Cao Dai is the third largest religion in Vietnam (following Buddhism and Roman Catholicism) and was founded by Le Van Trung and 28 other persons who signed the Declaration of the Founding of the Cao Dai Religion in 1926. Translated, Cao means “high” and Dai means “palace”, and refers to the supreme palace where God reigns.
The word Cao Dai is also used as God’s symbolic name. Caodaism combines elements from many of the world’s religions, including Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Taoism, as well as Geniism, an indigenous religion of Viet Nam.
Cao Daists regard the history of religion as being divided into three periods of revelation. The first was circa 2500 BCE, when God inspired the founding of Judaism in the Middle East, Hinduism in India, and Yi king in China. A few thousand years later, God led the Buddha to found Buddhism, Lao Tse to create Taoism, Confucius to start Confucianism, and Jesus Christ to found Christianity.
Cao Daoists believe that, due to the frailty of religious leaders, the truth became distorted and that limitations in communication and transportation prevented the formation of a single, true universal religion that all of humanity could embrace.
Followers of Caodaism believe that God was concerned that multiple religions prevented people from living together in harmony.
God decided to initiate a third revelation, in which he communicated Caodaism by spiritist means. Caodaists worship and adore God, superior spirits, and their ancestors.
They believe in karma, in which one’s future lives are dependent upon deeds practiced in this life, and also in reincarnation, in which a person experiences a series of lives.
Followers are expected to follow three rules: pray at least once a day; eat a vegetarian diet at least ten days every month; and observe five interdictions against lying, adultery, drinking, sinning, and murder.
Their main center is in Tay Ninh, about 60 miles (100 km) North West of Saigon. They currently have 7 to 8 million followers in Viet Nam and about 30,000 members elsewhere, primarily in Asia, Australia, Canada, Europe, and the United States.