Since Cao Đài Religion / Đại Đạo Tam Kỳ Phổ
Độ (大道三期普度, Third Amnesty of God in the East, The Great Way of Third
Universal Salvation) was founded, God established Pháp Chánh Truyền (法正傳
, The Religious Constitution of Caodaism) and guided the high dignitaries to
form the Tân Luật (新律,
The New Canonical Codes), and Thế Luật (世律 , Secular Rules/Laws On The Secular
Life of the Faithful) in order to govern the religious administration and
maintain truth and justice in the Religion.
In 1926 God (Đức
Cao Đài, The Supreme Being) indicated that the Religion was to have three
branches/boards: the Bát Quái Ðài, the Hiệp Thiên Ðài and the Cửu Trùng Ðài. In
order to operate the Religion the three branches/boards must act in concert.
1) The Bát Quái Ðài
(the Council of the Great Spirits which heads the Eight States of
Soul, the Eight-sided Palace of God's presence, the Eight Trigrams Palace,
The Bát Quái Ðài
is Supreme Holy Body, directs all activities of the universe under the
leadership of God and Holy Spirits. The Bát Quái Ðài is the invisible part, made
up of the Divine Beings. This group represents the Spiritual or the Soul of the
2) The Hiệp Thiên Ðài
(The Temple of the Divine Alliance, The Heavenly-Union Palace,
The Hiệp Thiên
Ðài is the Legislative Body which has the duty of communicating with the
occult/esoteric power to receive divine messages, to preserve the religious laws
and listen to the complaints of the unhappy, in order to symbolize equality in
the Religion. " Hiệp Thiên Ðài is the mystical place where the Giáo-Tông (Pope)
comes and places himself in spiritual communication with the Thirty-Six Heavens,
the Three Thousand Worlds, the Sixty- Seven other Earths and the Lords of Karma
so that he can pray for the salvation of Humanity". "The Hiệp Thiên Ðài is
placed under the authority of the Hộ-Pháp (Head of the Legislative Affairs). He
is assisted by the Thượng-Phẩm (Head of the Spiritual Realm/Religious Affairs)
and the Thượng-Sanh (Head of the Temporal Realm/Secular Affairs). The Ho Phap is
concerned with the Laws and Justice."
of Legislative Affairs), is the one who unveils the Mystery of the Invisible and
is the Maintainer of the Rules and Laws of the New Religion. He is the one who
pronounces judgments on the dignitaries and adepts, elevates the dignity of the
fervent through their merit and brings sanctions against those who have
committed faults. The Hộ-Pháp holds control over the Legislative Power both
exoterically and esoterically. He watches over the positive progress of the
disciples in the Way of God, and guides all evolved souls to Bát-Quái-Đài for
the union with Genies, Saints, Immortals and Buddhas. He has control over four
Lords of the Zodiac, namely Tiếp-Pháp (接法,
Juridical Legislator), Khai-Pháp (開法,
Juridical Reformer), Hiến-Pháp (憲法,
Juridical Renovator) and Bảo-Pháp (保法,
(The head of the Religious Affairs), is the Representative of the Ho- Phap in
the formation of virtuous souls of the Sacerdotal Council. He depends on the
Hộ-Pháp in all his mission. In a word, the Thượng-Phẩm helps the Cửu Trùng Đài
to live in an atmosphere of happiness; he reveals the Heavenly Voice to virtuous
souls, and guides them to the Divine Phase of the Great Spirits, while closing
behind them the Door of regression. He considers the priestly laws to take up
the defence of all office-bearers and adepts; he prevents all perversion of the
Divine Rules, and helps all initiates to attain their aim. He is simultaneously
the President of the Hall of Defence and protector of all disciples. The
Thượng-Phẩm is Leader of the Spiritual Power. Under his command he has four
Lords of the Zodiac, namely Tiếp-Đạo (接道,
Religious Legislator), Khai-Đạo (開道
, Religious Reformer), Hiến-Đạo (獻
Religious Renovator), and Bảo-Đạo (保道,
head of Secular Affairs), has control of all the laws and rules which relate to
the worldly life of all adepts to guide them out of the Abyss of Suffering. He
may present a formal complaint before the religious Tribunal against all those
who impede the faithful as they move along the Way of God. He is the President
of the Hall of Accusation. Under his command he has four Lords of the Zodiac,
namely Tiếp-Thế (接世, Temporal Legislator), Khai-Thế (開世,
Temporal Reformer), Hiến-Thế (獻世
Renovator), and Bảo-Thế (保世,
+ The second unit in the Hiệp Thiên Ðài
of under-officers, cadres of the second rank. These are: Tiếp Dẫn Đạo Nhơn
Chưởng Ấn (Chancellor,
Đạo (Judicial Inspector,
監道), Thừa Sử (Justice Commissioner / Administrator of Justice,
Truyền Trạng (Clerk of Court /Greffier/Investigator,
傳狀), Sĩ Tải (Archivist/Archival
Luật Sự (Student of Law,
+ The third unit in the Hiệp Thiên Ðài
is a group
of Thập Nhị Bảo Quân (
十二保君 ) /12 Skilled Academicians (Advisory)
who may be asked for advice by the High Dignitaries of Hiệp Thiên Ðài. The Thập
Nhị Bảo Quân are: Bảo Huyền Linh Quân (in charge of Theosophy), Bảo Tinh Quân
(in charge of Astronomy), Bảo Cơ Quân (in charge of Orphanage), Bảo Văn Pháp
Quân (in charge of Culture/Arts,
Bảo Học Quân (in charge of Education), Bảo Y Quân (in charge of Health), Bảo Vật
Quân (in charge of Science and Industries), Bảo Sĩ Quân (in charge of
Literature), Bảo Sanh Quân (in charge of Social/Welfare,
保生君), Bảo Nông Quân (in charge of
Agriculture), Bảo Công Quân (in charge of Public Works), and Bảo Thương Quân
(in charge of Economics).
The role of the
members of the Hiệp Thiên Ðài is to act as mediums (đồng tử), and as legislators
who protect the sacred laws, and see that all the dignitaries in the
Administrative Branch / Cửu Trùng Ðài correctly fulfil their tasks. Indeed "the
dignitaries of the Hiệp Thiên Ðài are entrusted with the maintenance and
application of the religious Rules and Laws so that they can watch over the good
progress of the adepts in the Way of God, transforming the Cycle of Destruction
into the Cycle of Renewal/Conservation, to assist Humanity to bring to reality
the Era of Peace and Escape from the Era of Destruction".
3) The Cửu Trùng Ðài
(The Temple of Nine Degrees of Evolution, Nine Spheres Palace,
The Cửu Trùng
Ðài literally means the nine-sphere palace. In the Great Divine Temple / Đền
Thánh the Cửu Trùng Ðài is symbolized by the central nave of the Temple
(building), the place where the worshippers kneel, pray and offer themselves to
God (The Supreme Being), between the Bát Quái Ðài (God's Altar) and the Hiệp
Thiên Ðài. The Cửu Trùng Ðài is the Executive Body of Caodaism which takes
charge of the administration of the Religion and missionary activities.
Head of Cửu
Trùng Ðài / Executive Body is Giáo-Tông (Pope). "The Giáo-Tông (Pope) represents
God to watch over the preservation of His Religion in this world. Whatever his
age, he is eldest brother and acts as a guide for the children of God. The
Spiritual Power has decided that this is so". "The Giáo-Tông (Pope) has the same
powers as God to teach Virtue to all His Disciples. He is concerned with each
one of them, he guides each one and takes care to ensure that each one does not
transgress the Divine Laws (Thiên Điều). He obliges all disciples of God to make
themselves conform strictly to the prescriptions of the New Code (Tân Luật).
Thus any disciple, whatever his rank in the Episcopal Hierarchy, in the case of
wrong behaviour, ought not to benefit from leniency or mercy from the Giao Tong
(Pope). Protection of a guilty disciple makes him lose his spiritual position (Thiên
Vị), provokes jealousy among the faithful, and lessens the good reputation of
the Holy Doctrine. The Giáo-Tông (Pope) must protect, uphold or console adepts
who are crushed by the miseries of life, and dignitaries who as members of the
Sacerdotal Council (Hội Thánh) are overwhelmed by the weight of their
abstinence. Since the Giáo-Tông (Pope) has full powers to replace God he must
try to transform the life of suffering into an existence marked by happiness.
This is the Exalted Task of the Giáo-Tông (Pope)."
The Cửu Trùng
Ðài / Executive Body is responsible for the administrative tasks, such as
training of adherents, organising various programs, and controlling the total
Church program. For dignitaries in the
of Men, the Executive actually has three branches corresponding to the three
main Religions, each of these three branches also has a name and a colour
[Buddhism / Phái Thái (yellow), Taoism / Phái Thượng (blue), and Confucianism /
Phái Ngọc (red)]. The Cửu Trùng Ðài's hierarchy is ranked in nine levels; and
the number of dignitaries in the College of Men is limited.
- Giáo-Tông (教宗)
/ Pope - There is only one Giáo-Tông / Pope who is the Leader of the Cửu Trùng
- Chưởng-Pháp (掌法)
Legislative Cardinal - There are three Chưởng-Pháp / Legislative Cardinals. The
three Legislative Cardinals / Chưởng-Pháp belong to the three branches: Nho (Confucianist),
Thích (Buddhist) and Đạo (Taoist); one for each branch. The Legislative
Cardinals / Chưởng-Pháp have the right to examine the religious laws before
their promulgation, whether they come from the Pope (Giáo-Tông), or proposed by
the Cardinals (Đầu-Sư).
- Đầu-Sư (掌法)
Cardinal - There are three Đầu-Sư/Cardinals, one for each branch. "The Cardinals
/ Đầu-Sư have the right to direct the Disciples of God, spiritually and
temporally". "They have the right to enact laws, but they must submit them for
the approval of the Pope".
- Phối-Sư (掌法)
Archbishop - There are 36 Phối-Sư / Archbishops, 12 for each branch. Among
these thirty-six, there are three Principal Archbishops/ Chánh Phối-Sư /
"These three dignitaries are not only the heads of the thirty-three Archbishops
/ Phối-Sư, but they are also the representatives of Cardinals / Đầu-Sư, with the
same powers as the Cardinals". "Since they are the representatives of the
Faithful, the Principal Archbishops / Chánh Phối-Sư have the duty to obey the
laws. They can however ask the Cardinals / Đầu-Sư for certain improvements in
the laws, but they do not have the power to propose new ones". "The three
Principal Archbishops / Chánh Phối-Sư cannot ask for repeal of the Laws".
under the Principal Archbishops. They have the same authority of the Principal
Archbishops when they execute a mission assigned by the Principal Archbishop.
- Giáo-Sư (掌法)
- "There are 72 Giáo-Sư / Bishops, divided into 3 branches of 24 each. They are
responsible for the spiritual and temporal education of the disciples. They are
to care for the adepts the way the Elder Brothers care for Younger ones"
- Giáo-Hữu (掌法)
- "There are 3000 Giáo-Hữu / Priests, a thousand for each Branch. This number
must be neither increased nor decreased. They preside over ritual ceremonies in
the province temples. The Priests have the Mission of propagating the Religion"
- Lễ-Sanh (掌法)
Student Priest - The number of Lễ-Sanh /Student Priests is unlimited. The
Student Priests are drawn from the most virtuous of the Sub-dignitaries. The
Student Priests must always visit the adepts, and preside over the "ceremony of
the installation of the Altar" at their homes. They take the place the Priests
for the teaching of the rites.
- Chức Việc / (Chánh-Trị-Sự, Phó-Trị-Sự, Thông-Sự /
Office-Bearers /Sub- dignitaries or Religious Village Administrators - The
number of Minor Office-Bearers is unlimited. The Minor Office-Bearers should
look after the adepts in the villages. They should consider the adepts as their
younger sisters/brothers. They should follow the orders of the Priests and
Student Priests who are the chiefs of the parishes.
- Tín-Đồ (掌法)
- The number of adepts is unlimited.
dignitaries reach the rank of Cardinal only. The number
of dignitaries in the
of Women is unlimited. There is no branch for female dignitaries. The
Dignitaries of the College of Women are formed by the Spiritual Pope Li Tai Pai
(Lý Thái Bạch). The Supreme Being/God said "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.
Three councils govern the Holy See:
- Popular Council /
Hội Nhơn Sanh
- composed of Student Priests / Lễ-Sanh, Sub- dignitaries and
representatives of adherents in the ratio of one delegate per 500 members.
The Popular Council makes plans for the future.
- Sacerdotal Council /
- composed of Priests / Giáo-Hữu, Bishops / Giáo-Sư, Archbishops / Phối-Sư
and Principal Archbishops / Chánh Phối-Sư. The Sacerdotal Council examines
the plans made by the Popular Council.
- High Council / Thương
composed of Cardinals / Đầu-Sư, Legislative Cardinals / Chưởng-Pháp and the
Pope / Giáo-Tông. All plans made by the Popular Council and favoured by the
Sacerdotal Council are submitted to High Council for approval.
If there is a
disagreement, i.e. the three Councils are not at one, the plans must be
submitted to God through a medium for a final decision.
At the Holy See, the three Cardinals / Đầu-Sư
of the Executive Body control the administration of the Religion. They are
assisted by three Principal Archbishops / Chánh-Phối-Sư. There are nine separate
religious ministries / Cửu Viện in the Executive Body. Each religious ministry
has its own personnel, operational system, and offices in the administrative
building. Each of the three Principal Archbishops / Chánh-Phối-Sư directs three
of these religious ministries:
- The Principal Archbishop
of the Buddhist Branch / Phái Thái is chief of the Financial/ Hộ Viện,
Supply / Lương Viện and Public Works / Công Viện Ministries.
- The Principal Archbishop
of the Taoist Branch / Phái Thượng is chief of the Education / Học Viện,
Health / Y Viện and Agriculture / Nông Viện Ministries.
- The Principal Archbishop
of the Confucian Branch / Phái Ngọc is chief of Justice / Hoà Viện,
Interior / Lại Viện and Rites / Lễ Viện Ministries
The administrative network which functions
- The Religious Region (Trấn
Đạo) comprising of several provinces, headed by a Bishop / Giáo-Sư who is
called the Regional Religious Chief / Khâm Trấn Đạo.
- The Religious Province (Châu
Đạo) comprising of several districts/delegations, headed by a Priest who is
called Provincial Religious Chief / Khâm Châu Đạo.
- The Religious
District/Delegation comprising of several villages, headed by a Student
Priest who is called the Religious Chief of Delegation / Đầu Tộc Đạo (Đầu
- The Religious Village (Hương
Đạo) headed by a Sub-dignitary / Chánh-Trị-Sự who is called Village
Religious Chief / Đầu Hương Đạo. He is assisted by one (or more) Phó-Trị-Sự
(Deputy Chief for Administration of a religious village) representing the
Executive Body and one (or more) Thông-Sự representing the Legislative Body.
The Religious Village are made up of Religious Hamlets / Ấp Đạo.
above, the original organisation and hierarchical structure of Caodaism involved
three branches: the Bát Quái Ðài (Spiritual), Hiệp Thiên Ðài (Legislative), and
Cửu Trùng Ðài (Executive). "The dignitaries of the Cửu Trùng Ðài and of the Hiệp
Thiên Ðài merely form organisations to assist the Supreme Being and the Great
Spirits to found the New Religion to guide Humanity in the True Way of God".
Besides the above Bodies, there are:
- The Teaching and
Propaganda (Cơ quan Phổ Tế ,
Body which was established in 1936 under the supervision of the Cửu Trùng
- The Social Affairs /
Charitable Organisation (Cơ quan Phước Thiện,
which was founded in 1938 under the supervision of the Hiệp Thiên Ðài /
It is also noted
that under the Secular Affairs of Hiệp Thiên Ðài , there is a Ban Thế Đạo / Lay
Committee. The Lay Committee / Ban Thế Đạo is a body consisting of professional
specialists among adepts.They serve the Religion and the society with their
professional ability. It is their duty to support the Religion as effectively as
possible within their capacity. The four titles for dignitaries of Ban Thế Đạo
are: Hiền Tài (Virtuous and talented man.,
賢才) Quốc Sĩ (Eminent scholar of a country,
國士), Đại Phu and Phu Tử (夫子,