KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
We decided to hire a taxi for a day so that we could join Duncan and Logan on their day trip to see the Cu Chi tunnels and also squeeze in a visit to The Cao Dai Holy See in Tay Ninh, a town 50 km beyond Cu Chi. The driver took us to the temple first and we arrived just in time to witness the midday ceremony. It was an incredible experience; my photos only go so far in capturing the atmosphere of this incredible building and simple ceremony. Most of the visitors travelling with tour groups took a quick peek and moved on to the next item on the day's itinerary. I couldn't pull myself away until the last tourist left and I was alone looking down on the amazing patterns formed by the tiles on the floors, the decorations on the pillars and the arrangement of the worshippers. We all were struck by the geometry represented in the unfolding ceremony. There were no sounds other than the soft music of the traditional instruments, the sounding of a gong near the altar and the soft chanting of the celebrants.
The Lonely Planet has a boxed text on Cao Daism and I will refer to it for much of the information here in this entry.
Cao Daism is a religion born in Vietnam in the 20-century and is a synthesis of Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Christianity, Islam and Vietnamese spiritualism. Cao Dai means high tower of palace and is a euphemism for God. Ngo Minh Chieu, a mystic formerly a civil servant who was an administrator on Phu Quoc Island, founded Cao Daism. He was widely read and became active in séances. In 1919, he began receiving revelations in which the tenets of Cao Dai were set forth.
Much of Cao Daism is drawn from Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, hence it is known as Vietnam's "Triple Religion". The ultimate goal of disciples is to escape the cycle of reincarnation. The three main tenets of Cao Daism are:
- the belief in one god
- the existence of the soul
- the use of mediums to communicate with the spiritual world
According to Cao Daism history is divided into three main periods of divine revelation. During the first period, God's truth was revealed to humanity through figures associated with Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. During the second period, the agents of revelation included Sakyamuni (Buddha), Mohammed, Confucius, Jesus and Moses. The third and final revelation is the product of the "Third Alliance Between Man and God", which is where séances play a part. Disciples believe that Cao Daism succeeds where the other religions failed because the spirits of the dead guide the living.
All Cao Dai temples observe four daily ceremonies; held at 6am, noon, 6pm and midnight. The rituals, during which worshippers wear ceremonial dress, include offerings of incense, tea, alcohol, fruit and flowers. The altars have the 'divine eye' above them. The 'divine eye' became the symbol of the religion when Ngo Minh Chieu saw it in a vision.