Emma L (The Spiritual Week ) interviews Hum Bui,
of the Temple of the Cao-Đài faith in Redlands, California, USA.
QUESTION: Within your faith, what is the difference between the levels of Saint, Sage and Buddha? What do those terms mean to you?
ANSWER: Cao-Đài considers all prophets equally great, but the ways (faiths) they found in order to lead humanity in their spiritual cultivation are classified according to this low to high level:
1- the way of humanity or humanism founded by Confucius who taught essentially human ethics so that people would live in a harmonious community. This level of cultivation is dealing mostly to individual cultivation so that an individual would fulfill his/her duties toward parents, siblings, spouses, family, community, etc.
2- The way of angels (genies) founded by Khuong Thai Cong, a Chinese nationalist of the antiquity, who taught people the way to serve the country, to create peace for the country. This level is higher than humanism, because individuals are altruist, may sacrify their
personal interest to serve the country.
3- The way of Saints, founded by Moses, then modified by Jesus, then later by Mohammed, who taught broader love, more sacrifice (Jesus sacrified self on the cross) to humanity. The sacrifice goes beyond national boundaries to serve all humanity.
4- The way of Immortals, founded by Lao Tse, who taught Wei Wu (vô vi, no action), a way of life according to nature without being attached to materials, or secular life. This way would lead individual to immortality. This way is of higher level than the way of Saints, for individuals would no more be involved with secular life.
5- The way of Buddhas, founded by Dipankara Buddha under the form of Hinduism, then improved (or modified) by the Gautama Sakya Muni under the form of Buddhism, who taught humans to be detached totally from secular life in order to be totally liberated from suffering (on this earth) and return to the nothingness (Nirvana). This way is considered as higher than the way of Immortals, for it leads to the nothingness (even without a immortal life). Cao-Đài believes that the highest place to reach for a spiritual cultivation is to return to the unification with the Supreme Being God, to the nothingness.
QUESTION: Is it correct that Cao-Đàiists believe that there are 72 planets in the universe that have intelligent life? If so, where does this belief come from?
ANSWER: The belief comes from the teachings from the Supreme Being. Following is the teaching received from a séance regarding different dimensions that the soul has to travel through in order to reach the unification with God.
One thing remains you have not learned (and so do not know or recognize), and that is the true value of the Great Way. It is so great that you should indeed be concerned about improving your conscience and spiritually developing your emotions.
You were born here on this earth: You live and suffer here, and you will also die here. Do you know what will happen to you after your death?
Do you know where you will go?
None of you understands this miraculous, mystic mechanism. I will now explain: Throughout many thousands of years, all beings are transformed through the reincarnation cycle from minerals to plants to animals–finally reaching the stage of human beings. Human beings on this earth are themselves divided into different classes. For example, the class of “Emperor,” as you understand it, on this earth (the 68th world*) is not even as worthy as the lowest class on the lower, 67th world. The value of worlds increases as their assigned number decreases, from the 3,000th world to the first, then through the 72 earths, then through the four great ethereal continents and then finally through the 36 heavens. Human beings must persevere in cultivating themselves to reach the pinnacle, the “Bạch Ngọc Kinh” (Diamond Palace), or Nirvana (according to Buddhism).
You see: All these classes are heavenly ones. But there are similar hellish classes. The Daemon has thus imitated God to organize his own hierarchy with corresponding positions for the sole purpose of punishing and harming you. I felt compelled to grant him this tremendous privilege of attempting to seduce and induce you to become his servants.
I have always said that there should be justice because that is God’s law.** I have, at times, lost many of my disciples to him. I have already clearly shown you the different ways: the good and the evil.
I have also shown you the direction to follow to not become lost. You should be aware that demons have reincarnated throughout the 3,000 worlds and even among the 72 earths.
Unfortunately, these demons are innumerable and they are masters of illusion and seduction.
This is why I have said that I have placed many ferocious beasts among you and have ordered them to devour you; however, I have also given each of you an armor to protect yourself. This armor is your virtue and it is invisible to these beasts.
Thus, your virtue is the way to exterminate the demons and to return you to Me in Nirvana. If you do not follow the Great Way, you will become the demons’ servants. I have said that your virtue is like an endless ladder which could help you to reach the highest position, My level. I may also lower Myself to elevate you.
I tell you again that even if one fulfills one’s duty honestly and justly, she/he will still have to reincarnate after death again and again, if she/he does not cultivate the self spiritually by following the Great Way. So, when can she/he return to Me? Anyone can return to me after even after only one lifetime, if s/he will spend that life in self-cultivation. This is an enormous privilege I have given you in order to save all human beings. Alas, unfortunately, I have not often had the pleasure of seeing those who have accomplished this.
Therefore, I repeat: You should admire and respect the Great Way.”
QUESTION: What are the three periods?
ANSWER: “Tam Kỳ” means the third appearance. Saying “the third” denotes that there were first and second appearances.
Indeed, the first appearance of the Great Way consisted of diverse messengers representing diverse religions: Nhiên Đăng Cổ Phật (Dipankara Buddha), founding Hinduism or the way of Buddhas; Thái Thượng Đạo Quân (a previous incarnation of Lao Tse), founding Taoism, or the way of Immortals; King Fu Hsi, founding humanism, the way of humanity; Moses, founding the way of Saints (which is Judaism, the precursor of Christianity and Islam).
The second appearance of the Great Way consisted of Sakya Muni, or the Buddha Gautama, representing the way of Buddhas; Lao Tse, the way of Immortals; Jesus and Mohammed, the way of Saints; and Confucius, the way of humanity.
The third appearance is the revelation of Cao Đài, or the revelation for all religions, all previous ways from East to West, to abide together in harmony.
QUESTION: What is the structure of your organisation and of Cao-Đàiism in general?
ANSWER: Cao-Đài structure consists of spiritual and earthly powers.
The spiritual power called Bát Quái Ðài (Eight Trigram Palace) is headed by Cao-Đài the Supreme Being who gives orders and messages to the earth via spiritism.
The earthly power consists of two bodies, the executive and the legislative ones.
The Cửu Trùng Ðài (The Nine Sphere Palace) or Executive Body consists of nine ranks:
1- One Giáo-Tông (教宗) (equivalent to Pope)
2- Three Chưởng-Pháp (掌法) (equivalent to Legislative Cardinals)
3- Three Đầu-Sư (掌法) (equivalent to Cardinals)
4- Thirty six Phối-Sư (掌法) (equivalent to Archbishops)
5- Seventy two Giáo-Sư (掌法) (equivalent to Bishops)
6- Three thousand Giáo-Hữu (掌法) (equivalent to Priests)
7- Lễ-Sanh (掌法) (equivalent to Student priests)
8- Chức Việc / (Chánh-Trị-Sự, Phó-Trị-Sự, Thông-Sự / 正治事 - 副治事 - 通事) (Sub- Dignitaries)
9- Disciples /Tín-Đồ (掌法) / Adepts
The Hiệp Thiên Ðài (The Heavenly Union Palace), or Legislative Body has the role of mediumship communicating the Spiritual Power and the Cửu Trùng Ðài. It consists of:
The Hộ Pháp (Dharma Protector), head of the Hiệp Thiên Ðài
The Thượng Phẩm (Head of Religious Affairs)
The Thượng Sanh (Head of Secular Affairs)
Under each of them there are four Zodiac Dignitaries for the total of 12 Zodiacal Dignitaries who can all have the ability of mediumship in the spiritism seances.
The Hiệp Thiên Ðài (Heavenly Union Palace) is the sacred place where the Supreme Being manifests to give spiritual direction to the Cửu Trùng Ðài.
The Hiệp Thiên Ðài is also a place where the Giáo-Tông (Pope) communicates with superior spirits to ask for the salvation of humanity.
The Hiệp Thiên Ðài is entrusted with the maintenance and application of religious rules and laws.
QUESTION: Is it correct that Cao-Đàiists see women and men as equals? If so, why are women not permitted to attain some of the higher positions within the faith?
ANSWER: Following is a paragraph from e Cao-Đài Constitution, where the Supreme Being explained about the role of women in Cao-Đài.
The Hộ Pháp asked him about the power of the female dignitaries, he answered:
“The dignitaries whether male or female who are on the same level have the same powers. The Giáo-Hữu of the male college must be placed under the orders of the Giáo-Sư of the female college, just as the Giáo-Sư of the male college obey the Phối-Sư of the female college. Equality is for all, but powers differ according to the dignities of the sacerdotal hierarchy.
The dignitaries of the female college work under the command of the Đầu-Sư of the female college. In her turn, she depends on the authority of the Giáo-Tông and of the Chưởng-Pháp .
From what has just been said we can clearly see that the divine constitution does not permit women to the positions of Chưởng-Pháp or Giáo-Tông .
The Hộ Pháp objected to the Divine Master about this divine measure. The Latter answered in this way:
“Heaven and Earth possess two constitutive elements: the YIN and the YANG (Am-Duong). If the YANG dominates, everything lives; if the YIN rules, everything dies. Thanks to the preponderance of the YANG, the whole universe survives, and living beings develop. If a day came when the YANG disappeared and the YIN reigned, the universe would fall into decay and be destroyed! Men represent the YANG, and women, the YIN. If I allow the female college to hold the power of the Giáo-Tông in its hands, I will be sanctioning the triumph of the YIN over the YANG, so that the holy doctrine will be brought to nothing!”
The Hộ-Pháp insisted further: The female college cannot claim the rank of Giáo-Tông , but there is nothing wrong if the women become Chưởng-Pháp . Our Divine Master answered: “The role of the Chưởng-Pháp is even more important, for they represent the divine law or Hộ Pháp to the Cửu Trùng Ðài. They are almost Giáo-Tông ! I do not allow the dignitaries of the female college to be promoted to the office of Giáo-Tông . Why will I allow them to sit on the throne of the Hộ-Pháp? The law of God is thus set down! I beg you quite simply to love them and protect them.
QUESTION: How many branches are there of Cao-Đàiism? What are the differences between them?
ANSWER: There are three branches in Cao-Đài symbolizing the three important ways that humans may choose to practice.
The Confucian branch or the way of Saints that guides people to serve living beings with true love and self sacrifice, realizing that there is God in all living beings. This branch is represented by the red color in Cao-Đài flag.
The Taoist branch or the way of Immortals that guides humans in the self cultivation in order to reach immortality. This branch is represented by the color blue of the Cao-Đài flag.
The Buddhist branch or the way of Buddhas that guide humans to cultivate self to reach the nothingness or unification with the Supreme Being. This branch is represented by the color yellow of the Cao-Đài flag.
The branches are only the symbols of many ways of cultivation and are not related to the responsibility of dignitaries of the branch. The responsibility of dignitaries is determined by their ranks.
Emma: Thanks for your time.
Note: The interview has now been published here: