HISTORY OF CAODAI
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 AAA. (AAA are the first three letters of the Vietnamese alphabet). As the session continued, under AAA’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, AAA 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 AAA 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. The first temple to open itself to the influx and acceptance of Westerners is underway in Riverside, California. Its leaders have the desire to begin to relate their esoteric traditions in English to Americans, so that the first and main message received from the Supreme Being, that we all are One and must reunite under The One Nameless Divinity, can be delivered, and that a path of esoteric practice toward that end (reunification of the self with the Supreme Being) may begin.