Tag Archives: vietnam

What is Cao Daism all about?

1 Dec

A few days ago I visited the quite incredible Cao Dai Great Temple which is situated a few hours drive away from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).  This incredible temple pays host each day to four separate prayer sessions attended by the Cao Daiists.  They wear white clothing and women enter via one door and men via another.

I’ve been keen to learn about this “new” religion which was founded in 1926 so have been reading up about it.

It’s a fusion of Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, native Vietnamese spiritualism, Christianity and Islam.  It has perhaps 2 million followers worldwide. Here is what their website says:-

CaoDai is a universal faith with the principle that all religions have one same divine origin, which is God, or Allah, or the Tao, or the Nothingness, one same ethic based on LOVE and JUSTICE, and are just different manifestations of one same TRUTH.


Humans shall observe LOVE and JUSTICE in order to be unified with GOD.

During the Vietnam War they formed their own army and having refused to support the Viet Cong they had their land confiscated by the new communist government.  In 1985 their temples were returned to them.

To practise Cao Daism it’s necessary to:-

  • be dutiful in all dealings with others
  • practise good and avoid evil
  • kindness to all beings
  • no killing, stealing, adultery, drunkenness or bad words
  • to be vegetarian 10 days a month
  • to participate in the 4 daily prayer sessions.

The aim is to avoid reincarnation by following the principles set out above.

The temple itself is incredible.

“Like a gingerbread house” was how one of my friends described it. The followers, all dressed alike, mingle about outside greeting each other before the prayers begin.  The prayers sound very musical and are punctuated by the followers bowing to the floor.  Tourists mingle around but are not allowed into the praying area while prayers are taking place.

Part of the “voyager’s Prayer”-

“As I brave the thorns and brambles,
May I set out safe and return sane.

In all, the temple is a fascinating place to visit and observe the followers and see the devotion in their faces.

And as I drift to sleep in my hotel in Saigon I ponder the “Sleeper’s Prayer”
“All material desires consume me by day,
Leading my mind and my actions astray.
Holy One, I am prostrating here to pray
That your lovingness will cause my mind to stay
Focused and clear on Your Divinity,
Taking no actions toward infidelity.
During my sleep, when my soul is at rest,
Superior Spirits, please guide me to what is best.
Toward my home in your Sacred Nirvana I yearn
So teach me the lesson which I need to learn.”


And yes the people of Vietnam are nice!

1 Dec

Two more random acts of kindess…sharing durian with me in a restaurant and a man in a shop spending an hour taking me to the Post Office so I could post Christmas presents to my family in Scotland….would thís happen at home I ponder?

Are the Vietnamese nice?

30 Nov

In short, and so far, yes!

I’ve been in Vietnam for about 5 days so far and have spent those days in Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City, as it is now called.  I’ve been worried about coming to Vietnam for a while.  Most travellers I meet told me it was a bit of a nightmare.  They regaled me with tales of bargaining for a bottle of water, fighting to get local prices and the general “meanness” of the Vietnamese.

Maybe I’ve just been lucky.  Maybe it’s because I’m with a mate and things like bargaining are always easier when you’re two but so far so good..a few examples…

When I first got off the bus..with my bags…a prime opportunity for advantage to be taken of me…I was given helpful and accurate directions from a local hotel owner to the hotel my friend had booked. No tricky business. No telling me it was miles away and I’d need a taxi.  The staff in the hotel were friendly to the point of almost doing gymastics to please us.

Day two in Vietnam brought more kindness…some local students walked us around a kilometre to find us cheap street food, told us the price, made sure it was what we wanted and then came back 5 minutes later to give us some local fruits (tiny apples served with chilli, salt and sugar).

Day three we visited the Cao Dai Temple and Chu Chu tunnels. The Cao Dai’ists (their religion is a combination of buddhism, confucuanism, taoism, native vietnamese spiritualism, christianity and islam) welcomed us into their temple and allowed us to sit through the service and take photos. They didn’t even ask us for a donation.

Day four I did my Christmas shopping at the local market.  Now shopping can be anything from fun to hell in my experience abroad.The hardest thing can be trying to work out what you should pay for something…ie not be taken advantage of but not so low that you are taking the mick…but in Vietnam, and again I stress, so far, this was easy…you ask the price, go to 50% and eventually you’ll get it for around 55 to 60% of the original price. No messing around. You know the final price and that’s it.

I then made some Christmas cards and asked the hotel owner whether he could possibly write “Happy Christmas” in Vietnamese on them. He did this with pleasure and was beaming from ear to ear throughout calling over his friend to see the cards I had made. Would this happen back home I wondered? I asked him also for some newspapers to wrap gifts in…two minutes later he produced this…again would this happen at home? A trip to the post office was again heaven.  They wrapped my parcel (free of charge), taped it all up, there was no queue and they charged me the correct price.  Seemed too good to be true!

It is fair to say that there is always someone selling something in Vietnam.

From the fake booksellers who carry upwards of 30 books in their arms and ply their trade around the bars, to the sellers of fans, cigarettes, watches, bouncy balls..you name it they sell it. If you say “no” it does usually work. A bit of humour can get a smile in my limited experience…to cigarettes “don’t want to die”, to books “have read them all” or “what’s your favourite”, to sunglasses…just put mine on, smile broadly and say “one pair’s enough”.

To moto drivers “ok, have moto already, you want lift with me?”, to any drivers trying to charge ridiculous price “no thanks not want buy moto just want lift”.  This last one can usually get a smile and again I say so far in Vietnam the people have enjoyed smiling.

I did get overcharged for a cocunut. It was my first day and I was still grappling with the currency. He was outside the Ho Chi Minh Musuem and position was all important.  But he did it with a smile and I now know the “local price” so won’t make that mistake again!

So, in short, so far, the Vietnamese are nice and let’s hope it continues.

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