|One of many articles on|
|The main players|
Đạo Cao Đài, or Cao Dai in English (full name Đại Đạo Tam Kỳ Phổ Độ), is a Vietnamese syncretic religion, and the third largest in the country with over 7 million followers. Their god's full name is Cao Đài Tiên Ông Đại Bồ Tát Ma-ha-tát, usually abbreviated Đức Cao Đài. Caodaists believe theirs is the Third Revelation of God, the First being Judaism, Hinduism, and Yi king, and the Second being Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, and Taoism (sorry Islam). Their chief prophet is Ngo Van Chieu, a civil servant who was the first to receive messages from Duc Cao Dai in the Third Revelation in 1926. Because of their syncretic nature and their belief in the validity of previous revelations, Caodaists pray not only to Duc Cao Dai but also to Buddha, Jesus Christ, Lao Tzu, Confucius, and Khuong Thai Cong, who represents Geniism (a Vietnamese folk religion also incorporated into Cao Dai). Cao Dai distinguishes different levels of holiness. The top is God, Buddha, and those who have Buddha-like status. The next level is the Immortals, which includes Confucius. The next is saints, among which are William Shakespeare, Victor Hugo, Joan of Arc, Louis Pasteur, and Lenin (which is ironic, as Caodaists were persecuted by the communist government from 1975-1997). The three most important saints are Victor Hugo, Sun Yat-sen, and Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm. Cao Dai has two main sects: exoterists, who simply follow Cao Dai, and esoterists, who are basically monks of Cao Dai.
The syncretism of Cao Dai underlies their belief that all religions teach the same thing, and their goal of promoting religious harmony. Caodaists also believe in reincarnation similar to Buddhism, the existence of a soul which contains both the human soul and part of God's spirit, and the effects of Karma on future lives. Though they claim full equality for men and women, women are not allowed above the rank of cardinal (Cao Dai clergy mimic the Roman Catholic Church in terms of titles).