Practising Caodaism - Duties of Adherents

Caodaists are instructed in their duties and responsibilities to self, family, country, society and humanity, other religious denominations. They also are taught to believe in the Laws of Evolution, the Doctrine of Reincarnation (reimbodiment), Doctrine of Karma (law of cause and effect), in Divine Justice and in the occult Realm of Spirits. Caodaists worship and adore God the Father (Đức Chí Tôn), the Holy Mother (Universal Mother, Đức Phật Mẫu), and Divine Beings, and they venerate Superior spirits and worship ancestors.

According to Tân Luật /The New Canonical Codes(The New Religious Codes of Caodaism), there are two categories/orders of believers:

-         The Lower Category/the Secular Order/The Hạ Thừa consists of non-married and married persons who earn their living as ordinary people. However, their religious duties consists in daily practising the worship. They must observe a vegetarian diet of six days a month (for the first six months after becoming a believer) and then ten days a month. They must observe the Thế Luật /Secular Rules/Laws on the Secular Life of the Faithful promulgated by Great Way for The Third Universal Amnesty/Caodaism, and must observe:

 the Five Prohibitions/ Ngũ Giới Cấm:

"Once converts of the Religion (baptized), believers must cultivate themselves by improving their behavior and observing five prohibitions:

    • 1- Do Not Kill. It is forbidden to kill living beings.
    • 2- Do Not Steal. It is forbidden to commit robbery, banditry, to pilfer, to take goods without authorization, to cheat, to borrow without returning, or to store stolen goods, to appropriate objects dropped in the street, to covet the goods of others, to wish ill to others for one's own interest, or cheat in gambling.
    • 3- Do Not Commit Lewd Acts. It is forbidden to commit adultery, to fall into debauchery, to encourage others to act immorally, to entertain immoral or indecent thoughts at the sight of beautiful persons, or to seduce by speech. (Relations between spouse are not considered to be lewd acts).
    • 4- Do Not Indulge in the Use of Alcohol or a luxurious life style. It is forbidden to abuse the drinking of alcohol and the eating of meat; over eating and drinking causes disorder of physical body and spirit and disturbing public tranquility. It is also forbidden to expect or covet unusual drinks and rich foods.
    • 5- Do Not Lie. It is forbidden to use false words, to speak falsely, or to boast in order to deceive others. It is forbidden to expose another person's faults, to turn wrong into right and vice-versa; to malign, to defame, to talk ill about other people, to incite people to anger or hatred, or to bring matters to public trial; to swear or use vulgar language; to curse other people; to blaspheme religion; to renege on a promise."

(New Canonical Codes/ Tân Luật, Chapter IV, Article 21)

-         The Higher Category/the Superior Order / The Thượng Thừa, consists of simple believers and particularly dignitaries from the rank of Priests/Giáo-Hữu. According to the New Canonical Codes (Tân Luật), the Higher Category/the Superior Order consists of persons who have practised a full-time vegetarian regime, and who have freed themselves from killing. Those in the Higher Category/the Superior Order/ Thượng Thừa must not have their beards trimmed or their hair clipped. They must wear ordinary garments of only white cotton material or the color assigned to their branch. They also must refrain from sexual intercourse, must be frugal, never indulge in luxuries and follow:

 the Four Great Commanments (Tứ Đại Điều Qui):

"The Caodaists must improve their behavior, and cultivate themselves by observing the four great commandments:

    • 1- Obey the teachings given by the superiors/higher ranks, listen openly to words and advice given by an inferior. Caodaists should use civility as the basis for dealing with others, recognising their own faults and repenting sincerely.
    • 2- Do not flaunt your talents or qualities in pride and haughtiness; be humble and efface yourself in the service of others. Caodaists should help and guide others into the God-Path. They should not be revengeful, nor should they hinder virtuous and wise persons.
    • 3- Be accurate in money matters; receipts and expenses must be clear. Do not borrow without paying back. Do not be impolite and discourteous to the higher ranks/superiors. Higher ranks, in teaching the lower ranks/inferiors, must do so with civility. Lower ranks, in advising or approaching the higher ranks, must not be lacking in deference and respect.
    • 4- Be sincere, consistent in both the presence and absence of others. Do not be respectful in the presence of individuals and then insult, condemn, or offend them in their absence. Do not remain aloof without trying to reconcile co-believers who do not agree with one another or are in conflict. Do not appropriate public materials for private use. Do not act out of personal interest to the detriment of public interest. Obey the Laws and Rules. Do not cling to your personal opinion and oppose the higher ranks/superiors, or be uncivil to the lower ranks. Do not use authority to repress the talents or abilities of others."

(New Canonical Codes/ Tân Luật, Chapter V, Article 22)

As mentioned above, and according to the teaching of His Holiness Hộ Pháp Phạm công Tắc - the believers should begin their religious lives by serving the Religion via the Cửu Trùng Ðài /Administrative Body, or the Hiệp Thiên Đài /Legislative Body or Charitable Organisation (Cơ Quan Phước Thiện). Only when believers themselves feel that they have served this earthly life (self, family, country, society and humanity) satisfactorily through three ways (tam lập): deeds, words and virtue (lập công, lập ngôn, lập  đức), would they then be able to follow and practise esoteric training (tu chơn). In Secular Rules/ Tân Luật, there are regulations regarding

 the House of Meditation/ Tịnh Thất (House of Calm):

"The Tịnh Thất (The House of Meditation, Cloister) is a House of Calm where the believers can enter to receive esoteric training.
Believers who would like to enter a House of Calm/ Tịnh Thất, have to conform the following regulations:

    • - Article 1: The believers who have completely fulfilled their social obligations (the moral duties toward humanity), and have practised a full-time vegetarian diet for at least six months can be admitted to a Tịnh Thất (House of Meditation, Calm) to practice Meditation and Detachment.
    • - Article 2: Anyone who would like to enter a Tịnh Thất (House of Meditation) must be introduced by a more virtuous co-religionist and seconded by another co-religionist.
    • - Article 3: It is forbidden to have relations or written communication with people from the outside. One's parents (close relatives) are accepted, once expressed approval is received from the Head of the Tịnh Thất (House of Meditation).
    • - Article 4: It is forbidden for persons from the outside to enter a Tịnh Thất (House of Meditation, Cloister), whether they be functionaries or Dignitaries of the Religion, co- religionists or relatives of the cloistered person.
    • - Article 5: It is forbidden to talk with people from the outside, except with one's parents and one's own children, after the permission of the Head of the House has been granted.
    • - Article 6: After being admitted to a Tịnh Thất (House of Meditation, Cloister), the cloistered person has to abstain from chewing betel, and smoking, and can eat nothing in addition to his given meals.
    • - Article 7: In the House of Meditation, one's spirit/soul must be maintained in calm, and one's conscience must be serene. One must live in peace and harmony with others and not speak loudly. One must be hard working and work well, helping and guiding each other in the path of Virtue.
    • - Article 8: Believers in a House of Meditation must obey the orders of the "Head of the House", and strictly follow the the schedule for cultivation of esoteric training.

(Thế Luật, Tịnh Tịnh Thất / Secular Rules, The House of Meditation)

In brief, Caodaism with the New Canonical Codes/Tân Luật and the Secular Rules/Thế Luật  provides any believer with the guidelines to break through the wheel of Karmic Law and Reincarnation to be united with God. According to Caodai teaching, in order to arrive at the esoteric phase one must cross the threshold of the established religion. For this reason, the believers must practise the exoteric and secular laws. Indeed, in order to discharge their family duties as well as fulfill their social responsibilities, Caodaists must devote themselves to practice of good and the avoidance of all evil; they must be dedicated to human sisterhood/brotherhood, show kindness to living beings, and serve society. This is an important phase which a believer must achieve before entering the second phase which involves esoteric training for an inner mystic self-cultivation (tu chơn, tu đơn).

In 1947, His Holiness Hộ Pháp Phạm công Tắc wrote of this esoteric phase:


    • Be closely related to all beings, i.e seek the source of all living creatures and spirits.
    • Be graceful and tolerant.
    • Be free in your mind, never selfish.
    • Be serene, i.e do not be influenced bad or good luck/karma, sorrow or joy. Ultimate being, accept happiness and sorrow , but do not let the poisonous barbs of happiness and sorrow permeate your true nature.
    • Be generous, considerate and forgiving.
    • Be cheerful, moderate, self controlled and decisive.
    • Conscience is the principle for all. Have filial piety to God and the Holy Mother.


    • Faith and wisdom are the most valuable treasure; anything else is wasteful.
    • Those who hate their enemies cannot be calm and impartial persons.
    • Those who do not hate will win over their enemies.
    • Hatred is the greatest sorrow of human beings. Therefore a true person (good person) never thinks of it or avoids it.
    • Overcome your anger so that you do not enrage others.
    • Use good to overcome evil.
    • Use kindness to overcome cruelty.
    • Be generous to overcome selfishness.
    • Use right to overcome wrong. That is the Magic Sword of Wisdom.


    • Eat pure food.
    • Think pure thoughts.
    • Have a strong faith in God and the Holy Mother.
    • Love immensely.

All this is the key to open the door of Bát Quái Ðài  rightly in this earthly life.


Bát Quái Đài - the Council of the Great Spirits which head the Eight States of the Soul. It is also the Eight-sided Palace of God's presence, or the Eight Trigrams Palace.

Introduction | Caodaism In A Nutshell | Fundamental Principles of Caodaism | Stucture of Caodaism | Ways of Serving In Caodaism | Practising Caodaism - Duties of Adherents | CaoDai Rituals - Worship and Prayer | Initiation And Its Meaning | Centres of Caodaism Around the World | Bibliography / References & Links | Illustrations | Further Readings

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