Cao Đài is a syncretistic, monotheistic religion, officially established in the city of Tây Ninh, southern Vietnam in 1926.
Đạo Cao Đài is the religion’s shortened name; its full name is Đại Đạo Tam Kỳ Phổ Độ (Great Religion of The Third Period of Revelation and Salvation). Cao means “high” and Đài means “dais” (as in a platform or altar raised above the surrounding level to give prominence to the person on it).
Figuratively, it means that highest spiritual place where God reigns. Caodaiists often use the term Đức Cao Đài (Venerable Cao Đài) as the abbreviated name for God, the creator of the universe, whose full title is Cao Đài Tiên Ông Đại Bồ Tát Ma-ha-tát (translation: Cao Đài the Ancient Sage and Great Bodhisattva Mahasattva).
According to Caodaiists, the full title was purposefully chosen by God because within it are representations of the Three Teachings: Snt, Sage and Buddha.
The Three Teachings represent hierarchical levels of spiritual attainment, with buddha as the highest. Caodaiism’s various stages of spiritual development from human on up are: Thần (angel), Thánh (saint), Tiên (sage), and Phật (buddha). Angels, saints and sages may have, accordingly, extremely long lives in the realms of heaven, but only buddhas are free from the cycle of birth and death.
Adherents engage in ethical practices such as prayer, veneration of ancestors, nonviolence, and vegetarianism with the minimum goal of rejoining God the Father in Heaven and the ultimate goal of freedom from the cycle of birth and death.
Although various sects of Caodaiism claim to have received messages from numerous spiritual entities, the Tây Ninh Holy See acknowledges significantly fewer. Inside the Holy See is a painting depicting the Three Saints signing a covenant between God and humanity. From left to right, they are Sun Yat-sen, Victor Hugo and Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm.
Other saints are Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, William Shakespeare, Joan of Arc and Napoleon Bonaparte.
Around 70 holy spirits also exist including Thomas Jefferson, Winston Churchill, Lenin, Victor Hugo, Descartes, Louis Pasteur, Leon Tolstoy and Li Bo, among others