Aug 13, 1997 10:25 PM
by Eldon B Tucker
Here's something interesting from the news:
Hybrid Vietnamese Sect Marks Milestone
from Associated Press
[Printed in the LOS ANGELES TIMES, July 19, 1997.]
Hanoi -- In the world of conformist communist Vietnam, the
once-banned Caodai religious sect is a splash of color with a
zeal for the eclectic.
Adherents commune with the spirits of historical figures,
including Joan of Arc, Victor Hugo, Vladimir Lenin and, for more
lighthearted seances, Charlie Chaplin. They look to the spirits
of such people because of strong personality traits that are
models to others.
Secluded in southern Vietnam's Tay Ninh province, the group's
main temple, decked out in blues, yellows and reds, borrows from
religions around the globe in an effort to bridge the world of
the living and the spirit world.
Founded in the 1920's, Caodaism is a hybrid of Buddhism, Taoism,
Confucianism, Vietnamese spiritism, Christianity, Hinduism and
Islam. The result is a jumbled code of ethics and tenets that
has attracted more than 3 million followers despite the
Vietnamese government's control of religion.
In addition to calling on spirits, Caodai believers practice
priestly celibacy, vegetarianism and the worship of ancestors.
The religion emphasizes morality and frowns on material luxuries,
lust and deceit.
It's a blend of East and West. Saints include modern China's
patriarch Sun Yat-Sen and Vietnam's first poet laureate, Nguyen
In June, Caodai devotees got a big boost when their religion
received official sanction from the government, legitimizing its
existence in the eyes of the communist leadership.
It had been a long struggle for a religious movement that raised
an army to fight against the communists during the Vietnam War.
But today, the government says Caodaism, established by
French-educated Vietnamese mystic Ngo Minh Chieu, fills a void
for many people.
"We find the Caodai existence meets a legitimate spiritual demand
of the people here," said Muoi Thuong, a spokesman for the
government's Religious Affairs Committee in Tay Ninh.
"These people are religious followers, but they are also good
citizens and patriots," Thuong said in an interview from his
office in Tay Ninh, 60 miles northwest of Ho Chi Minh City.
In 1975, when North Vietnamese troops overran U.S.-backed South
Vietnam, Caodaism was banned and the church's lands were
confiscated. But behind the scenes, the religion lived on.
Today, Caodaism is practiced in about half of Vietnam's
provinces, Thuong said.
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