The Hộ Pháp / 護法 recalls here what the Supreme Being said to the Principal Archbishop Hương Thanh :
“I wanted to suppress the College of Women, but you are all My children, so I make no distinction between you”.
For this reason at the point when the Rules and Religious Laws were created, women were admitted to investiture with priestly functions.
Is there some mystery between Our Divine Master and the Council of the Gods (Ngọc Hư Cung / 玉虛宮) / (The Heavently Palace where the Council of God holds its sessions) ,which means that He leaves to the Pope the duty of forming the Dignitaries of the College of Women?
Why does He not form them Himself?
Do women have difficulty carrying out their roles in the religious sphere?
All we wish is that our Sisters may be able to fulfil their duty in a suitable manner.
The Holy Words of the Spiritual Pope about the Dignitaries of the College of women now follow.
An actual extract from the Messages from the Spiritual Pope Li-Tai-Pe (Lý Thái Bạch / 李太白)
Divine Text : Dear Dignitaries, listen to my instructions about the ceremonial dress of the College of Women. From now on show great respect for these beautiful robes and be alert about the celebration of the Rites according to the Hierarchy!
Commentary : The Pope recommended all the Dignitaries of the College of Men to pay attention to the beautiful robes of the Dignitaries of the College of Women and to be alert about the celebration of the Rites according to the Hierarchy. This means that He demands perfect discipline in the ranks of the dignitaries and an exemplary distinction between men and women both on the temporal and spiritual level.
The Hộ Pháp / 護法 asked Him about the power of the feminine offices. He answered :
“The dignitaries whether masculine or feminine who are on the same level have the same powers. The Priests of the College of Men must be placed under the orders of the Bishops of the College of Women, just as the Bishops of the College of Men must obey the Archbishops of the College of Women. Equality is for all, but powers differ according to the dignitaries of the Sacerdotal Council”.
Divine Text : The Dignitaries of the College of Women work under the command of The Cardinal (only One). In her turn She depends on the authority of the Pope and of the Legislative Cardinals.
Commentary : From what has just been said we can clearly see that the Divine Constitution does not permit women to the positions of Legislative Cardinals or of Pope.
The Hộ Pháp / 護法 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 (Âm Dương / 陰陽). 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, on that day, the Universe would fall into decay and would be destroyed! The Sun is the image of the Yang, and the Moon the image of the Yin. You represent the Yang, men, and women, the Yin. If I allow the College of Women to hold the power of the Pope 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 / 護法 insisted further : The College of Women cannot claim the rank of Pope, but there is nothing wrong if the women become Legislative Cardinals.
In response to this Our Divine Master gave a further answer :
“The role of the Legislative Cardinals is even more important, for they represent the Divine Law or Hộ Pháp / 護法 to the Cửu Trùng Ðài / 九重臺. They are almost Popes! I do not allow the dignitaries of the College of Women to be promoted to the office of Pope. Why will I allow them to sit on the throne of Hộ Pháp / 護法? The Law of God is thus set down! I beg you quite simply to give them assistance and guide them in the way of Heavenly Virtue!”
Definition : The “Female Cardinal” wields the same power as the Cardinals, but her authority extends only as far as the College of Women, without any involvement with the powers of the dignitaries of the College of Men. In their turn the latter must refrain from intruding on the power of the College of Women.
In any issues involving the dignitaries of the College of Women, the Pope and the Hộ Pháp / 護法 contact only the “Female Cardinal”.
When asked by the Hộ Pháp / 護法 about the arrangement and form of the Throne of the Female Cardinal, Our Divine Master gave these instructions :
“The Holy Throne faces West, the direction of the Cung Đoài / 兌 (setting Sun), so that in front of the “Divine Eye” is the “Cung Ðạo / 宮道” (Place of religion). On my left, the “Cung Càn / 乾” (Heaven), on my right, the “Cung Khôn / 坤” (Earth). Looked at mystically, the Seven Great Dignitaries (The Pope, and the three Legislative Cardinals and the three Cardinals) ought to have their thrones on My Left, facing the “Cung Càn / 乾”. But just as they symbolise the Five Religious Branches (Confucianism, Geni-ism, Christianity and Islam, Taoism, Buddhism), I must put their Thrones in the Middle. So the throne of the “Nữ Đầu Sư / 女頭師” (the Female Cardinal) must be place on My Right.”
- What is this throne like? asked Hộ Pháp / 護法.
“- Just like the throne of the Avaloktesvara ‘Quan-The-Am’ in the Garden of the Sweetness (Vuon Truoc Tu) of the South Seas (Nam-Hai). That is, it is a marble throne with two open lotus flowers as a footstool.”
Divine Text : The female Cardinal (Nữ Đầu Sư / 女頭師) must be chosen through an election by the voices according to the Rules and the Religious Laws. She supports the decisions of the Sacerdotal Council/ Hội Thánh / 會聖 when there has been transgression of the rules of the New Code whether from the Spiritual or the Temporal point of view.
Commentary : The female Cardinal is to observe the New Religious Code in every detail whether administrative or legislative, and is to submit herself to the judgement of the Sacerdotal Council/ Hội Thánh / 會聖, just as the dignitaries of the Male College do. In the same way, her election must follow the same rules.
In the exercise of her functions, she has the same power as the Cardinals, with no change. Executive power also belongs to the Principal Female Archbishops; she is not to infringe their power, for this would involve transgressing the Divine Law.
Divine Text : The female Cardinal has a ceremonial form of dress similar to that worn by the male Cardinals.
The white silk robe has nine sashes and is embroidered with lotus flowers. The head-covering is a hood, just like the one worn by female bonzes, and is also made of white silk. The hood is overlaid with a golden headdress (Phuơng-Thiên-Mạo) the top of which has the “Divine Eye” engraved on it surrounded by a mystic Circle. This headdress also includes a white gauze stole which hangs down as far as the heels.
On her feet the female Cardinal wears shoes called “Vô Ưu / 無憂” (shoes not made of leather). They are white and on the toes they have the character “Hương / 香” (Sweetness), the baptismal name of the dignitaries of the Women's College.
Description : The ceremonial dress for the female Cardinal is made of white silk, embroidered with lotus flowers just the one worn by the Cardinals.
The robe has nine sashes.
The Headdress is a hood also made of white silk, like the one worn by the female bonzes, embroidered with lotus flowers. This hood is surrounded by a golden diadem which circles the head; above this diadem there is a cap also made of gold. This cap has the “Divine Eye” engraved on the top of it, and it is surrounded by a Mystic Circle. The stole of the cap, made of white gauze, is to be 3.33metres long, for each time that the female Cardinal goes up to her throne, two student-priestesses must hold up the stole to prevent it from dragging along the ground.
Her feet are shod with shoes called Vô Ưu / 無憂 (shoes not made of leather). They are white, and on the toes is the character “Hương / 香”, the baptismal name of the dignitaries of the Women's College. To wear this religious headdress, the hair is to be drawn up to the top of the head.
The following is the meaning of the baptismal name of the dignitaries of the Women's College.
“Hương / 香” means “Sweetness”.
This poem was composed by Our Divine Master :
Huệ đức tu chơn độ dẫn hồn.
Nhứt niệm Quan Âm thùy bảo mạng,
Thiên niên đẳng phái thủ sanh tồn.
For the baptismal name of the dignitaries of the Men's College, Our Divine Master composed another poem :
Thọ như địa quyển thạnh hòa Thiên.
Vô hư qui phục nhơn sanh khí,
Tạo vạn cổ đàn chiếu Phật duyên."
“Thanh / 清” means “Purity”.
In the reign of the Pope Li-Tai-Pe (Lý Thái Bạch / 李太白), the Men's College takes the baptismal name “Thanh / 清”, and the Women's College the name “Hương / 香”.
With the accession of another Pope, the Men's College will take the name “Đạo / 道”, and the Women's College the name “Tâm / 心”. This will continue until there are no further names. Then Our Divine Master will again be manifested to give other names. Because of these different baptismal names, the distinction can be made.
For example if someone asks : “At the accession of a new Pope, is the baptismal name of the former dignitaries changed?”
We will answer : No for the succeeding Pope will also have the baptismal name of his predecessor. Only the dignitaries who are appointed while the new Pope is in office will change their baptismal name. Anyone who were appointed by the first Pope will keep their own names.
If a second Pope succeeds Pope Li-Tai-Pe, the newly converted disciples will take the baptismal names of “Đạo / 道” or ‘Tâm / 心”. Among these disciples even if someone is promoted through his predestination to the rank of Principal Archbishop by Our Divine Master (direct Investiture), that person will take either the baptismal name “Đạo / 道” (or “Tâm / 心” in the Women's College), like the new dignitaries; but those who are converted under the papacy of the First Pope will always retain their Baptismal name “Thanh / 清” or “Hương / 香” with no change at all.
(in dissolution from the flesh since 1927)
First Lady Dignitary entitled Đầu Sư /頭師 (Cardinal)
Principal of the Women's College
in full ceremonial dress
Power : These women have the same functions as their colleagues in the Men's College, except that they are only concerned with the women.
Description : The ceremonial dress for the Female Archbishops is the same, but there is no “Phương-Thiên” head-covering. Their robes have three sashes; on the front of the chest is embroidered the “Divine Eye” surrounded by a Mystic Circle.
Commentary : The Principal Female Archbishops wear a ceremonial dress just like the one worn by the Female Cardinal. Their robes are made of white silk, and have nine sashes and are embroidered with lotus flowers. On the front of the chest is embroidered the “Divine Eye” surrounded by a mystic Circle. Their heads are covered with “Ni Kim Cô / 尼金箍” (the hoods worn by female bonzes), but there is no head-covering like the “Phương-Thiên”.
On their feet are shoes of the type called “Vô Ưu / 無憂” (shoes not made of leather), embroidered with their baptismal name on the toes.
The ceremonial dress of the Female Archbishops is the same; one point of difference is that the robe has only three sashes.
Lady Dignitary entitled CHANH-PHOI-SU (Principal Archbishop)
Director of the administrative Service of the Women's College
in full ceremonial dress
Functions : These important dignitaries have the same functions as do the Bishops of the Men's College, but the former are concerned only with the women.
Description : The Bishops of the Women's College wear robes made of white silk, with three sashes, and with the “Kim Cô / 金箍” as their head-dress.
They do not wear shoes.
Commentary : The dress of the Bishops of the Women's College is the same as the dress worn by the Archbishops.
Their robes are made of simple white silk, without embroidery and with three sashes. Their head-covering is a “Kim Cô / 金箍” (the type of hood worn by female bonzes) made of white silk, with an extra gauze stole which reaches the heels.
They do not wear shoes.
Lady Dignitary entitled Giáo Sư / 教師 (Bishop)
in full ceremonial dress
Functions : The Priestesses have the same functions as the Priests, but they are concerned only with the women.
Description : They wear a ceremonial dress like the one worn by the Bishops of their College, with no headdress. A simple white lotus flowers with the “Divine Eye” pinned in their hair.
Commentary : The Priestesses have the same form of dress as the Bishops of their College. They have no headdress and do not wear shoes during the ceremonies.
They do not have a hood as a headdress, but a white lotus with the“Divine Eye” in the centre is pinned into their hair which is worn in a chignon.
Lady Dignitary entitled Giáo Hữu / 教友 (Priestess)
in full ceremonial dress
NOTE : Nữ Giáo Hữu / 教友 (Priestesses) have only one form of dress for both major and lesser ceremonies
Functions : Their functions are same as those of the Student-Priests, and they are concerned only with the women.
Description : They wear a form of ceremonial dress like the one worn by the Priestesses and they cover their heads with a long veil knotted as the nape so that the two ends of unequal length hang down.
On their heads is pinned a single white lotus flower.
Commentary : The Student-Priestesses wear a form of ceremonial dress just like the one worn by the Priestesses and they cover their heads with a long white gauze veil which is tied at the nape with a knot which has two ends of uneven length, the longer of which reaches the middle of the thighs.
They do not wear any headdress, and their chignon has a simple white lotus flower pinned to it. There is no “Divine Eye” in the centre.
Student-Priestess entitled Lễ Sanh / 禮生
in ceremonial dress
Attributions : The Chánh Trị Sự / 正治事 of the Women's College have the same functions as the Chánh Trị Sự / 正治事 of the Men's College. They are concerned only with the women.
They wear a form of ceremonial dress like the one worn by the Student-Priestesses, but made of white calico. Their robes have a narrow belt .03m. wide and the neck is embroidered with woven yellow-gold thread.
On the left arm is sewn a three-coloured ribbon (yellow, blue and red), 3 centimetres wide and 10 centimetres long. They do not have any head-covering.
Lady Sub-dignitary entitled Chánh Trị Sự / 正治事 (Village Leader)
in ceremonial dress
Their functions are the same of those of the Phó Trị Sự / 副治事 of the Men's College. They are concerned only with the women.
They wear a ceremonial dress which is like the one worn by the Chánh Trị Sự / 正治事 of their College, except that the neck is decorated by woven silver-white thread. They do not have any belt or headdress.
On the left arm is sewn a three-coloured ribbon (yellow, blue and red), 3 centimetres wide and 5 centimetres long.
Lady Sub-dignitary entitled Phó Trị Sự / 副治事
(Representative of the administrative Body in the village)
in ceremonial dress
These women have the same powers as the Thông Sự / 通事 of the Men's College, but they are concerned only with the women.
They wear a form of ceremonial dress in white calico. The neck is embroidered on both sides with the three distinctive insignia: the Golden Bowl of Sakyamuni (Bình-Bát Vu / 缽盂), the Feather Duster of Purification (Phất Chủ / 拂麈), the Book of Spring and Autumn (Xuân-Thu / 春秋), just like the insignia embroidered on the simple headdress of Hộ Pháp / 護法.
They wear a narrow belt around their waists. It is made of white calico and is three centimetres wide.
Lady Sub-dignitary entitled Thông Sự / 通事
(Representative of the legislative Body in the village)
in ceremonial dress
in adept dress