The Cao Dai religion may be considered one of the world’s newest faiths, as it is less than 100 years old. It is a broad-based wide-ranging religion that may be considered to have a Buddhist foundation, but also honours Mohammed, Jesus and other modern luminaries as Martin Luther King, Louis Pasteur and Victor Hugo who are considered saints of the faith.
Devotees of the Cao Dai faith embrace pacifism, attend to prayers four times a day, and undertake a vegetarian lifestyle for at least 10 days of every month. The religion is based in Vietnam, and although it is practiced by merely a small fraction of Vietnamese, Cao Dai temples can be found at many locations in the country.
Instigated by a civil servant Ngo Van Chieu in the 1920s, who claimed to have received a revelation from a spirit, the religion features belief in ‘saints’, spirit intermediaries such as Winston Churchill, Joan of Arc and Napoleon Bonaparte in addition to those named above. The primary symbol of Cao Daism is the ‘all-seeing eye’ which represents a universal god. The religion’s structure is strongly influenced by that of the Catholic Church, with a ‘Pope’ and a Holy See at Tay Ninh.
The temple at Tay Ninh is the spiritual focus of the religion, the largest temple of the faith which is considered the Cao Dai Vatican. Visitors may attend the four ceremonies held daily, but must remove footwear, dress in trousers that cover the knee and quietly view the ceremonial procedures from the balcony. The interior of the temple is vividly coloured, with ornate pillars and dazzling murals.
Devotees of Cao Daism dress in white clothing or in coloured robes, depending on what source of the religion they embrace – Buddhism, Islam, Christianity or Taoism. The temple is an architectural masterpiece, drawing inspiration from the many faiths incorporated in Cao Dai.
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