Cao Dai, founded in Vietnam in 1926, brings together Confucianism, Catholicism and the Buddhist belief in karma and rebirth. Inherently, its belief and practices represent a conglomeration of these three. Cao Dai practice is basically divided in to two ways: exoterism and esoterism. Exoterism Basically, Cao Dai disciples has a duty towards himself, his family, his society, his country, all living beings and mother nature. These duties are governed by the Confucian dictums of three duties and five virtues.
The duties include those between citizen and king, between child and father, and between husband and wife. The five virtues are humanity, civility, reliability, knowledge, and obligation. A Cao Dai follower has to practice good and avoid evil. The religion believes in Karma and reincarnation. If one does good, purifies oneself, and fulfills all his duties, one can expect to come back in a future life in a happier life, go attain Nirvana. If one does evil deeds, one gets reincarnated in a more miserable life.
Ultimately, the practice of good furthers the follower to the attainment of Cao Dai's ultimate goal: break free from the cycle of being born and reborn. A Cao Dai practitioner has to show kindness to mother nature, including all living things. He must avoid unnecessary destruction of every creature, since all things have the spirit of the Supreme Being in it. Cao Dai teaches that all living things have a physical body and a conscience which is part of God's spirit.
The follower of Cai Dai have to observe the five precepts: do not kill, do not steal, do not commit adultery, do not get drunk, do not sin by word. He has to avoid eating meat for at least ten days every month. Vegetarianism purifies the body the spirit. It also promotes the avoidance of killing animals. The Cao Dai practitioner also has to worship the Supreme Being. He has to perform at least one ceremony at home at these times: 6:00 a. m. , 12:00 noon, 6:00 p. m. , and 12:00 midnight.
Central to the Cao Dai rituals is the altar, which has images of the divine eye (representing the supreme being), Sakyamuni (representing Buddhism), Lao Tse (representing Taoism), Jesus Christ (representing Christianity), Confucius (representing Confucianism) and Jhuong Thai Cong, which symbolizes Geniism. In worship, he has to offer tea, flowers and wine, symbolizing the three elements that compose all men: energy, spirit and intelligence. He also lights five joss stick which represents pureness, meditation, wisdom, superior knoweledge and freedom from the cycle of existence or Karma (the five levels of initiation).
Cao Dai disciples also worship their ancestors and other spirits. Ancestor worship, aside from expressive gratitude, affection and love, is seen as a bridge between the visible and invisible worlds. Esoterism In the course of practising esoterism, the Cao Dai practitioner may be guided with meditation. Cao Dai meditation aims to help the practitioner to develop the "divine element" within himself. The divine element replaces the inferior self, and ultimately enables him to be one with the Supreme Being.