
of Cao Dai. The group grew steadily to include Cu, Tac, Sang, Dieu, Duc,
Hau, Trung. At the end of 1925, Cao Dai dispatched them to meet with Ngo
Van Chieu. During the ensuing session, Cao Dai commanded that a unique
religion be founded for all of humanity. Soon by dint of their
selflessness and dedication, and the virtues of their teachings, these
pioneers succeeded in building a considerable following. And at the
beginning of 1926, CaoDai began to establish an ecclesiastic hierarchy.
At this point, Ngo, who preferred his solitary, meditative life of
esoteric practice, renounced the title of Giao Tong (leader of the
executive body), and retired from the organization. He then continued to
teach esoteric CaoDai to anyone interested in self-cultivation for
self-realization. By the order of Cao Dai, Le Van Trung was appointed
acting Giao Tong. On September 28, 1926, the religious leaders delivered
an official declaration of the founding of CaoDai. This form of CaoDai
has as its main activity exoteric practice which, in a practical way,
leads humanity to religious unity and subsequently to peace on earth.
The new faith rapidly attracted the masses and became a seeming threat
to the French government. The French used all possible maneuvers to
suppress this fast-growing religion. For fifty years, despite pressure
under the French government, suppression by the Vietminh (a Vietnamese
Communist group), and the Catholic Ngo Dinh Diem government, the
movement nevertheless grew in scope, breadth and influence. But in 1975,
the influential presence of CaoDai was usurped in Vietnam by a
communist-based government and was destroyed in Cambodia by the
genocidal Khmer Rouge. At the same time, however, the way was opened for
awareness of CaoDai to be spread by the multitude of people escaping
Southeast Asia during this tumultuous period.
Now as the millennium dawns, a new
impetus is created and CaoDai messages are given to new people in new
places, such as in the United States. Americans are beginning to
discover the value of the original esoteric form of CaoDai. In much the
same way as Tibetan Buddhism has been opened to many, CaoDai begins the
process of disseminating little by little its valuable and closely held
esoteric information to the West.