Phap-chanh-truyen (2): The religious constitution of Caodaism

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Divine text : The Legislative Cardinals belong to the three branches: Taoist, Confucianist and Buddhist.


Commentary : There is only one Legislative Cardinal in each branch. The three branches differ from each other both interiorly and exteriorly. The doctrinal principles are not the same. The New Code (Tan-Luat) is a syncretisation of them. For this reason God has added :


Divine text : Though the Laws and Principles of these Three Doctrines are different, I consider them as forming a single whole.


Commentary : Because He considers them as a single Doctrine, God reveals himself to humanity and makes humanity establish the New Code (Tan-Luat). God adapts himself to humanity's state of spirit and soul. All are to be conformed to this Code so as to be able to carry out religious practice without infringing the Divine Laws, aiming at their individual sanctification and the communication of the good news to their neighbour.


In the past Divine Laws obliged men to raise their personal dignity to the level of the dignity of the Great Spirits (Than, Thanh, Tien, Phat) to allow them to perfect their virtue and to achieve their individual sanctification.


Today the Great Spirits have reached down to the level of men so as to lead their souls back to the Divine Space and place them on the same level as God.


When we were forced to do this, it was all difficult. Now that we are free, it has all become easy. This is natural. More so because at this stage we have passed beyond the “Cycle of Progress” [(The first cycle of Manvantara is the Cycle of Creation (Tao Hoa), that is, the Cycle of Innocence (Thanh Duc). The second cycle is Cycle of Progress (Tan Hoa), or Cycle of Struggle and the Destruction. The third and the last cycle is the Cycle of Conservation (Bao-Ton), or the Cycle of Reproduction (Tai-Tao) or Renovation (Qui-Co)] and we have reached to highest ranks. The old doctrines no longer have sufficient moral authority to uphold Faith. When men lose their faith in Religion, the tendency to self-destruct continues to exist. If this tendency continues, anarchy is inevitable.


If the Temporal must rely on the Spiritual simply to exist, there is a reciprocal need for the Spiritual to deal carefully with the Temporal so that it can last. Who knows whether the New Code which has been established according to the instructions of God who came with precisely that aim, has not been called upon to undergo at some future date modifications which would adapt it to the spiritual state of men who remain constantly open to evolution? The Temporal and the Spiritual must unite to guide Humanity on the Way of Eternity.


Example :


Someone has asked : “Why hasn't God used the former laws which were already established for the Three existing Religions?Why is He creating a New Code, and thus forcing men to abandon the Former for the New?


We replied :


“The answer is that God has taught us in a message : The Jade Court (Court of the Gods) has fought with the former laws and the Thunder Temple (Heavenly Sanctuary) has destroyed the old principles. The former laws therefore and the old principles no longer have any value. Religious people who mistakenly believe that they have to conform to the former laws and the old principles are clearly contradicted by the Divine Laws of Caodaism, for Caodaism replaces God to administer Religion.


This is the reason why the Supreme Master forbade the five branches of the Ngoc Sect (Confucianism) to use the former laws to continue the inculcation of blind enthusiasm into Humanity.


The observation of the former laws is a transgression of the Divine Laws and if we transgress the Divine Laws we cannot achieve individual salvation.”


(Read the remainder to gain a better understanding of the doctrinal point of view of God).


Divine text : Thus Unity becomes Trinity and Trinity is none other than Unity.


Commentary : Thus the New Code is the syncretisation of the Three Religions, and this makes the Unity become Trinity, and the three former codes of the Three Religions are blended into a single form, the New Code.


Divine text : The Legislative Cardinals have the right to examine the religious laws before their promulgation, whether they come from the Pope, or are proposed by the Cardinals (Dau-Su).


Commentary : In the ranks of the Cuu-Trung-Dai (the Nine Degrees of the Episcopal Hierarchy), the Pope represents the Divine Spirits to watch over religious practice. The Pope has the right to make laws, a supreme right conferred on him by the Divine Spirits and by God. The Cardinals represent the mass of the faithful. They derive their great authority from this mass. The Pope and the Cardinals must always be in agreement so as to consolidate the work of the “Creation of the World”, which consists of unifying God and Men.


Ordinarily the Divine Mission is often beyond the reach of men and men of often hostile to the Divine Mission. Who knows whether one day the Pope may not enact laws which are beyond the capacity of human beings? whether the Cardinals may not propose laws which contradict the Divine Laws? This means a disagreement among them. Without the Legislative Cardinals who represent the Hiep-Thien-Dai within the Cuu-Trung-Dai, and who play a mediating role to reconcile them, Religion would lose its balance and its order would be marred. This would cause dissention and the creation of separate sects.


Thus the Legislative Cardinals have the right to verify laws before their promulgation. Laws which do not carry the three seals of the Legislative Cardinals and have not been approved by the Hiep-Thien-Dai must not be carried out by the faithful of God. (Good!) (This is an expression of approval by the Spiritual Pope Ly).


Divine text : If the two groups, (the Pope and the Cardinals) are not in agreement, they (the Legislative Cardinals ) must submit the law to the Ho-Phap who will take it to the Sanctuary of the Divine Alliance (Hiep-Thien-Dai) where he will call on God for modifications to be made or, according to his wish, a complete reformulation.


Commentary : If a Law which derives from the Pope is contrary to the human activity of the adepts, and if the Cardinals consider it inapplicable, the Cardinals must submit it themselves to the Legislative Cardinals and ask them to modify it.


In the same way, if the Pope receives from the Cardinals a Law which contradicts the Divine Laws, he himself must send it back to the Legislative Cardinals for a new examination.


On both sides equally, there must be no abuse of power to reject a law by right of office and cause mutual dishonour. There is a need for conciliation, and for acceptance that these decisions are the concern of the Legislative Cardinals. If the Legislative Cardinals do not succeed in agreeing, they must submit the case to the Ho-Phap, which will go to the Sanctuary of the Divine Alliance to ask God to modify the law. Or perhaps the Ho-Phap will create a consensus of the wishes of the two parties, and will propose a new law.


Divine text : Thus they (the Legislative Cardinals) have the right to check the prayer books and other works before they are distributed. If they find works which are harmful to good habits, they must forbid their publication.


Commentary : Checking of religious works before their circulation involves censorship of them before their publication. But though they have the right of censorship, and may forbid the publication of works susceptible of compromising good habits or contrary to the religious Laws, the Legislative Cardinals must submit their decisions to the Hiep-Thien-Dai for approval before authorising or forbidding a publication. This involves not only religious works published by the faithful, but also those presented by people who are alien to religion. If the works are harmful to good habits, the Priestly Council must help the Legislative Cardinals to destroy them. This is the reason why God has said :


Divine text : You should oblige all Adepts to contribute to the carrying out of human Laws.


Commentary : Although this point involves human Laws, if they make humankind unhappy, the Legislative Cardinals ought to look for ways to lessen their stringency. The temporal power must depend on Religion to be strong, and this means that this power will not be strong unless Religion itself is strong. There can be no thought of taking suffering away from Humankind unless Religion is strong. For this reason God has been constrained to add :


Divine text : I advise all my children to unite their efforts to sustain them.


Divine text : Each legislative Cardinal has his particular seal.


Commentary : The particular sign of the Seal of the Legislative Cardinal of the Buddhist Branch is the Bowl of Charity (to receive offerings); the particular sign of the Seal of the Legislative Cardinal of the Taoist Branch is the Feather Duster of Purification (Phat Chu); the particular sign of the Seal of the Legislative Cardinal of the Confucianist Branch is the Book of Spring and Autumn (Virtue and Love).


Taken together, these three symbols form the three Archaic Attributes (Co-Phap) which the Ho-Phap venerates. He wears them on his head-dress when he wears the Lesser vestment/ordinary vestment.


On the head-dress of the Major vestment/Ceremonial vesment of the Pope there are three other Archaic Attributes :


1. the Fan of Exteriorisation (Long-Tu Phien. Literally this means the Dragon beard Fan).

2. the Sword of Elevation (Thu-Hung Kiem. Literally this means the double Sword : Male and Female).

3. the Feather Duster of Sanctification (Phat-Chu).


These are also the Archaic Attributes of the Thuong Pham and the Thuong Sanh.


Divine text : The three seals must appear together on each law to make each law applicable.


Commentary : Every law or text even if approved by two out of three of the Legislative Cardinals may not be promulgated. This means that the Pope above cannot approve it, and the Cardinals below have no right to put it into practice.


The Cuu-Trung-Dai is an Administrative Body, but the Legislative Cardinals depend upon the Legislative Power. Thus they are representatives of the Hiep-Thien-Dai within the Cuu-Trung-Dai. This is an innovation of the Religion.




Divine text : The Cardinals have the right to direct the Disciples of God, Spiritually and Temporally.


Commentary : Here God uses the words “Spiritually” and “Temporally” to define the powers of the Cardinals. The Cardinals thus have full powers over the administrative part of the Cuu-Trung-Dai and the Legislative part of the the Hiep-Thien-Dai. They thus have the right to represent the Pope (Giao-Tong) and the Ho-Phap with the Brotherhood. Representatives of the Pope and the Ho-Phap, they depend on both the Cuu-Trung-Dai and the Hiep-Thien-Dai. For this reason the Cardinals must submit to the authority of these two Bodies in the exercise of their functions. They should do nothing of their own initiative with receiving beforehand the instructions of the Pope and the Ho-Phap.


Divine text : They have the right to enact laws, but they must submit them for the approval of the Pope (Giao-Tong).


Commentary : The Cardinals have the right to enact laws suitable for the administration of the Religion, with adaptations from the aspirations of the people and in agreement with the Divine Will. Now it still happens that what satisfies the aspirations of the people is contrary to the Divine Will. For this reason the Cardinals must submit their laws for the Pope's approval, since the Pope is the representative of God, with the task of arranging everything so that the Divine Will may not be opposed by Humanity.


Divine Text : These laws must be examined in every detail, to ensure that they are truly useful to Humanity.


Commentary : This phrase indicates clearly that if the Cardinals enact laws, it is strictly necessary that these laws are useful to Humanity.


This is the reason why God has commanded us : The Cuu-Trung-Dai and the Hiep-Thien-Dai must be alert about every detail here : if there is no recognition of any use to humanity, the Cardinals must not enact laws or repeal them.


Divine text : The Pope must convey (these laws) to the Legislative Cardinals for examination before approving them.


Commentary : Even if these laws fulfilled the wishes of the Pope, he could not approve them by right of office. He must entrust them to the Legislative Cardinals for examination beforehand.


Earlier it was stated in the powers of the Legislative Cardinals : The laws which are not approved by all three Legislative Cardinals must not be promulgated.


Thus the Pope and the Cardinals must not agree to infringe the Constitutional Laws. If they passed laws by the Legislative Cardinals without any examination beforehand, they would commit an infringement of the law. In case of infringing the law, whatever the rank of the guilty party, he is subject to the Confessional High Court (the Tribunal of the Three Spiritual Doctrines / Toa Tam Giao).


When He commands the Cardinals to receive the orders of the Pope before promulgating (the laws), God said:


Divine text : They must obey the orders of the Pope as if these laws came from the Pope himself.


Commentary : The Cardinals only obey the orders of the Pope, although they represent the Hiep-Thien-Dai as far as legislation is concerned. From the moment that a law is fully examined by the Legislative Cardinals and has received the approbation of the Hiep-Thien-Dai, the tacit order (for its promulgation) by the Hiep-Thien-Dai is included in this formality.


Divine text : If a law is contrary to the existing practices of the general group of adepts, they (the Cardinals) can demand its repeal.


Commentary : It is not only a matter of the current New Code. Later on when the New Code will have become the Old Code, the Cardinals will still have the right, if a law is contrary to human activity, to demand its repeal.


Divine text : I advise My children to love them and help them.


Commentary : God advises the Sacerdotal Council/ Hoi Thanh to take an interest in the weighty task of the Cardinals, to love them and to help them to carry out their mission.


Divine text : I recommend that My children should approach them each time they have an important matter to consider.


Commentary : God recommends his disciples that is to say, all the adepts, to approach the Cardinals each time that they have a matter to decide, because they are the complete incarnation of Religion in this world.


Divine text : The three Branches are different, but the powers (of the Cardinals) are the same.


Commentary : The three Branches are : Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. These three Branches differ from each other, but comparatively speaking their powers are the same, because they depend on the New Code. This is Unity in Trinity and Trinity in Unity.


Among the three Cardinals, there is no major or minor figure (Good! / Appreciative comment by the Spiritual Pope Ly), their powers are equal. A law, whether it emanates from the Pope or whether it emerges from the assembly of adepts, if it is adopted by the Legislative Cardinals and the Hiep-Thien-Dai, must be promulgated, even if it receives the assent of only one of the Cardinals. Only in a situation where the three Cardinals are agreed in not obeying, should the law be returned to the Pope, who will convey it to the Legislative Cardinals for a new examination. (Good!/ Appreciative comment by the Spiritual Pope Ly)). their powers are equal. For this reason God said:


Divine text : If a law set down by the Pope is the subject of a unanimous rejection signed by the three Cardinals, it must be returned to the Pope, who will hand it back to the Legislative Cardinals for a new examination.


Commentary : This is God's decision : if the three Cardinals convey in writing that they cannot obey, God is absolutely sure that the law is contrary to the interests of Humanity. But it is important that the Cardinals provide the obvious proof of the contradiction between the law and the interests of Humanity to justify their refusal to obey and their demand for repeal. If only one of the three Cardinals considers that he can obey, there can be no proclamation that the law is contrary to the interests of Humanity and if this is so, then the law must be promulgated.


In the light of such a power, such a restriction seems rather severe, but the Divine Will demands that the three Cardinals act as one. (Good! / Appreciative comment by the Spiritual Pope Ly)


Divine Text : They are endowed with the three seals, one for each; for the validity of any document it must have the imprint of the seals. (You understand clearly!)


Commentary : These three seals belong to Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. All executive orders must have the imprint of the three seals of the Cardinals.


Before the Cardinals undertake their functions, they must swear to the Holy See that they will maintain an attitude of impartiality when they carry out their functions, just like the dignitaries of the Hiep-Thien-Dai who have given their oath.


United powers. After taking the oath, the Cardinals are empowered to exercise both the office of Administrator and the office of Legislator.


Though these wider powers, the Cardinals use all necessary means to prevent Heresy from compromising Orthodoxy. In a dangerous situation, if the three Principal Archbishops are powerless to face up to this, the Cardinals are authorised to make use of these unified powers to direct the Sacerdotal / Hoi Thanh. All the dignitaries of the Cuu-Trung-Dai and the Hiep-Thien-Dai must accede to their authority, even the Pope and the Ho-Phap (Good!).



(to be continued)




The Sacerdotal Council