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The Course on Caodai:








     - Understand that the Human Tao or the Secular life is to create Peace.

     - How is Peace realized in Secular Life.

     - Know the basic teachings of Confucius, LaoTse, Buddha.

                 The unification of the Five Ways of the Dao

                 The observance of Love and Justice

                 The observance of the Five Precepts

                 The application of the Triple Fold Path (Tam Công) and Tam Lập   

    - Understand the Oneness between God, Humanity and All in the Universe.

    - Understand that All in the Universe receive a spark from the Divine Spirit,

       All human are spiritual beings destined to return to the Divine Source.




A  fundamental message and teaching of CaoDai theology is the realization of peace in the person, his family, and the community at large, which is expressed in the first of the two phrases summarizing the journey of a human being:

“Nhơn đạo thái bình,”or “the human Tao is peace”

The second arm being “Thiên đạo giải thoát,”or “the divine Tao is liberation,” which will be the subject for the next section of principle of CaoDai.


Nhơn đạo thái bình itself relies on:

- The unification of the five ways of the Dao

- The main teachings of Confucius, Lao-Tse and Buddha

-  The observance of love and justice.

- The observance of the five precepts.

- The practice of the Triple Fold Path

The Unification of the Five Ways of the Dao

Please see also Chapter 1.

Through history, Religions can be grouped in Five Ways, manifested in 3 Revelations.

The Five ways are: the Way of Humanity, the Way of Local Spirits, the Way of Saints, the Way of Immortals, the Way of Buddhas. 

The Five Ways were distinct at the First Revelation, 5000 years ago and at the Second Revelation, 2500 years ago. At the Third Revelation, God united the Religions.

CaoDai or the Third Universal Salvation is founded, in which we observe the culmination of Unity and Inclusiveness of all Religions.

The Unification is possible, as all Religions come from one same Divine Source and

have the same teachings of Love and Justice, Peace and Enlightenment.


The main teachings of Confucius, Lao-Tse and Buddha


            “From one root spring off three counter-part stems

            Once it is well comprehended, we shall purify self and pray.”

                  (CDEP, 2016, p. 33)


In this section, the pearls of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism which constitute the core of the CaoDai faith, will be offered to the readers in simple words.

            Nurturing life is the basis for Confucian practice. The divine principle is to create and nurture. In order to nurture life conforming to the divine principle, the person needs to learn the four virtues of “Nhân, Nghĩa, Lễ, Trí'' or “Humaneness, Righteousness, Civility, Wisdom.”

            Humaneness or the conduct of a human is the expression of our intimate natural conscience and love. Internally, it is to preserve the purity of our conscience, and externally it is to spontaneously show love to living beings. 

            Righteousness expresses those actions which conform to the divine principle. So it represents the external manifestation of humaneness.

            Civility helps shape our attitudes and actions toward our fellow humans, as we follow the divine principle. One of the aspects of basic civility manifests through our respect to our elderly, taking extra care to be of assistance and showing patience and tolerance toward them.  

            Wisdom assists us in understanding what the conscience sees as good, as right in order to avoid bad deeds.


            Taoist principle can be captured in the word “natural.”And the word “natural” is captured in the phrase “Wu-wei,”or non-action. And these are blended in the Tao described by Lao-Tse as beyond form, beyond sound, beyond touch. Empty and silent, the Tao creates and nurtures. We recognize here the same concept as in Confucian principles of humaneness and righteousness. And yet, the practical approach of Confucian and Taoist teachings, while being different, indeed complement each other. In wu-wei, the Taoist, by not intervening, allows the universe to unfold its natural essence,

conforming to the creation and nurturing of Confucianism.The picture of the newborn before the acquisition of human societal attributes is alluded to, in Taoism.

The Taoist cultivates self by quieting his physical senses – seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing, touching – and thus taming his desires. Here Taoism merges with the essential teaching in Buddhism.

The next message is “no striving,” in other words no fight, no competition. Lao-Tse refers to this virtue as the virtue of water, giving life to all, conforming to all shapes of the containers and always flowing to lower places. No striving,or gentleness and submission will prevail over hardness and strength.

Tao Te Ching – chapter 16 reads“Empty yourself of everything, your mind will rest in peace.” 


The Buddhist aspect in Vietnamese tradition is well ingrained with the classic four Noble truths and the Noble Eightfold path. 


The Four Noble Truths include:

-      The reality of suffering

-      The origin of sufferings residing in craving (desire)

-      The truth of cessation of sufferings in controlling the craving

-      The truth of cessation of sufferings through practicing the eightfold path

The  Noble Eightfold Path consists of:

-      Right view

-      Right intention

-      Right speech

-      Right action

-      Right livelihood

-      Right effort

-      Right mindfulness

-      Right concentration


Among these, right view and right concentration give the most important applications in the realization of Buddhahood. The Buddhist insists on the impermanence of existence and on relieving suffering through detachment from secular happenings.


Although it may appear that Confucianism, Taoism,and Buddhism represent three different traditions, they in fact all point to the realization of peace for humanity following the transcendance from secular attachments in order to attain harmony in self and in relationship with others. These three Eastern traditions form the core of CaoDai, manifested in the logo  grouping the bowl of alms of Buddhism in yellow, the whisk of Lao-Tse for Taoism in blue and the Spring and Autumn book of Confucius in red.


 Logo grouping the three Eastern faiths



Observance of Love and Justice

Observance of Love and Justice,as the fundamental basis for peace in humanity is also addressed in Chapter 4 and 5.

Love is the source of life in the universe. With love, all living beings can be at peace and the universe tranquil. With peace and tranquility, there would be no animosity, 

no mutual destruction, and subsequently there would be maintenance of life and evolvement.”


Message of January 11, 1930—God CaoDai                                                                     (CSCDHM, p.243)


 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 appear to depend very closely on one another 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. 

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 the 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.

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).


Observance of the five precepts

The five precepts constitute the very first teachings for new adepts and for children as they start to learn CaoDai morals and ethics. They are: do not kill, do not steal, do not commit adultery, do not get drunk or high, do not lie or sin by words. These will be discussed further in the exoteric practice in chapter 5.

Practice of the Triple Fold Path (Tam Công) and the Triple Endeavors (Tam Lập)


            To assist the disciple in attaining peace in this life and liberation afterwards, CaoDai faith offers the Triple-Fold Path which consists of Công Quả or service to humanity, Công Trình or self-cultivation, and Công Phu or return to the Inner Self by meditation. This Triple-Fold Path professed by CaoDai is very realizable by all of us, young and old, whether religious or non religious. We, the authors derive so much fulfillment with this Triple-fold Path, we expressly encourage our reader to embrace this approach, combining service with self-cultivation and reflection in meditation. It gives tangible satisfaction in our relations with our fellow humans, and at the same time gives us a sense of meaningful growth in our relations with the Cosmos.

a-    Công quả: Service to humanity and to all

            “You do not need to seek great philosophy. Just look at the life of your human companions and try to serve and nurture it. If you serve humanity with all your heart, the gate of Heaven is already open to you. . .  If you have not paid all your karmic debt and have not accrued enough merit (service to all living beings), you cannot become enlightened. In- order- to become enlightened, you must first accrue enough merit by spreading the Tao, guiding and serving human beings.”God CaoDai (The Sermons of His Holiness Hộ Pháp Phạm Công Tắc, 1948)

Service to humanity is our practical contribution to the well-being of humanity. In CaoDai, it in fact extends to the whole universe. Since human beings can be seen as constituted of three aspects, the physical, the emotional and the spiritual aspects, service can be rendered at those three planes.

            At the physical, we send to the needy with food, clothing, shelter, we help build houses, hospitals, schools, temples, and churches. Hum and I contribute in serving food to the underserved, sending funds for the construction of house units and digging wells for the needy in Viet Nam, and working as volunteer physicians at the New Hope Free Clinic in our adopted hometown, Redlands, California, where we provide medical care and emotional support to the uninsured. We serve all on our path.

          Regarding the mind and the emotions, words of comfort, understanding, and encouragement are a form of service. Personally, we both are very conscious in giving positive, encouraging strokes to whoever we cross on our way.

Another example of service at the emotional level is grief counseling when a person has lost a loved one. As Mother Teresa stated, “Find those who think they are alone and let them know that they are not.”


         Finally, regarding the spiritual level, sharing spiritual teachings and prayers are of utmost importance to help people rediscover their inner, trueselves. Involvement in scripture study classes is another aspect of spiritual service. Naturally, so are the functions performed by ministers, pastors, rabbis, imams, and other spiritual leaders.


All such services should be accomplished spontaneously, from the love deep in our heart, without waiting for reward, and without pressure upon any individual to believe as you do. And, there are no small services.The following examples of unconditional service reside in these firsthand stories: In the countryside of Vietnam, the dirt roads readily developed large holes after heavy monsoon rains. A humble, dedicated person quietly shoveled dirt to fill up the holes and provide a smoother travel for his fellow villagers.

Some others have been giving shelter to stray dogs—sometimes ten to fifteen of them at a time—and then gradually placing them into adoption with responsible families. What a deed of compassion! 

Most importantly, we are to approach service with all our sincerity, as we learn from the teaching of superior spirits:


“To provide service to all living beings means to use body, mind, and spirit—

Whether money, properties, physical needs, food, or clothing—

Without expecting gratitude,

Or recognition from above,

Or being paid.

It means to act simply out of kindheartedness,

Expecting neither blessings, nor recognition from on high,

Nor boasting of self-sacrifice;

But to do it just with spontaneity, with true loving-kindness”.

 (HCPMTCCD, p5)                                       


In summary, service to all living beings is the basis for our spiritual development. That service comes from unconditional love and does not expect rewards. It is the key to open the gate of heaven.

            b-Công Trình:Self-cultivation:

            As we all have a physical body, an emotional plane,and a spiritual plane, let us see how our physical and emotional features affect our life and how we can improve ourselves in order to have joy, purity, and light.

Our physical body has six organs and senses:eyes and vision, ears and hearing, nose and smell, tongue and taste, skin and touch, andmind and conception. External events stimulate these senses to render various and opposite effects: seeing beautiful or ugly objects can produce desire or disliking;hearing flattering words and melodious music can also lead to desire, whereas harsh noise and offensive words can lead to hatred; smelling fragrances can provoke desire, while a foul odor can provoke disgust; tastes can be good or unwanted;the touch of objects can be soft or rough;and our thoughts can be lofty and gentle or heavy and mean.

Secular (worldly) desires lead to the inflation of the ego, adverse emotions, more want and more efforts to satisfy the cravings; they consequently generate more stress, more jealousy, more anger, more yearning, and more unrest. 

Self-cultivation, on the other hand,serves to improve and lighten our emotions and to control our desires in a way that leads to purity, peace, joy, and freedom. Spiritual traditions and sages all teach us to cultivate ourselves in- order- to discover our pure conscience hidden beneath our secular desires.

In CaoDai, an imperative phase for reaching a meaningful life is to cultivate the self (Tu in Vietnamese). This means to nurture our virtues, to open our heart to the love and compassion of living beings, and to build up courage, perseverance, and resilience to surmount difficulties.  In Vietnam, the tradition confirms the essential education for any child as “virtues should be educated before literature.” Indeed, CaoDai teaches the following:


“Self-cultivation is to cultivate the virtues,

To improve our attitudes and actions.

One needs to be generous, not discriminating, friendly    to all,

Altruistic, selfless, with an open and noble mind.

One should not be greedy, ambitious, jealous,

Nor full of anger, confused, hateful.

Nor to be cruel.

Moreover, one should be faithful, perseverant, patient,

Compassionate, altruistic, selfless,

Respectful to all people,

Modest, calm, forthright,

Impartial, honest”.

   (HCPMTCCD, p6)


This continuous effort of improving ourselves is captured in the “Tam Lập,” another triple endeavor, also well-known among the CaoDaists. Tam Lập is particularly mentioned in the sermons of the Hộ Pháp Phạm Công Tắc and in the CDTLHS (The Miraculous Path to Eternal Life). It assembles Lập Công, Lập Đức and Lập Ngôn. Lập Công(right deeds) is mostly seen under service to humanity. This service spans from daily needs to special events such as marriage, and particularly in the events of death and mourning. Lập đức(right virtues) and lập ngôn(right speech) also constitute major steps. We train ourselves continually to improve ourselves, as a lifestyle, so that we do service to others spontaneously from our heart without the intervention of reasoning. Many times, to do such service may be a challenge while dealing with diverse groups of people, with diverse personalities in diverse situations. Try to overcome any hesitation by seeing that the person who needs help is in fact a brother or sister of the same human family and that he or she shares with you the same conscious spark of the Divine Spirit that you would see inthe face of Jesus, of the Buddha, or of God. Lập Đức cultivates the right virtues. Attention is given to Lập Ngôn,which requires the person to improve his speech in accordance to moral standards. Please refer also to the fifth precept: do not sin by words. We strive to think, speak and act righteously.

In summary, self-cultivation constitutes the basis for developing a virtuous life and guiding us in selfless service to others. At each moment of our life, wherever we may be and whatever we may do, we remind ourselves that we are following the Tao. We are cultivating our inner being to realize peace in this life as well as the perfection of the Divine and salvation after this life. 


            c-Công phu:Return to Inner Self.

            Our goal in our spiritual journey is to return to our divine origin. Meditation constitutes a necessary exercise to find the Divine Essence in ourselves.

 We all inherit a spark of the Divine’s Spirit. In order to unveil that spiritual spark, we need to silence our secular attachments and their noisy emotions. “Phàm tâm lặng lẻ, Thánh tâm sanh''or “when the Human Heart is quieted down, the Divine Heart will surface.”Even if we practice service to humanity and self-cultivation,without the return to the bliss of our inner self, we shall miss the joyful discovery of our sublime nature, of our divine origin.


           As expressed earlier, the journey of a human consists of two aspects:

-      Nhơn đạo thái bình, the human Tao is peace which was just discussed and deals mainly with secular activities of self-cultivation and service. This correlates also with exoterism or “Phước” in “Phước Huệ Song Tu” or concurrent path of practicing service and wisdom

-       Thiên đạo giải thoát, the second aspect of our journey, calls us to discover our sublime origin. It is to return to our inner self after quieting down the egoistic self, controlling our secular attachments, our disturbing emotions. This is the ultimate purpose of CaoDai, which is the union with God or enlightenment. Meditation helps to accomplish the silence of the outer world and the surfacing of the pure, naturally good divine essence in ourselves. 

This union with the divine is attainable as we all receive a spark of the Divine Spirit. God, humanity and the universe are One.The union constitutes our return to our sublime origin with our “Little Sacred Light joining the Great Sacred Light”or our spark of spirit joining God’s Spirit.

 It is assisted by disciplined self-cultivation and service concurrently with meditation. It realizes the mystic esoteric practice also called “Huệ'' in “Phước Huệ” dual path. Regular, deep, prolonged daily meditation leads to spiritual evolution in five discernable steps. Please refer to “Esoterism'' in Chapter 4.


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