Structure of Caodaism (1)

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Since Cao Dai Religion / Dai Dao Tam Ky Pho Do was founded, God established Phap-Chanh-Truyen (The Religious Constitution of Caodaism) and guided the high dignitaries to form the Tan-Luat (The New Canonical Codes), and The-Luat (Secular Rules/Laws On The Secular Life of the Faithful) in order to govern the religious administration and maintain truth and justice in the Religion.

In 1926 God (Duc Cao Dai) indicated that the Religion was to have three branches/boards: the Bat-Quai-Dai, the Hiep-Thien-Dai and the Cuu-Trung-Dai. In order to operate the Religion the three branches/boards must act in concert.

1. The Bat-Quai-Dai (The Council of the Great Spirits which heads the Eight States of Soul, the Eight-sided Palace of God’s presence, the Eight Trigrams Palace).

The Bat-Quai-Dai is Supreme Holy Body, directs all activities of the universe under the leadership of God and Holy Spirits. The Bat-Quai-Dai is the invisible part, made up of the Divine Beings. This group represents the Spiritual or the Soul of the New Religion.

2. The Hiep-Thien-Dai (The Temple of the Divine Alliance, The Heavenly-Union Palace).

The Hiep-Thien-Dai is the Legislative Body which has the duty of communicating with the occult/esoteric power to receive divine messages, to preserve the religious laws and listen to the complaints of the unhappy, in order to symbolize equality in the Religion. “Hiep- Thien-Dai is the mystical place where the Giao-Tong (Pope) comes and places himself in spiritual communication with the Thirty-Six Heavens, the Three Thousand Worlds, the Sixty- Seven other Earths and the Lords of Karma so that he can pray for the salvation of Humanity”. “The Hiep-Thien-Dai is placed under the authority of the Ho-Phap (Head of the Legislative Affairs). He is assisted by the Thuong Pham (Head of the Spiritual Realm/Religious Affairs) and the Thuong Sanh (Head of the Temporal Realm/Secular Affairs). The Ho Phap is concerned with the Laws and Justice.”

- Ho-Phap (The head of Legislative Affairs), is the one who unveils the Mystery of the Invisible and is the Maintainer of the Rules and Laws of the New Religion. He is the one who pronounces judgments on the dignitaries and adepts, elevates the dignity of the fervent through their merit and brings sanctions against those who have committed faults. The Ho- Phap holds control over the Legislative Power both exoterically and esoterically. He watches over the positive progress of the disciples in the Way of God, and guides all evolved souls to Bat Quai Dai for the union with Genies, Saints, Immortals and Buddhas. He has control over four Lords of the Zodiac, namely Tiep-Phap (Juridical Legislator), Khai-Phap (Juridical Reformer), Hien-Phap (Juridical Renovator) and Bao-Phap (Juridical Conservator).

- Thuong-Pham (The head of the Religious Affairs), is the Representative of the Ho- Phap in the formation of virtuous souls of the Sacerdotal Council. He depends on the Ho- Phap in all his mission. In a word, the Thuong-Pham helps the Cuu Trung Dai to live in an atmosphere of happiness; he reveals the Heavenly Voice to virtuous souls, and guides them to the Divine Phase of the Great Spirits, while closing behind them the Door of regression. He considers the priestly laws to take up the defence of all office-bearers and adepts; he prevents all perversion of the Divine Rules, and helps all initiates to attain their aim. He is simultaneously the President of the Hall of Defence and protector of all disciples. The Thuong- Pham is Leader of the Spiritual Power. Under his command he has four Lords of the Zodiac, namely Tiep-Dao (Religious Legistator), Khai-Dao (Religious Reformer), Hien-Dao (Religious Renovator), and Bao-Dao (Religious Conservator).

- Thuong-Sanh (The head of Secular Affairs), has control of all the laws and rules which relate to the worldly life of all adepts to guide them out of the Abyss of Suffering. He may present a formal complaint before the religious Tribunal against all those who impede the faithful as they move along the Way of God. He is the President of the Hall of Accusation. Under his command he has four Lords of the Zodiac, namely Tiep-The (Temporal Legislator), Khai-The (Temporal Reformer), Hien-The (Temporal Renovator), and Bao-The (Temporal Conservator).

The second unit in the Hiep-Thien-Dai is comprised of under-officers, cadres of the second rank. These are: Tiep Dan Dao Nhon (Instructor), Chuong An (Chancellor), Cai Trang (Lawyer), Giam Dao (Judicial Inspector), Thua Su (Justice Commissioner / Administrator of Justice, Historian), Truyen Trang (Clerk of Court /Greffier/Investigator), Si Tai (Archivist/Archival Secretary) and Luat Su (Student of Law).

The third unit in the Hiep-Thien-Dai is a group of Thap Nhi Bao Quan/12 Skilled Academicians (Advisory) who may be asked for advice by the High Dignitaries of Hiep- Thien-Dai. The Thap Nhi Bao Quan are: Bao Huyen Linh Quan (in charge of Theosophy), Bao Tinh Quan (in charge of Astronomy), Bao Co Quan (in charge of Orphanage), Bao Van Phap Quan (in charge of Culture/Arts), Bao Hoc Quan (in charge of Education), Bao Y Quan (in charge of Health), Bao Vat Quan (in charge of Science and Industries), Bao Si Quan (in charge of Literature), Bao Sanh Quan (in charge of Social/Welfare), Bao Nong Quan (in charge of Agriculture), Bao Cong Quan (in charge of Public Works), and Bao Thuong Quan (in charge of Economics).

The role of the members of the Hiep Thien Dai is to act as mediums (dong tu), and as legislators who protect the sacred laws, and see that all the dignitaries in the Administrative Branch / Cuu-Trung-Dai correctly fulfil their tasks. Indeed “the dignitaries of the Hiep-Thien- Dai are entrusted with the maintenance and application of the religious Rules and Laws so that they can watch over the good progress of the adepts in the Way of God, transforming the Cycle of Destruction into the Cycle of Renewal/Conservation, to assist Humanity to bring to reality the Era of Peace and Escape from the Era of Destruction”.

3. The Cuu-Trung-Dai (The Temple of Nine Degrees of Evolution, Nine Spheres Palace)

The Cuu-Trung-Dai literally means the nine-sphere palace. In the Great Divine Temple / Den Thanh the Cuu-Trung-Dai is symbolized by the central nave of the Temple (building), the place where the worshippers kneel, pray and offer themselves to God (Duc Cao Dai), between the Bat-Quai-Dai (God’s Altar) and the Hiep-Thien-Dai. The Cuu-Trung-Dai is the Executive Body of Caodaism which takes charge of the administration of the Religion and missionary activities.

Head of Cuu-Trung-Dai/Executive Body is Giao-Tong (Pope). “The Giao-Tong (Pope) represents God to watch over the preservation of His Religion in this world. Whatever his age, he is eldest brother and acts as a guide for the children of God. The Spiritual Power has decided that this is so”. “The Giao Tong (Pope) has the same powers as God to teach Virtue to all His Disciples. He is concerned with each one of them, he guides each one and takes care to ensure that each one does not transgress the Divine Laws (Thien Dieu). He obliges all disciples of God to make themselves conform strictly to the prescriptions of the New Code (Tan-Luat). Thus any disciple, whatever his rank in the Episcopal Hierarchy, in the case of wrong behaviour, ought not to benefit from leniency or mercy from the Giao Tong (Pope). Protection of a guilty disciple makes him lose his spiritual position (Thien Vi), provokes jealousy among the faithful, and lessens the good reputation of the Holy Doctrine. The Giao Tong (Pope) must protect, uphold or console adepts who are crushed by the miseries of life, and dignitaries who as members of the Sacerdotal Council (Hoi Thanh) are overwhelmed by the weight of their abstinence. Since the Giao-Tong (Pope) has full powers to replace God he must try to transform the life of suffering into an existence marked by happiness. This is the Exalted Task of the Giao-Tong (Pope).

The Cuu-Trung-Dai/Executive Body is responsible for the administrative tasks, such as training of adherents, organising various programs, and controlling the total Church program. For dignitaries in the College of Men, the Executive actually has three branches corresponding to the three main Religions, each of these three branches also has a name and a colour [Buddhism / Phai Thai (yellow), Taoism / Phai Thuong (blue), and Confucianism / Phai Ngoc (red)]. The Cuu-Trung-Dai’s hierarchy is ranked in nine levels; and the number of dignitaries in the College of Men is limited.

(to be continued)