Jean and Jack Create the Universe

Jean and Jack Create the Universe

Cao Daism (pronounced Cow Die-ism) is the third largest religion in Vietnam and combines Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Islam, Christianity and Hinduism.  For those of you wondering, “why can’t we all just get along…” well we can, you just have to convert to the Cao Dai religion.  It’s simple really, followers seek to escape the cycle of death and re-birth  by acting lovingly toward others and avoiding sinful behavior.

As we approached the Cai Dai temple in Tay Ninh, our Vietnamese guide attempted to explain the premise of Cai Daism to us.  He struggled with his English and then finally gave up apologizing profusely, clearly embarrassed.  He explained that this was his first time leading this trip and he would study and then tell us more once we got closer to the temple.  On his second attempt to tell the complicated story of Cao Daism he explained that God created Jack, then Jean and together they made the universe materialize.  We figured this must be the Christian influence on the religion considering it’s striking resemblance to the events of the Garden of Eden.  It also seems that with characters like Jean and Jack the Cao Daists must have taken some hints from American nursery rhymes, Jack and Jill go up the hill to materialize the universe?  Or maybe they were inspired by John Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane” and the universe materialized in the backseat of Jack’s car?

The Cai Dai eye as seen from the outside of the temple

With the background knowledge of Jean, Jack and their work in making the universe materialize we hopped off the bus to take a look at Cai Daists in action for their noon ceremony.  The enormous temple, which took 22 years to build, is the seat of the Cao Dai religion in Vietnam.  The ornate exterior was stunning and the watchful eyes in each window were huge, but paled in comparison to the interior.  The main hall included every color under the sun and the altar had a huge spherical eye that watched over worshipers and tourists alike.  After many pictures we were shuffled upstairs to watch the worshipers file in wearing white, yellow, red or blue robes presumably based on their status within the religion.

Cai Daists praying to the watchful eye of God, notice the eye on each of their hats- it's everywhere.

I was enthralled with the simplicity of the ceremony, few words were spoken and everyone sat in straight rows cross-legged on the floor.  A small choir sang from the second floor accompanied by a small group of men playing instruments I have never seen.  We watched for several minutes as all the worshipers silently bowed in unison.  We didn’t stay for the entire ceremony, but the feeling within the expansive hall was intensely spiritual.   We were the last to board the bus as it seemed many of the other tourists were not as interested in the Cao Dai religion as we were.

A member of the small string quartet providing music for the religious proceedings.

After the ceremony my interest was piqued and when we returned to Ho Chi Minh City I had to learn more about this new religion.  Wikipedia to the rescue.

According to Cao Dai, before God existed, there was the Tao, the nameless, formless, unchanging, eternal source referenced in the Tao Te Ching. Then a Big Bang occurred, out of which God was born (emanationism). The universe could not yet be formed and to do so, God created yin and yang. He took control of yang and shed a part of himself, creating the Goddess to preside over yin. In the presence of yin and yang, the universe was materialized.  –Wikipedia

The yin and yang explanation made more sense than Jean and Jack, but how he got Jean and Jack from yin and yang is still beyond me.  I also found a tidbit about the eye that seemed to explain it’s prominence throughout the temple and in their religion.

God is symbolized by the Divine Eye, specifically the left eye because Yang is the left side and God is the master of Yang. –Wikipedia

I would recommend taking a gander at Wikipedia and you will find that the Cao Dai religion has just as crazy a story as any of the other top religions, you just haven’t heard this one yet.

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» dad :
Jan 4, 2011

back to work today, a foreign dialect to you i understand…….who would have guessed all of your years of Catholic studies would lead you to Cao Dai… assuming one of the saving graces of you both not converting is they require you to shave your heads, not unlike the good Buddist Monks…….your updates are quite fun to read and may be “bound” for posterity some day… you……dad

» Ken Tschannen :
Jan 6, 2011

Hey, didn’t you hear, since you left, John is getting divorced (20 years)
and he is hanging out with Meg Ryan in the back seat. I guess he was inspired
by his song Jack & Diane.
That d90 is taking some good shots!

LOCAVORista Reply:

Haven’t been keeping up on my pop culture in Vietnam, thanks for the update. Regarding the camera, I can’t say enough good things about the Nikon D90 I would really recommend it!

» my web page :
Nov 22, 2014

I’m excited to find this web site. I need to to thank you for ones time just for this fantastic read!! I definitely enjoyed every bit of it and I have you saved as a favorite to look at new things on your blog.|

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About the Author

LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.

About the Author
LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.


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