THE PRINCIPLES OF CAODAI
-“I am you, My children; and children, you are Me”: Oneness of God, Human and the Universe.
- The Human Tao is Peace.
- The Divine Tao is Liberation
- Love and Justice.
1- Know the principle of Oneness between God, Human and the Universe.
2- Know the principle/goal of attaining Peace in the secular life.
3- Know the ultimate principle of Union with God
4- Know the principle of Unconditional Love
5- Observe the principle of Justice toward all.
I- “I, AM YOU, MY CHILDREN; AND CHILDREN, YOU ARE ME”: ONENESS OF GOD, HUMAN AND THE UNIVERSE.
The first and fundamental principle resides in the phrase, that God addresses to Humanity:
“I am you, My children and children, you are Me”. The following scriptural messages illustrate the emanation of God to form the universe and the Oneness of God, Human and the Universe.
This message of emanation from the One is repeated throughout the teachings of CaoDai.
“You are a Spiritual Being on earth;
Sharing with Me My Spiritual Light Essence.
Thus you are given the Key to the Kingdom
So you can be in the mundane plane, or in the
Celestial Kingdom at will.” (Thánh Giáo Sưu Tập 1966-1967, p 36).
God has granted humanity the “Key” that can open the world or the gate of heaven at our will. That Key is Love, which will be discussed further on. It is noteworthy that everything depends on us: if we are veiled by our secular defilement, we will be in the mundane plane. On the other hand, discovering and practicing Love, we can open the celestial kingdom and experience bliss.
“Man and God are of the same essence, if we persevere
in our endeavor, we can become God”. ( Thánh Giáo Sưu Tập 1966-1967, p 229).
“With only My Spirit, I have created Buddhas, Immortals, Saints, Genies and all human beings in the Universe. Therefore, you are Me, I am you”. (CSCDHM, p 58)
This phrase, “you are Me, I am you” (các con là Thầy, Thầy là các con), conveys the meaning that God is the Great Sacred Light, and living beings are the Little Sacred Lights, which derive from emanation from the
Great Sacred Light- the equivalent of the Hindu, “Atman is Brahman.
”This notion constitutes the goal of CaoDai, which is to show that we all have the Divine Principle inside ourselves. This Self, the Real Self—also called Thanh Tâm (Holy Heart), Linh Tâm (Spiritual Heart),
Đạo Tâm (Heart of the Tao), Phật Tâm (Buddha-Heart, or Buddha-Nature, or Bhutatathata), Như Lai Bổn Tạng (Original Body of Tathagata), Christ in You, Atman, the Divine Self, the Spiritual Self—is to be
distinguished from the common self, the ego or phàm tâm (profane heart), which exists on the surface of our thoughts and feelings, narrow and limited. When the common self, the Phàm Tâm, is quieted, we will see the Holy Heart, the Thánh Tâm, emerge. And this emergence constitutes our ultimate spiritual goal. One CaoDai text states:
“Thật là diệu diệu huyền huyền,
Trời Người có một chẳng riêng khác gì.”
This is indeed beautifully mysterious:
God and Man are One in essence, there is no
difference. (Đại Thừa Chơn Giáo 1984, p 65).
Therefore, it is crucial that we find our “Real Self,” our “Divine Self,” by returning deep inside us to the Source from which we originally sprang, quieting down our human self, and becoming detached from our worldly life. Once the Divine Self surfaces, we feel an extreme happiness and contentment; we become clear, light. This process corresponds to the” State of Being” described by Eckhart Tolle. He says that this state “does not reduce the infinite invisible to a finite entity. . . It is your very essence, and it is immediately
accessible to you as the feeling of your own presence, the realization of I am that is prior to I am this or I am that.” ( The Power of Now, 2004, p.14).
Similarly, we find in Christianity:” The Kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21); “ The Spirit of God is within you” (I Cor.3:16).
From the Quran 2, p 156-158, we read “ Verily, we are God’s and verily to Him shall we return”
In Judaism, the Kabbalah recognizes the Einsof ( The Principle or God) as the center from which emanates the world.
Hinduism says “Atman is Brahman” or the individual soul is the Divine Soul.
The Buddha said:” I am the Buddha already enlightened; human beings are Buddhas yet to be enlightened”. Each one of us has the Buddha-Nature deep within, which is the One, the Essential which exists in All.
Confucianism believes that God is not far from humankind and in fact resides in the innermost of our being. And our noblest duty is to rekindle the Divine spark latent within ourselves.
The Encyclopedia of Religions, 2nd edition, Detroit, 2004, p 6143, writes: “The Dao or Tao is the unity, the creative principle underlying all particulars. Taoists celebrate the reality and value of particulars, space and time, person and nature, life and death, and all shades of being, arising and returning to the Dao. The Dao is the One behind the many”.
From AllAboutSikhs.com, accessed july 5, 2017, we read:”As the sparks rise from fire and fall back to it, dust particles rise from dust and go back to it, waves are nothing but water: similarly, all sentient and non-sentient beings emanate from God and will go back and merge with Him”
As we can see, the traditions over diverse geographic areas and through time meet at their esoteric, mystical level, professing the existence of a Spiritual Self, the Light in our innermost being that connects us to the Cosmic Light, the Divine Essence—or God.
II- THE HUMAN TAO IS PEACE (Nhơn ĐạoThái Bình).
Please see Chapter II- The Goals of CaoDai (Episodes 3,4,5 of Podcasts).
III- THE DIVINE TAO IS LIBERATION (Thiên Đạo Giải Thoát).
Please see Chapter II- The Goals of CaoDai (Episodes 3,4,5 of Podcasts).
IV- LOVE AND JUSTICE- HARMONY.
Love is the source of life in the universe. With love, all living beings can be at peace
and the universe is tranquil. With peace and tranquility, there would be no animosity,
no mutual destruction, and subsequently there would be maintenance of life and evolvement.
Among the principles professed by CaoDai, the concept of Harmony within the practice of Love and Justice constitutes a fundamental lesson for our daily life. Although the one Principle exists in all in the universe, in all beings, life manifests differently, and we beings seem to depend very closely on one another so as to maintain the balance in the natural order of creation. This balance may be reached by the realization of harmony through love, compassion, and justice. Abundant literature addresses love, compassion, and justice, or the Golden Rule, and it is noteworthy that we find them in scriptures of all faiths. Love, compassion, and justice are both the manifestations of and the basis for harmony—harmony with God and harmony with humanity. Here is a brief overview of the teachings of love and justice in major faiths followed by a more detailed account for CaoDai.
In Christianity,love is the essential principle of life. Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are my disciples if you love for one another” (John 13:35). And, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep his commandments” (John 5:2–3).
Christian love is not just a feeling. It is selfless, unconditional, giving love; it is a lifestyle.
Christian love means giving to others those things that you would want them to give you in the same situation and without expecting to be paid back. In fact, it means doing so especially if they cannot pay you back.
Christian love goes hand and hand with justice: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and Prophets”(Matt. 7:12). This Golden Rule—“Do to others what you want others to do to you”—forms a fundamental teaching in Christianity.
One of the core commandments of Judaism is “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18), which stands at the center of the Torah.
Justice is at the heart of the Jewish notion of Love. Justice is the institutionalization of Love in society. This law of Love requires that every man be treated as a thou, a person, an end in himself, never merely as a thing or a means to another’s end.” In fact, acts of kindness are so much a part of Jewish law that the word mitzvah(literally, “commandment”) is used to mean any good deed.
Islam urges its followers to adopt mutual love all the time and encourages them to manifest that love. The Prophet said: ‘When a man loves his brother, he should tell him that he loves him.”
For Islam, justice represents moral rectitude, virtue, and giving others equal treatment. It stands next in order of priority to love for God and the truth of Mohammad’s prophecy: “God commands justice and fair dealing” (Qur’an 16:90); and, “O you who believe, be upright for God and bearers of witness with justice” (Qur’an 5:8).
Love and harmony and unity are expressed vividly in this passage from the Epistle of the Son of the Wolf in the Baha’i faith: “Ye are the fruits of one tree, and the leaves of one branch, deal ye one another with the utmost love and harmony, with friendliness and fellowship. He who is the Daystar of Truth beareth Me witness! So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.”
Aside from the emphasis on love, Baha’i believes in and teaches truthfulness, trustworthiness, and justice. Justice is the foundation for unity and harmony in the society. And to develop truthfulness, trustworthiness and justice, and a life of service to all living beings is considered the essential effort—in both thought and action.
For Buddha, love is one of the paths to full spiritual liberation. And one needs to develop this capacity to love through continuous practice.
Love in Buddhism goes hand in hand with the practice of compassion and loving kindness. The Buddha taught that, to realize enlightenment, one must develop wisdom and compassion. Wisdom here means “understanding,” “insight,” or “consciousness,” with prajna the corresponding Sanskrit word. This goes along with the idea of “no-self,” or anatta. In order to love, we need to be aware, sensitive and understand the suffering and needs of the other person;and at the same time we need to forget ourselves in the relief of the suffering of others, not waiting for a reward but being selfless and altruistic.
Compassion, or karuna in Sanskrit, stems from the Latin words com(with) and pati(to suffer). It means to feel the suffering of others—to suffer with them and, especially, to want actively to relieve that suffering. “True love is born from understanding.”
Equanimity(upekkha): remaining kindly disposed to and caring for everybody equally. As Buddha said, “Have compassion for all beings, rich and poor alike, each has their suffering.” Also, “Radiate boundless love toward the entire world—above, below, across—unhindered, without ill will, without enmity.”
Justice in Buddhism resides in the law of karma: good actions generate positive consequences and bad ones, negative effects—either in this life or the next. So justice follows individual behavior. The law of karma induces harmony and peace in the family and the community. Buddhist disciples, with the law of karma and the principles of loving kindness and compassion ingrained in their upbringing, always strive to think, behave, and act according to the highest standards of goodness, believing that positive results will follow.
All Hindu Gods—Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva— are compassionate. Vishnu is the most compassionate. Depictions of Vishnu usually show Him with two arms embracing the physical world and two others embracing the invisible world.
Hindu scriptures reflect on Justice as a social norm and a cosmic principle .
The Upanishads emerged with the concept of karma, justice became thought of as a logical result of one’s actions. Just as in Buddhism, good behaviors are rewarded, and bad behaviors are naturally punished either during this life or the next.
For the Sikh, Love means love for the Lord and his creation. Love is the most positive and powerful tool for bringing about peace in this life.
In Sikhism, justice is one of the attributes of God. And God is the only true judge. In the court of God, none can escape true judgment. This justice is delivered without partiality
In God’s Court, there is neither high nor low, nor rich, nor poor: “Hereafter goes not cast, nor color; one becomes as per deeds.” As we sow here, so shall we reap in his Court.
Dating back to the sixth century BCE, the ancient Indian religion known as Jainism affirms that the main principle is Non-Violence (ahimsa) and respect toward all living beings. Jains observe the Golden Rule in that “one should treat all creatures in the world as one would like to be treated.”
Confucius’ teachings address the code of conduct for a human being in relation to the family, the community, and the country. And within those groups, this code pertains to love and respect for parents, to the elderly, to the teacher, and to the neighbor.
Humaneness and love go together to realize righteousness. And in that Confucian teaching of moral conduct, justice transpires in known quotes such as, “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself; Respect everybody [as you would] yourself and treat them [as] you want them to treat you”; and, “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.”
Lao Tse,the founder of Taoism, said that “the sky and the earth and I were born together. All ten thousand things and I have the same constituent.” Therefore, for Taoism, the proper conduct in life is to see oneself as one with the universe and all beings and to live in harmony with them.
Harmony and justice are achieved in our seeing others as we see ourselves, in treating others as we treat ourselves, and in our giving and yielding.
This section on Love and Justice is reproduced from the book “For the Rhythm of our Journey”, Bui & Bui, Coffee Press, 2019, pp123-131. Part of it was addressed in Chapter II- The Goals in CaoDai in the section “The Human Tao is Peace”.
“Love and justice constitute an essential teaching in CaoDai. As one enters any CaoDai temple, one will see at the center of the foremost wall the painting of the three CaoDai Saints with the words in Chinese characters (also used by Vietnamese) and French: Dieu et Humanité (God and Humanity) and Amour et Justice (Love and Justice).
This agreement of the Three Saints with God originated from a séance teaching of Lý Thái Bạch (Li Po), the spiritual pope of CaoDai. The Three Saints are Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm, Victor Hugo,and Sun Yat Sen.
The painting of the Three Saints, by the artist HiềnTài Lê MinhTống, is featured in all CaoDai temples.
From Left to Right: Sun Yat Sen, Victor Hugo, Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm
Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm (1491-1585) was a renowned Vietnamese poet and prophet of the sixteenth century who led an exemplary life of quietude. His poetry not only was refined but also taught people morality. He was also an accurate teller of the future. In CaoDai, the spirit of Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm came under the name Thanh Sơn Đạo Sĩ (Thanh Sơn Taoist master), the master of the Bạch Vân Động (White Cloud Lodge) of which Victor Hugo and Sun Yat Sen are also members. They have the mission from the Supreme Being to announce the God-Human Treaty for the Third Universal Salvation of the Great Way. According to the treaty, any human who fulfills the principles of Love and Justice would be saved.
These Three Saints from the Bạch Vân Động also have the mission of assistance to the Mother Goddess in the salvation of humanity. In the worshipping ceremony for the Mother Goddess, before reciting the prayers, the disciples have to express their commitment to the Mother Goddess, the Nine Female Fairies, and the saints of the White Cloud Lodge.
Victor Hugo (1802 – 1885), was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the nineteenth century. He is considered one of the greatest French writers. One of Hugo’s best known novels, Les Misérables, described social misery and injustice. He practiced spiritism while in exile on the island of Jersey. He believed in God but did not like religions: “Religions pass away, but God remains.”In CaoDai, the spirit of Victor Hugo came under the name Nguyệt Tâm Chơn Nhơn (True Teacher with Moon-pure Heart), one of the saints of the White Cloud Lodge. He received the mission from the Supreme Being to be responsible for the function of CaoDai Overseas. He helped the establishment of the Hiệp Thiên Đài (Heavenly Union Palace), the legislative body of CaoDai Sacerdotal Council. He also established prayers for the Holy Shower, wedding and death ceremonies.
Sun Yat Sen (1866 – 1925) was the twentieth-century Chinese revolutionary and founder of the Republic of China. He was also a physician and a writer. In CaoDai, his spirit came under the name Tôn Sơn Chơn Nhơn (True Teacher Tôn Sơn), one of the saints of the White Cloud Lodge. Together with Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm and Victor Hugo, he has the mission to announce the God – Human Treaty during the Third Universal Salvation of the Great Way.
What is the significance of grouping these three figures from different centuries and cultures together? In Lý Thái Bạch’s vision, the collaboration of the Vietnamese Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm with the French Victor Hugo and the Chinese Sun Yat Sen is to show forgiveness and reconciliation. Vietnam was under the colonial governments of China for a thousand years and of France for more than eighty years. The Supreme Being—Đức Cao Đài, also called Đức Chí Tôn—wants to see the Vietnamese people extend forgiveness and reconciliation to China and France and wants the rest of humanity to follow that example.
In addition, the relationship between God and humankind includes a promise God makes that the Three Saints declare: people, simply by observing love (unconditional) and justice (don’t do to others what you don’t want others to do to you), may attain salvation.
That was the reason for the painting, as it was designed and executed by HiềnTài Lê MinhTống at the order of the Hộ Pháp Phạm Công Tắc, who is the highest dignitary of the legislative body (Hộ Pháp means “Dharma Protector”).
The teachings of Đức Chí Tôn—God—for us to love one another comes through numerous times in the CaoDai scriptures:
“You would not have further opportunity to serve humanity and thereby redeem yourselves. . . . You are to love one another; your guidance and sharing with each other are precious gifts which please Me greatly.”
(CSCDHM, p. 140-141).
“The presence of the Tao in a country means that disasters of this country are about to end. You must purify your heart, follow the examples of suffering (being) overcome by love and help each other like children of the same family. This would lead you to Nirvana, avoiding this suffering world.” (CSCDHM, p.171).
And especially, as we love other living beings, we love God's spirit in them; and subsequently we love God. We find this teaching about love as the key to heaven and to avoiding reincarnation:
“As I taught, just aspire to be able to love one another following my Holy Example. Love is the KEY to the thirty-six heavens, to Nirvana and the White Jade Palace. Whoever denies love would never be able to escape reincarnation. And moreover, I will take care of all your difficulties, while I just ask for your love of each other and for your effort in serving humanity for its liberation.”(CSCDHM, p. 209).
If one extends love unconditionally to our fellow humans as well as to animals, plants, and inanimate objects—if one respects them, cares for them, and gives without discrimination, without waiting for return—one will realize an essential step in self-cultivation, which brings harmony and peace to all. CaoDai so insistently emphasizes this love that it is expressed in the first precept: “Do not kill.” CaoDaists believe that everything in the universe—materials, plants, animals, and humans—emanate from God. Therefore, all lives need to be respected.
CaoDaists try to minimize the need for killing; hence, vegetarianism is strongly recommended. Of course, plants will be sacrificed, but many plants can just grow back after being cut; and plants are much simpler organisms than animals (see section V of Chapter two on plant-based diet).
Justice represents the second arm of the treaty between God and humanity. Justice in CaoDai corresponds to the Golden Rule in Christianity: Do not do to others what you don’t want others to do to you. The teaching of “you reap what you sow” permeates throughout the scriptures and is also the Buddhist law of karma: “Any right or wrong acts are recorded by Angels and Saints for the final judgment.” And again, “But one cannot avoid the Divine Law which I Myself must respect. You have committed your own crimes and therefore will exact your own punishment.” The scripture also related that “Mr. Hạng Tráng was so pure as to even pay the spring for his horse to drink water. He was blessed and met with good fortune”; “People who deal with others with sincerity will receive respect in return”; and “I want you to teach your family correct values, treat people with pure conscience even for petty matters. Try to read and explain My Holy Teachings to people. Justice and Sincerity are My favorite virtues.”
The scriptures go on, “Therefore, each of you has an important responsibility which, if you fail to fulfill, would lead to divine punishment according to the balance between your good and bad deeds.”
Most of all, the Supreme Being, God Đức Chí Tôn,emphasized equanimity:
“As I have stated, I have treated all disciples as equals regardless of their titles. Whoever had built meritorious service in previous lives, I would trust them with more important responsibilities. Whoever had given less service, I would give less responsibility. They are all My children. Except for administrative responsibilities, they are spiritually equal. No one can use their power to take advantage of others. Nobody has the right to abuse or disabuse anyone.” (Message of April 16, 1928- CSCDHM, 2015, p. 222).
And here is Quan Yin Bodhisattva in a message to CaoDai disciples about the importance of harmony:
“The most precious element of the Tao is Harmony. Try to think. The creation of the Universe is from the Harmony between Yin and Yang energies. The creation and nurture of all living beings depend also on Harmony. Even the organs inside of a person need to have Harmony to function, if not, human beings could not live.
About the soul, the six desires and the seven emotions rise against the conscience, and if they prevail, human beings would live solely according to their physical body’s needs, without realizing the divine will. What would be the value of such a person without Harmony? If there is no Harmony in the family, there would be conflict between children and parents, separation between husband and wife, and between brothers and sisters. If there is no Harmony in a country, there would be turmoil. If there is no Harmony in the world, humanity would fight each other. Therefore, I recommend you to create Harmony first in any situation. “(CSCDHM, 2015, p. 267).
The Bodhisattva went on to describe God as the “Great Mercy Father” whose love for all beings is unlimited:
“Greetings to all younger brothers and sisters. Do you know why we have to love all living beings? Because the Mercy Father created all living in the Universe, therefore they all have the same constituent. Therefore the love of life of the Great Mercy Father is unlimited. We are one of all species of the Universe and are affected by the law of creation and nurture.. . .Therefore, opening the heart to love all living beings,including petty species,is a way to avoid Karmic Law, because the Divine Law would never be partial to anyone.. . When we are born on this earth, The Great Mercy has granted us [humans]a part of His Spirit, which is more sacred than that granted to all other beings, so that we may replace God to guide all other weaker species.” (CSCDHM, p.268)
This teaching orders us to love, respect, protect, and nurture everything created. Living in the universe together with all others, we are to connect with them , preserve life,and honor the natural order.
In summary, the values of love and justice permeate through all traditions, reinforced in CaoDai and constitute the basis for a life of harmony with the Divine and harmony between humans and the universe.