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Caodaism, also known as Cao Dai, was founded in Vietnam in 1926 as a mixture of several other religions, including Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. This belief system began in 1921 when a man received a vision of the Divine Eye, an important symbol to Caodaists today. Four years later, God showed himself to 3 other people. Believing that God had told them to form a new religion, the 4 original visionaries, 1 government official, and a group of over 200 followers signed a declaration of the foundation of the religion on October 7, 1926. Due to its nationalistic ideologies and the promise that all followers, whether sinful or innocent, would find a home in heaven upon death, Caodaism attracted over half a million followers in its first few years.
Followers of the religion hold several documents as holy. These texts include Prayers of the Heavenly and the Earthly Way, Compilation of Divine Messages, and the Divine Path to Eternal Life. As previously mentioned, Caodaism borrows ideas from several other religions. Believers practice prayer, nonviolence, veneration of ancestors, and vegetarianism in order to break the cycle of reincarnation and reunite with God in heaven. The teachings say that Tao existed before God, that God was created during the Big Bang, and he created yin and yang. The union between yin and yang allowed the universe to form. In this religion, heaven has 36 levels and intelligent life exists on 72 planets. Holy people in the eyes of Caodaists include Muhammad, Jesus, Joan of Arc, Victor Hugo, Julius Caesar, and Buddha (to name a few).
While the majority of followers are in Vietnam where the faith's Holy City of Tay Ninh is located, today Caodaism is practiced around the world. Followers and temples can be found in the United States, Canada, England, Germany, France, Japan, and Australia. Approximately 5 million individuals identify as believers of Caodaism.
Perhaps the greatest challenge to Caodaism was the Communist movement during the 1970’s. During this time, the government seized property that belonged to the religious organization and turned temples into warehouses and factories. The Communist government also prohibited seances which Caodaists use to choose new religious officials. Since then, Caodaism has not inducted any new priests for spiritual guidance. When the US government withdrew troops in 1973, Communist forces were able to take over all of Vietnam. Many individuals, including Caodaists, fled the country.
Fleeing as refugees has also presented a challenge in efforts to preserve the religion, given that these individuals often find themselves in new countries that speak different languages and have other majority religions. It is different to pass on and teach the beliefs of this religion to new generations when they do not speak the same language.
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