Cao Dai Temple, Phu Nhuan


Most people who come to Vietnam have heard about Cao Dai, Vietnam's most famous indigenous religion. Indeed, many tourists go on a one day package tour to Tay Ninh to visit the Holy See of the Cao Dai faith and to watch a prayer session. I have done this myself on occasion, but i was much more interested in seeing how Cao Dai operates in the city, where it is one among many faiths.
Indeed, once you get into Ho Chi Minh City Cao Dai temples are few and far between. The boy who fixes our computers outed himsel as a follower of Cao Daism, and so I found out from him that there is a temple in Phu Nhuan, just 10 minutes away from where I live. I even knew exactly where it was - in years past the site housed a squat little cottage and overgrown garden that i always wondered about (teh gates were always locked). Now a new temple has been built there, and it is quite spectacular, as you can see.
The darling old Abbott showed me around and invited me back for prayers any time. He said people rarely come to prayers - normally it's only him. So I get the feeling he'd like the company.
The main shrine is dedicated to the all-seeing divine eye of the Cao Dai creator God. It is a beautiful image. There is much to admire about Cao Dai, in spite of its surface silliness. It is a genuine effort at religious syncretism, and it advocates a quiet, spiritual lifestyle focused on prayer and contemplation and the observation of a vegetarian diet. Yes, I know there's all that awkward history about maintaining their own army, and Charlie Chaplin being a saint and all. But all religions make mistakes.

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