Sandra Scott Travels: Exploring Vietnam’s Cao Dai Religion

the Cao Dai temple

The Cao Dai temple

Last week I asked: What religion originated in Vietnam?

Cao Dai.

the Cao Dai temple
The Cao Dai temple

There are many interesting places to visit in Vietnam and one of the most colorful places is the Cao Dai temple not far from Saigon.

Cao Dai is a religion that was founded in southern Vietnam in 1926 mixing ideas from many other religions.

Cao Dai draws upon ideas from Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and Christianity.

Its saints includes such diverse figures as the Buddha, Confucius, Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Pericles, Julius Caesar, Joan of Arc, Victor Hugo and Sun Yat-sen.

Cao Dai saints
Cao Dai saints

It is the third largest religion in Vietnam, but there are followers in many countries including the United States.

In Cao Dai, the purpose of life is peace within each individual and harmony in the world.

Cao Dai followers also seek to gain religious merit and avoid bad karma.

Cao Dai beliefs about the afterlife are derived from Buddhism.

Those who have gathered too much bad karma during their lifetime will be reincarnated in negative circumstances, which may include rebirth on a darker, colder planet than this one.

Good karma leads to rebirth into a better life on earth.

They believe followers should:

a burial procession
A burial procession

cultivate the Confucian duties and virtues; practice good and avoid evil; observe five Precepts: do not kill, do not steal, do not commit adultery, do not get drunk, do not sin by word; practice vegetarianism at least ten days per month, to purify one’s body and spirit and to avoid killing living beings; and participate in worship of the Supreme Being through four daily ceremonies, at 6 a.m., noon, 6 p.m. and midnight, with at least one ceremony per day at home.

A proponent of Cao Dai wrote, “…the reason God has founded Cao Dai, in order to bring harmony to different religions. And the principle of Cao Dai is that religions are not different and if we take enough time to study deep – deeply enough in each religion, we would see that they have one same principal, if not identical principal. The noble effort of Cao Dai is to unite all of humanity through a common vision of the Supreme Being, whatever our minor differences, in order to promote peace and understanding throughout the world.”

John and I arrived at the temple a bit early so we had time to look at the beautiful gardens.

the Divine Eye
The Divine Eye

We were able to see a burial procession which stopped at the temple to pay their respects and then continued on.

After the funeral procession left we took off our shoes and entered the temple.

A guide led us around pointing to spots where we could get the best pictures.

The temple is impressive with two rows of brightly painted columns decorated with dragons.

The domed ceiling resembles the night sky full of stars.

Under the dome at the end of the temple is a giant star-speckled blue globe on which is painted the Divine Eye, the official symbol of Caodaism.

When it was time for the worshippers to arrive all the visitors had to go up to the choir loft.

Worship time
Worship time

The worshippers had white and red robes.

The ceremony was quiet, mainly meditative.

When it was over they filed out and so did we. In front of the temple there is a wide avenue with viewing stands on the side.

I would love to see one of their major festivals.

Trivia Tease™: Where are the Chu Chi Tunnels?

Look for the answer next week.

Sandra and her husband, John, have been exploring the world for decades, always on the lookout for something new and unique to experience. We have sailed down the Nile for a week on a felucca, stayed with the Pesch Indians in La Mosquitia, visited schools in a variety of countries, and — to add balance to our life — stayed at some of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Let the fun continue!