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Tác giả Chủ đề: GUIDE TO THE HOLY SEE IN TAY NINH  (Đọc 323610 lần)
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« vào lúc: Tháng Chín 29, 2007, 03:13:52 PM »

Guide to the Holy See in Tay Ninh

The Caodai Holy See is located in Tay Ninh Province, 100 km North West of Saigon. Construction began in 1927 and was completed in 1945. It was constructed in a sacred territory (which Caodaists call the “holy land”) at the intersection of six underground streams which represent the united efforts of six dragons who together to support the temple. Its shape and architecture were designed by the spirit of Ly Thai Bach (Li Po, Chinese Taoist poet) to resemble the Diamond Palace in heaven, and the style embraces architectural elements of many of the world’s religions.

The Holy Land is one square kilometer surrounded by twelve gates 300m apart from each other. The main gate faces west, right in front of the Holy See and has 3 entrances. The main entrance, in the middle, is opened only in major events. Two other entrances are on the sides, one for men and one for women. The main gate is decorated with two dragons on top on both sides of the Caodai icon of the three Asian religions in the middle. The Caodai icon consists of three treasures: The charity bowl is Buddhism’s treasure in the middle. The purifying whisk is Taoism’s treasure on one side. The Spring –Autumn book, the book of Confucian doctrine is Confucianism’s treasure on the other side. The Caodai icon unites the treasures of three main religions visually to show how Caodai philosophy unifies these religious traditions. Below the top decoration is the official name of Caodaism written in Vietnamese and Chinese characters: Dai Dao Tam Ky Pho Do (The Great Way of the Third Age of Redemption). The columns of the main gate are decorated with banners inscribed with parallel sentences in Chinese characters, meaning:
Cao Thuong Chi Ton Dai Dao Hoa Binh Dan Chu Muc (The Supreme Being on high founded the Great Way for peace and democracy)
Dai Tien Sung Bai Tam Ky Cong Huong Tu Do Quyen (Worshipping God in the third age of redemption allows humanity to achieve liberation).

Inside the main gate are the tombs of the three early disciples who contributed the most to Caodaism in its exoteric form and to building the temple. They are The Ho Phap (Protector of the Dharma/Protector of Laws and of Justice/head of Legislative Affairs of Hiep Thien Dai), Thuong Pham (Head of Spiritual Affairs of Hiep Thien Dai), and Thuong Sanh (Head of Secular Affairs of Hiep Thien Dai).

The tombs are octagonal, representing the final unification with God at the Octagonal Palace or White Jade Palace where God reigns. The top of the Ho Phap’s tomb is decorated with the Caodai icon including Buddhism’s charity bowl, Confucianism’s Spring-Autumn book and Taoism’s whisk. The tomb of the Thuong Pham is decorated with his icon, the fan of unfolding destiny with the whisk of purification on top. The Fan of unfolding destiny and the Whisk of Purification are used to guide all purified spirits through the 36 heavens. The tomb of the Thuong Sanh is decorated with his icon, the Yin-Yang sword representing the forces of creation and change in secular life.

Beyond the tombs, closer to the Holy See is the statue of Gautama Sakyamuni, the historical Buddha, riding on his horse seeking the way. He is followed by his servant, named Channa, imploring him to return to the royal palace. Sakyamuni did not return.

From the statue, toward the Holy See temple are two large stadiums on both sides and a Cuu Trung Thien in the middle. The Cuu Trung Thien is an octagonal pedestal with nine levels representing nine celestial dimensions. The Cuu Trung Thien is where the octagonal coffins of important disciples and high dignitaries such as 12 zodiacal mediums, Cardinals and above are placed for ceremonies before cremation or being placed in the octagonal tombs. The souls of these dignitaries transcend the nine celestial dimensions after death, and it is not necessary to have nine requiem praying ceremonies as is done for regular disciples.

Beyond the Cuu Trung Thien and closer to the Holy See is the Bodhi tree which was originally a gift from by a Singhalese Buddhist monk, the Venerable Naradathera.  The Bodhi tree originally came from India,  and was sprouted from the original Bodhi tree where the Buddha Sakyamuni sat meditating when he became enlightened.

Next is a high triangular pole, the top of which has the shape of a dragon. The base of the triangular pole is square and rests on a lotus flower. At the four corners of the pole, there are statues of four Mao Hau, spirit lion that guard the triangular pole. The pole is 9m high and has 3 colors: yellow represents Buddhism, blue represents Taoism and Red represents Confucianism. On the pole, there is a Divine Eye (Caodaism’s symbol of worship),  the Caodai icon (Buddhism’s charity bowl, Confucianism’s spring-autumn book and Taoism’s whisk) and the official name Dai Dao Tam Ky Pho Do (The Great Way of the Third Age of Redemption).

The Holy See faces west,  and has the shape of a Dragon-Horse of 135m long, 27m wide, and 36m high. The Dragon-Horse is a spirit animal from the Phuc Hy Dynasty (2852 BC) in China. It carried on its back a spirit sword and a map which helped King Phuc Hy draw the Eight Trigrams. Its mouth is Quiet Hall in first floor and its’ eyes are two windows in third floor. On the front of its forehead is a Divine Eye. The Divine Eye represents the All Seeing Eye of God.

On the second floor, at the level of the balcony, is a set of parallel verses in Chinese characters:
Hiep Nhap Cao Dai Ba Tanh Thap Phuong Qui Chanh Qua (United by the practice of Caodai, all humanity will be enlightened)
Thien Khai Huynh Dao Ngu Chi Tam Giao Hoi Long Hoa (God founded the Golden Way Tao so the five branches of all world religions will meet at the Dragon Flower convention (The Final Day of Reckoning). 

Above these parallel verses, is the Chinese character Nhan (love) on the right and Nghia (righteousness) on the left. Above it are Chinese characters and Vietnamese sentence Dai Dao Tam Ky Pho Do (The Great Way of the Third Age of Redemption).
Above in the middle is the icon of Caodai.

On the roof of the front (the Hiep Thien Dai, or Palace to Unite with Heaven) is the statue of the Buddha of the future (Maitreya) riding on a tiger. The tiger represents the year of Binh Dan 1926, the year of founding of Caodai. In the Third Age of Redemption, the Maitreya Buddha, by the orders of Supreme Being, will serve as the  judge presiding over the Dragon Flower Convention, the final day of reckoning. The details about this Last Judgment and Final Salvation will be revealed at the Dragon Flower Convention.

The two horns of the Dragon Horse are the two towers for the bell (Bach Ngoc Chung/White Jade Bell Tower) and for the drum (Loi Am Co/ Thunder Drum Tower). Bach Ngoc Chung, on the right side of God’s altar, is named from Bach Ngoc Kinh (White Jade Palace) or Heaven where God reigns. Loi Am Co, on the left, is named following the Loi Am Tu (Thunder temple) where the Gautama Buddha reigns. For every major ceremony, the Drum Loi-Am-Co (Drum of Thunder) and the Bell Bạch-Ngọc-Chung (White Jade Bell) are operated. This is done in three divisions, each division has twelve parts, and each part comprises twelve strokes. The sound of the great drum beating (Loi-Am) is the sound of thunder announcing to the world that there is a Great Way formed directly by God. The sound of Bach-Ngoc bell ringing has the power to rouse sleeping souls, as it rings out God's call to his children. These two sounds wake God's children from the sleepy lethargy of the present times and lead them towards their Father's home. During minor ceremonies, the Drum of Thunder is not operated, and only the bell is rung.

On the front side of the towers are Chinese and Vietnamese letters which are Cao on the drum tower and Dai on the bell tower. Above these letters are statues of the first female Cardinal Lam Huong Thanh and the first Pope Le Van Trung. 


Above that are relief sculptures of flower bouquets on both sides, which represent the Tao according to the following story: King U Vuong of the Chau dynasty had a dream in which he saw a flower bouquet falling from the sky to the ocean early in the morning at sunrise. The ocean represented the country, and the flower bouquet represented the Tao. The dream denoted that there would be a Tao to be founded in his country. Indeed, three days later, Lao Tzu came and taught Taoism. 

Right in front of the temple, there is a semi-circular balcony mounted with eight figures who represent for eight professions in society. These professions are Education, Agriculture, Manufacturing, Business, Fishing, Forestry, Farming and Livestock Raising. According to Caodai teachings, it doesn’t matter what profession a person follows, or what he or she did during a life spend on earth, since after death our souls are all gathered at the temple to go to the White Jade Palace for final salvation.

Supporting the semi-circular balcony, are two pairs of coiled dragons (Long) and lotus flowers (Hoa). These represent the Long Hoa Convention, the final day of reckoning, where we can achieve salvation. After death, the souls will gather at the White Jade Place where the Maitreya Buddha, by the order of Supreme Being, presides over the judgment based on our daily activities and worship histories when alive. In the third age of redemption, according to Duc Cao Dai, everyone who has followed Caodai teachings will be unified with Him. His followers may become spirits, saints, immortals of even Buddhas and so be freed from the cycle of reincarnation.

There are five steps before reaching the floor of the Holy See. Those steps represent the five levels of cultivation, including humanism (Confucianism), the way of ancestral spirits, the way of saints (including Christianity, Judaism and Islam), the way of the immortals (Taoism), and the way of Buddha.

On the left side of God’s altar is the statue of Ong Thien, the personification of good. On the right side is the statue of Ong Ac, the personification of  evil. Caodaism was created for all humanity, whether a person is good or evil, if he has remorse and follows Caodaism’s teachings he or she can be saved.


The first floor of the front area (Hiep Thien Dai) is the Hall of Tranquility (Tinh Tam Dien), a place for people to calm themselves  a down before the ceremony. On the ceiling there is picture of a hand holding a scale representing the divine justice. The scale of God is balancing the good and bad deeds of humanity.

On the inside wall of the Hall of Tranquility (Tinh Tam Dien) is a painting of three saints signing a contract between God and Humanity.
Sun Yat Sen (1866-1925)  a Chinese leader who is the patron saint of Asian self-determination, is on the left holding an ink slab. Victor Hugo (1802-1885, known as Nguyet Tam Chon Nhon in Vietnamese), the French novelist, poet and spiritist, known for his compassion for the oppressed is in the middle writing in French Dieu et Humanite, Amour et Justice. The Vietnamese poet and prophet Trang Trinh Nguyen Binh Khiem (1491-1585, also known as Thanh Son Dao Si, called the “Nostradamus of Vietnam”) is on the right painting the Chinese characters: Thien Thuong Thien Ha, Bac Ai Cong Binh. They are the saints from the White Cloud Lodge serving as witness of the agreement between God and Humanity: Humanity would only be saved if it follows the principles of love and justice.

Beyond the painting of the three saints, inside are the thrones of the Ho Phap, Thuong Pham and Thuong Sanh in the form of lotus flowers tied together by a huge seven head snake. The seven heads represent the seven emotions of humans. The three heads representing joy, happiness, and love are oriented upward suggesting us that these are good emotions that should be nurtured. While the other four heads representing the four negative emotions of anger, sadness, hatred, and ambition must be avoided and are pushed down by the hands and feet of the Ho Phap.

In the middle of the throne is the statue of the Ho Phap Pham Cong Tac, head of Legislative Affairs/Protector Dharma/Protector of laws and of justice of the Hiep Thien Dai. He is wearing his costume for major ceremony with a high gold headdress (Kim Khoi), the top of which ends in a shape of "Tam Son" (Three Mountains) as a symbol of his power of command over the Three Heavens of western Nirvana (Tay Phuong Cuc Lac). On his shoes is the Chinese character Phap (Dharma). His right hand holds the staff "Giang Ma Xu" (Rule over Evil), which symbolizes the temporal controlling the spiritual. He wears the three-colored belt of command (yellow, sky blue, and red) around his waist,  which symbolizes his great power over the union of the three ancient doctrines and over temporal and mystic procedures. Its knot lies right in the middle of the abdomen.
Behind the throne of the Ho Phap on the wall is the Chinese character Khi (Chi, or vital breath), the vital energy of the universe, without which would be no life.

On the right side of the Ho Phap is the statue of the Thuong Pham Cu Quynh Cao, head of Spiritual Realm/Religious Affairs of the Hiep Thien Dai. He wears a ceremonial vestment for the major ceremony and Vo Uu shoes with the Chinese character "Dao" (Spiritual) is on the toes. Around his waist is the belt of command, like the one worn by the Ho Phap, with the knot on the right side. His right hand holds the "Long Tu Phien" (Fan of Unfolding Destiny) with the top of it is the "Phat Chu" (the Whisk of Purification). The Long Tu Phien and the Phat Chu are used to guide all purified spirits through the 36 heavens. His left hand holds a rosary of mercy, which means he uses the Tao to save humanity.

On the left side of the Ho Phap is the statue of the Thuong Sanh Sang Hoai Cao, head of Secular Affairs of the Hiep Thien Dai. He wears a ceremonial vestment for the major ceremony like the one worn by the Thuong Pham. On his head, he wears the "Thanh Can" (headdress made of sky blue silk), and around his waist is a belt of command called "Than Thong" (knowledge of spirituality) with its knot on the left. The "Thu Hung Kiem" (Yin-Yang Sword) is at his back representing the creation and the change of the Secular life. His right hand holds the “Phat Chu” (the Whisk of Purification) which symbolizes the presentation of His power to Secular Affairs. His left hand holds a rosary of mercy "Tu Bi" which symbolizes the offering of the Great Way to humanity. He wears white Vo Uu shoes with the character "Secular” on the toes.
Below these thrones are the five steps where the twelve zodiacal dignitaries stand during ceremony.

From the thrones toward the altar is the Cuu Trung Dai (nine sphere palace), with nine elevations representing the nine celestial dimensions and also the nine ranks of adherents.

On both sides of the Cuu Trung Dai are the dragon coiled columns which are painted in three colors yellow, blue, and red, respectively representing Buddhas, Immortals and Saints.
In the middle of Cuu Trung Dai are two pulpits where dignitaries stand to teach the doctrine. Supporting the pulpits are 6 threads of cloud projected from the mouth of the dragons. The pulpit is constructed following the story of King Pho Du of the Chinese state war era. Confucius went to King Pho Du to teach about human virtues and was imprisoned for 2 years. When released Confucius, King Pho Du had six vows:
1-   not to see Confucius,
2-   not to listen to Confucius,
3-   not to smell Confucius,
4-   not to talk to Confucius,
5-   not to touch Confucius,
6-   not to accept the return of Confucius.

The vows correspond to the six secular senses from the six senses of human eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin, and mind. Because of his attitudes against moral virtues, his country subsequently sustained many natural disasters. King Pho Du then set up a tower to pray to God. By order of God, Hua Chon Quan came to the tower ordering King Pho Du to invite Confucius to teach human moral virtues to people of the country. People should cultivate their selves and control their six senses in order to live in peace with each other. Thereafter, the country was in peace and free of disasters.

The ceiling of the Cuu Trung Dai has the dome shape representing the nine celestial dimensions. In each dome, there are six dragons which can be used by the Supreme Being to ride around the entire universe.

Beyond the Cuu Trung Dai in front of the altar are seven thrones: One for the Pope (Giao Tong), three for the three Chuong Phap (Censor Cardinals) and three for the Dau Su (Cardinals). They are all decorated with sculptures of sacred animals, dragons on the arm rest of the throne for the Giao Tong, phoenixes on the arm rest of the throne for the Chuong Phap, and unicorns on the arm rest of the throne for the Dau Su.

Beyond the Cuu Trung Dai, on the 10th level, is the Cung Dao (Palace of the Tao) on the ceiling of which are engraved pictures of the Divine Eye surrounded by the Dai Ngoc Co (the great phoenix-beaked basket used for spirit writing), the Tieu Ngoc Co (the smaller phoenix-beaked basket), the alphabet board used for spirit writing, the divination to tap out spirit messages, fortune sticks, a book and a face representing humanity. These are tools are used to conduct communication between humans and the spiritual realm.

The ceiling of the Cung Dao is separated from the ceiling of the Bat Quai Dai (Octagonal Palace at the back of the Holy See) by a canopy with sculpted images of the prophets of three Asian religions and the five branches of world religions. In the top row from the left is the Taoist spirit Thai Thuong Dao Quan (previous life of Lao Tzu), Gautama Sakyamuni (the historical Buddha), and Confucius. In the middle row from the left is Quan Am (a female Boddhisattva who represents Compassion), Ly Thai Bach (Li Po, a Chinese Taoist poet of the sixth century), Quan Cong (a Chinese General with a terrifying red face, an officer of the Three Kingdoms Period that served under that of the Kingdom of Wu). On the bottom is Jesus Christ above and Khuong Thuong (a Chinese saint, Jiang Taigong, who was the prime minister of King Zhou Wen) below.

The highest altar is in the Bat Quai Dai (Octagonal Palace, at the rear of the Holy See) and it consists of a Universal Globe with the Divine Eye shining out over the North star and  innumerable other stars.

The Divine Eye on the Universal Globe represents the fact that the Supreme Being sees the entire world. The Universal Globe has a perfectly spherical shape, with a diameter of three meters, three decimeters and three centimeters. Its construction was mandated by set of instructions received through spirit séances. In Caodaist cosmology there are 3000 worlds and 72 planets (with Earth being number 68). Representing these worlds and planets there are 3072 stars marked on the globe.

The Divine Eye is the main symbol of worship in Caodaism. A Divine message on 25 February 1926 proclaimed:
“The eye is the master of the heart,
The two energy sources are the master,
Energy is the spirit,
The spirit is God,
God is Me.”

The visual representation of the Divine Eye reminds Caodai believers that the Supreme Being witnesses everything, everywhere, constantly. The mystical and universal symbolism of the Divine Eye extends throughout the religious history of the world. For the ancient Egyptians there was the eye of Horus; for the Hindus the third eye of Siva (Shiva); and for the Norse the single eye of Odin. All of these symbolized omniscient and divine attributes. As the Encyclopedia of Religions (ed; Micea Eliade) explains, "The Indo-European world attached the same value to the eye as to the sun and to the gods, that is, the quality of being able to see everything." (vol 5 page 237) The Buddha is said to have received inner enlightenment through the celestial eye and this "permitted him to see the life of all beings simultaneously and gave him knowledge of the chain of the fundamental forces of existence."

On the side windows of the 9 level Palace (Cuu Trung Dai) and at local temples, the Divine Eye has 16 rays of light emanating from it. Nine radiate upward representing the nine levels of heaven, and seven radiating downward representing the seven emotions, which believers must learn to control.

Below the globe are the tablets of names of prophets on the frame mentioned early above.     

Outside on the roof of the Bat Quai Dai are mounted the statues of the three ancient Hindu divinities: Brahma, Shiva, and Krishna. Brahma rides on a swan facing West. Shiva  rides, facing North, on the seven headed snake which represents the seven human emotions. Shiva helps humans control their seven emotions through spiritual cultivation. Krishna rides a dragon facing South meaning that the Tao in the Southern region (here meaning Vietnam and specifically Caodaism) will save all humanity in this third age of redemption.

On the roof of the Cuu Trung Dai is the Nghinh Phong Dai in the form of a half dome painted with the map of the earth, where the statue of a horse dragon runs West but turns his head toward the East, wearing the Eight Trigram and Spirit Sword on its back. This represents that the fact that the Tao originated in the East and spread to the West then returned back to East.

On the side verandas, there are one foot round decorations with picture of a pair of cranes flying in the sun light representing freedom from secular obligations and from sufferings. Around this decoration are pictures of grape vines with leaves and fruits.  Grape vine and leaves represent Tinh (our body, sexual and regenerative energy, the root of essence and life/ching/tinh), and the grape fruit represents Khi (breath, vital energy, the life-force, the gateway of life and death/chi/khí), the fermented grapes or wine represent Than (our soul, spirit, director of our life/shen/thần). These are the three Taoist treasures which human being should control to obtain release from the secular world, as in a pair of cranes flying.


The temple’s architecture is a combination of Eastern and Western elements. The temple‘s towers of White Jade Bell and Thunder Drum resemble the Gothic bell towers of Catholic churches. The curving roof edges resemble the roofs of pagodas in East Asia. In addition, on the middle of the temple’s roof, the Nghinh Phong Dai, has the shape of half dome which is similar to the roofs Muslim mosques in India and the Middle East. The Caodai temple is decorated with  lotus flowers and four kinds of spirit animals (Dragon, Lion, Turtle and Phoenix) which are common in Vietnamese and Chinese architecture. The mixture of architectural styles reveals the principles of Caodai philosophy, which are  harmony, peace,  justice and love.

The temple was built from 1927 to 1945 without any architectural plans or sketches. Every detail of the temple was guided, through spirit writing, directly by God. The builders were not trained architects or engineers, and most of them were  poor, not highly educated. However, with a strong belief, they managed to successfully build a remarkable structure which can be interpreted to reveal many mysteries and sacred principles. The Holy See in Tay Ninh is really a wonder, a heritage site for every Caodai disciple, and testimony to the strength of the faith.

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