Imagine a religion whose teachings are a combination of the best of all the religions, whose spiritual influences range from Victor Hugo to Jeanne D'arc and Lenin, whose symbol is an open and omniscient eye, combine them all together and you have... Caodaism! Founded in 1921, this religion finds its cradle in the city and province of Tay Ninh in southern Vietnam. Attend one of the daily celebrations and enjoy a unique spiritual experience!
The manifestation of Cao Dai during a session of Spiritualism
One evening in 1919, in Tay Ninh, Vietnam, Ngô Van Chiêu, a Vietnamese official of the French administration, witnessed the apparition of Cao Dai (literally the "Supreme Deity") during a session of Spiritualism, as a single eye. It was said that Cao Dai instructed him to create a "perfect" religion taking the best teachings from all the religions that were already existing. Ngô Van Chiêu did so and in 1921 he founded a new religion which he called “Caodaism”. The eye became its symbol and was displayed everywhere, in the texts and on the walls of the Caodaist churches, and Tay Ninh became its capital.
The single eye on the facade of the Tay Ninh church
Caodaism, a syncretic religion
Caodaism brings together the virtues and mantras of the three major spiritual religions in Asia at that time: Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. There were also influences from the other religions or spiritual beliefs such as Catholicism, Islam, Spiritualism and Freemasonry.
The three influences are represented at the masses: men in yellow tunics are Buddhist, those in red represent Confucianism and those in blue represent Taoism.
Victor Hugo and Mohammed as spiritual fathers!
But that's not all! Caodaism goes further in its quest for perfection and also refers to certain historical figures and scholars such as Lenin, Churchill or Louis Pasteur. Thus, it gives an incongruous mixture where Victor Hugo, Jeanne D'arc, Mohammed, Lenin and Shakespeare are represented as equals, all placed under the omnipresent Caodaist eye, as spiritual guides and leading the believers to the salvation of their soul.
Photo: From left to right, Sun Yat-Sen (1866-1925), Victor Hugo (1802-1885) and Nguyen Binh Khiem (1492-1587), inscribing "Love and Justice" in French and Chinese. Victor Hugo is probably one of the most important European figures in Caodaism.
In the quest for fulfilment
The practitioners aim to reach these spiritual guides through prayers and spiritualism so that they may lead them to elevate their souls to a state of fulfilment (close to Buddhist Nirvana) in the present and future life. This religion preaches a simple and immaterial, obedient and routine life.
The Phoenix Voyages experience: Visit the Tay Ninh Temple and attend the midday Mass
The city of Tay Ninh is the cradle of the religion and has been chosen to host the "Great Temple". It is an architectural wonder: 140 metres long, it consists of 4 towers and a colonnade hall supporting a dome-shaped ceiling and leading to a sanctuary where the famous circular altar is enthroned, topped by the omniscient eye. But the most notable element is, of course, the decoration: brightly colored engravings and paintings covering the walls, with a dominance of blue, red and yellow, which are the colours of Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism.
The circular altar topped by the eye
The circular altar topped by the eye
The interior of the church, all in colour and details
The exterior of the church, an architectural marvel
Attend the midday Mass and followed by a walk in the sacred area with our tour guide, who will answer all your questions about Caodaism!
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