Written By: Aidan Forshaw
Cao Dai is a religion based on the freedom from violence and Samsara, in the same way of Buddhism, but has instead two connected gods, each illustrated in their religious symbols. A male left eye to represent the yang of the male creator, and a female right eye to represent the yin of the female keeper, who allows for humanity to grow and flourish under her watchful eye.
The religion also shares many practices used by Taoism, primarily their focus on the balance of yin and yang, and through the use of burning incense. These things are generally done as a way to achieve balance in either that area, or in an activity to be prayed for, to ensure nothing bad, or good, can happen. In many ways, it can be viewed as ‘clearing the scales’. One aspect of the religion that is very interesting is the fact that they believe that the words of God have been spoken many times throughout time, but have been misunderstood or ignored due to humanities lack of understanding and fears of being judged harshly.
Going back to the similarities and differences between Cao Dai and Buddhism, the religion actually has a hierarchy regarding the various levels of gods and their relationship towards those who are enlightened. The order is Gods, then Saints, then those who have achieved immortality, either through physical means, or through stories about the person, and then Buddha’s. From that point, each level is also divided into three sections, those being Earthly, Heavenly, and Human, each telling where the person or legend came from originally, creating a twelve fold hierarchy. An interesting little fact about the religion itself is the fact that they often select certain religious or influential members of other religions as part of their Saint caste. Some examples of these famous people would be Joan of Arc, Shakespeare, Moses, and Muhammad.
There is also no ‘one’ devil like figure in the religion, instead being filled with ‘fallen’ Gods and souls who have grown tired of the old Gods, or have committed grievous sins that ‘stain the soul’, such as mass murders, using a judging system very similar to the one used in Buddhist beliefs.
While holy texts exist for the religion, they tend to focus on two collective pieces, with those being Tian Shang Tian Xia Bo Ai Gong Ping, which translates to God and Humanity [for] Love and Justice, which explains their main ideologies and actual goals for both the practitioners, the regular people, and what differences there are between them.
In addition to the search for inner peace, the religion also hopes to connect the world itself in peace, often through the use of greater knowledge or through a lack of force. It is a common thing in many religions, but still one worth noting, as the religion itself definitely aims high with its goals.