Basic Catechism of Caodaism (1)
1. What is the foundation of Caodaism?
Caodai doctrine is based on two basic principles:
a. Heaven, Earth, and all beings are of the same nature.
b. All beings emanate from One and return to One.
The first principle states that Heaven and human beings are of the same nature. Thus, their mutual communication, correlation, interactions, and unity are possible. That is why God often says, “I am you all, and you all are me”.
Having the same sacred nature, humans should love each other. Especially, they should bear in mind that, as children of the same Holy Father, they should achieve the great harmony among mankind.
The second principle considers the universe as a site of evolution, where God is both the starting point and the destination. All tiny sacred sparks emanate from the Great Sacred Light and gradually evolve from minerals to plants, to animals, and to human beings. Then humans evolve to saints, angels, buddha, so as to finally return to and reunite with God.
Thus, the ultimate goal of humans is to evolve to reunite with God, the origin of human beings as well as of the universe. To achieve this goal, humans should improve their virtues and accumulate merits to attain the absolute perfection. In Caodai doctrine, this process is called “the return to the origin”.
2. What do Caodaists confide in God?
Caodaists absolutely believe that God is the Sovereign of the universe and the Father of all beings. He is the Ultimate One in the concept of impersonal God, or the Jade Emperor Supreme God in the concept of personal God.
In every phase of human history, God assigned religious founders to come to this world so as to guide mankind in the spiritual cultivation. However, in this Third Universal Salvation, God Himself transmitted the sacred energy to this world to found Caodaism so as to save mankind and rebuild the saintly life. In Caodaism, not only is God the Religious Founder but also the Father and Teacher of all beings. He also allows all Divine Beings to come to this world, along with Him, to establish the universal salvation during this grand destruction era.
3. What are meant by the concept of impersonal God and that of personal God?
In Caodai doctrine, these two concepts merge into each other.
The concept of impersonal God refers to God as the dynamic cause of the universe as well as the principle of forming, transforming, and regulating the universe. Esoterically, impersonal God is the principle of creation, destruction, and preservation, following the law of Yin-Yang movement.
The concept of personal God refers to God as the Ultimate Sovereign with absolute power to oversee all beings and regulate the universe.
The concept of personal God results in worshipping tendency, whereas that of impersonal God results in philosophical tendency. Both lead to the belief in God.
4. What is the Caodaist cosmological viewpoint?
Caodaism considers the primordial universe as infinite. The Infinity created the principle and the primordial breath which then combined into the One. This One exploded and gave rise to the Supreme Being, i.e., the Great Sacred Light. The Supreme Being differentiated the pure from the impure on the Yin-Yang basis; then applying the mechanism of the Two Complementing Opposites, He gathered the Void Breath to create and transform all beings.”
The above discussion outlines the creation followed by the evolution stage of all beings. Emanating from the Great Sacred Light, all beings will eventually return to God, and thus the entire process validates the statement: “All diverse beings emanate from One and will return to One.”
5. What are meant by the Great Sacred Light and the Small Sacred Light?
They are typical concepts in Caodaism. As mentioned above, all beings emanated from the Supreme Being, i.e., from the Great Sacred Light, the nature and the origin of all beings. Spiritually, it is the Great Primordial Soul of the whole universe. Each person owns a Sacred Spark from the Great Sacred Light; thus, this Small Sacred Light is also called a primordial soul extracted from the Great Sacred Light.
Self-cultivation helps humans clear up the veil of ignorance to brighten that primordial soul. As a result, the Small Sacred Light will be able to identify with the Great Sacred Light after its detachment from the physical body.
According to Caodaism, all other beings in the universe must evolve into mankind, because humans are the only beings that have three souls (sanh hoàn, giaùc hoàn, and linh hoàn) -- the essential and sufficient condition to attain complete deliverance through self-cultivation and esoteric practice.
6. What is the New Method of Caodaism?
The New Method of Caodaism refers to the Caodaist spiritual practice that God has taught since 1926. It is simpler than the self-cultivation methods in other religions. In addition, it is the synthesis of the basic cultivation methods of the Three Ancient Religions, helping practitioners gradually and easily attain enlightenment and deliverance. The New Method of Caodaism could be considered the most appropriate method for mankind in the Third Universal Salvation, during this grand destruction era.
In practice, the New Method is based on Triple Work (Tam Coâng) to cultivate the Mind-Body entity, or the Nature-Life combination.
7. What is meant by “Attaining One”?
One refers to the Oneness or the Truth of all beings. Attaining One means identifying with the universe, responding to and harmonizing with other beings.
With respect to the process of returning to the origin, attaining One is reuniting with God or the Great Sacred Light.
With respect to the process of enlightenment-deliverance, attaining One is achieving non-discriminating mind, by which an individual sees himself in others and vice versa.
Practically, attaining One means patiently servicing communities and persistently exercising the self-cultivation method.
Religiously, attaining One means respecting and cooperating with other religions, with no discrimination nor arrogance, on the basis of “all religions are of the same Truth”.
Finally, attaining One means attaining Đạo, the Way.
8. What is meant by “Returning to the Origin”?
According to Caodaism, Small Sacred Lights emanate from the Great Sacred Light (God) and transform into all beings that, after innumerable life experiences, become human beings. At the final stage of evolution, human beings must identify to God, i.e., the Great Sacred Light, the origin of the universe. This identification is called “Returning to the Origin”.
To accomplish this return, human beings must cultivate and light up their hidden God-like nature so that it can become as perfect and brilliant as the Great Sacred Light.
Thus, returning to the Origin means getting to the evolutionary destination, and no longer returning to the cycle of karma and reincarnation.
9. What are meant by Earlier-Heaven and Later-Heaven?
They literally mean before and after the creation of heaven. Earlier-Heaven (Tieân thieân) refers to the cosmos prior to the existence of the universe and all beings. Later-Heaven (Haäu thieân) indicates the cosmos after the universe and all beings are engendered.
In the terminology of “the Non-Being, the Supreme Being, and the Yin-Yang”, Earlier-Heaven refers to “the Non Being and the Supreme Being”, i.e., the primordial nature of the universe. And Later-Heaven refers to the nature of all beings, resulted from the Yin-Yang interaction.
Earlier-Heaven refers to the phase of neither birth nor death; and Later-Heaven refers to the birth-death duo. Self-cultivation is the process of body-mind purification to absorb the Earlier-Heaven attributes, and of spiritual transformation to return to the Earlier-Heaven state. In other words, it is a conversion from profanity to saintliness.
10. What is the Caodaist concept of soul?
Caodaists assert that each person has a soul. The soul is the invisible part in a human being that commands all mental, psychological, and spiritual activities, while the body is the visible part that performs all movements and contacts with the outer environments. The soul comprises two essential components. They are the Consciousness, characteristic of each individual, and the Small Sacred Light, innately received from God. The soul is everlasting, and continues to exist after the body perishes.
According to Caodai doctrine, every person can self-cultivate and exercise the methods to break off all ambition and desires in his Consciousness, so that the hidden Small Sacred Light is exposed and can fully develop into the holy side of his soul. Once the soul achieves its perfect awakening, it is completely free and no longer under the control of karmic laws. At this point, the Small Sacred Light identifies with the Great Sacred Light of the Supreme God.
11. What is the Temporal or Human Way?
The Human Way refers to the practical aspects of the Great Way (Đại Đạo) to guide humans into a moral life so as to fulfill their duties towards themselves, their families, and the society. The Caodaist Human Way is based on the cultivation of benevolence (Nhân), righteousness (Nghĩa), courtesy (Lễ), mentality (Trí), credibility (Tín), loyalty (Trung), and filial piety (Hiếu).
Once a person outperforms the Human Way, he can step into the Heaven Way to prepare for the detachment from the profanity and for the self-cultivation to attain awakening (or spiritual deliverance).
12. What is the Spiritual or Heaven Way?
The Heaven Way refers to the practice to attain spiritual deliverance, that is, to be freed from the wheel of karma and reincarnation. Adherents are qualified to practice the Heaven Way if they observe the full or partial vegetarianism of at least ten days a month, refrain from sexual desires and activities, and inquire for meditative training. In addition, they must perform the triple work to build a strong foundation for their spiritual work.
Stepping in the Heaven Way, one must take Bodhisattva vows to perfect himself and to help others in their self-perfection. He must maintain a tranquil conscience, practice love, tolerance, and benevolence. Also he must cease all desires and ambition. Thus, the leadership of Caodaism is to perform the mission of the Great Vehicle.
13.What is meant by the Third Revelation?
According to Caodai doctrine, throughout the history of mankind there have been three manifestations of God in which He sent Divine Beings to this world to found religions to save humans.
The First Revelation: Phuc Hy (2852–2737 B.C.) and King Dawu (2205–2197 B.C.) in China invented the River Chart, the Lo Book, and the Eight Trigrams, based on which King Wen (born in 1258 B.C.) and Duke Zhou (?-1105 B.C.) developed the Book of Changes as well as the Human Way and the Heaven Way. They reformed human lifestyles, minds, and virtues. In Palestine (Syria), about 1300 B.C., Moses emerged and led the Jew exodus. On Mount Sinai, he communicated with God and received the Ten Commandments to lead His people.
The Second Revelation: During the last six centuries B.C. and the first six centuries A.D., some religions were founded. Buddhism was established by Shyakyamuni (born in India in 560 B.C.); Confucianism by Confucius (born in China in 551 B.C.); Taoism by Laozi who was contemporary with Confucius and wrote Tao Te Ching (the Book of the Way and Its Power); Christianity by Jesus Christ (born at Bethlehem village in Judah of Jerusalem in about 5 B.C.), who was regarded as the incarnation of the Son of God, coming to this world for mankind redemption; and Islam by Mohammed (born in Mecca in 571 A.D.), who preached the Bible of Koran.
The Third Revelation: God founded the Great Way for the Third Universal Salvation, or Caodaism, in South Vietnam in 1926. Spiritualism is the method that God chose to preach this new religion to mankind.
(to be continued)