Caodism Beliefs and Practices: Laypersons


The Organization of the Cao Dai Religion


The way that the leaders within the Cao Dai religion are set up comes from the organization within Roman Catholicism. There are nine different levels of hierarchy associated with Roman Catholicism that Cao Dai borrows from, including the use of archbishops, cardinals, as well as a pope. When it comes to worship, followers participate in group prayer within a temple. There are also festivals and extensive rituals practiced within the religion.


Practices Associated with Cao Dai


Some of the practices connected to the Cao Dai religion come from Taoism, as well as Roman Catholicism. Cao Dai followers use some of the same occult practices associated with Taoism. One of the main practices in the religion involves communication with the spirit world. Followers perform séances to make contact with the dead. In regards to followers residing in Vietnam, the government has since outlawed the practice of performing séances. This may have prompted the reason why Cao Dai leaders have stated that it is no longer a necessary practice to perform séances. Some say that séances are no longer needed because the direct communication may be accomplished within ones self, by relating to what is already inside of our hearts. This strength is supposed to come from the connection one receives from the Supreme Being.


From Confucianism, the followers of Cao Dai promote the teachings and guidance of the three duties, as well as the five virtues. The three duties are stated as a connection between “king and citizen, father and child, husband and wife.” The five virtues are stated as humanity, obligation, civility, knowledge, and reliability.


Resembling some of the practices within Theravada Buddhism, there are separate positions for members within the religion, as seen with the connection between lay Buddhists and monks. In Cao Dai, the priests can be either men or women. They may lead a normal family life, as well as hold the position of a layperson. Meditation is a common practice amongst laypersons. There are also a few behaviors and patterns of life that must be followed.


Laypersons Within the Cao Dai Religion


First, a building upon the duties and virtues associated with Confucian must be adhered to. Laypersons should practice a life full of goodness and avoid any evil or negative temptations. Laypersons should participate in worship to the Supreme Being. This should be accomplished through the participation in four ceremonies performed throughout the day. The ceremonies are held at 6am, noon, 6pm, as well as midnight. At home, it is expected that at least one daily ceremony must be performed. A layperson should observe the five Percepts:


One should not kill.

One should not steal.

One should not commit adultery.

One should not get drunk.

One should not sin by word.


At least ten days per month, a layperson should not eat meat and practice vegetarianism. This is to cleanse the body, as well as the spirit. This is also an attempt to avoid the killing of anything living. Throughout the world, you may encounter restaurants that are specifically meant to cater to the Cao Dai belief system, offering an array of vegetarian dishes.