Most religions conceive the human being as consisting of three parts: the physical body, the soul, and the spirit. Hinduism calls the spirit "Brahman" or "Atman" (or absolute self or metaphysical self), and the soul "Jiva," or miniature self. Buddhism calls the spirit "true heart," or "Buddha heart," and the soul "earthly heart," or "illusory heart." Taoism calls the spirit "god's heart," which is absolute, and the soul "regular heart," which is relative, variable. Islam calls the spirit "Naf-matmainnah," which means supernatural, and the soul "lawwama," which means regular. In Christianity, Saint Paul recommends: "May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our lord Jesus Christ." Vietnamese people call the spirit "linh hon" (sacred spirit) and the soul "tam hon" (emotional soul).

According to CaoDai, the Supreme Being is called "Dai Linh Quang" (Great Sacred Light). A human being's spirit derives from the Supreme Being, and is called "Tieu Linh Quang" (Little Sacred Light). "Dai Linh Quang" and "Tieu Linh Quang" have the same property, which is nameless, formless, omnipotent, omnipresent and everlasting. Human beings are visible and have different personalities, emotions and desires as a result of a physical body and a soul, which are created by the Mother Goddess.

Regarding the Creator, Christianity says: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. All things are made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.  (John 1:1-3)
God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. (John 1:4)

Islam says: Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth. (Koran)

Hinduism says: He is the one light that gives light to all.  (Katha Upanishad)
Primal energy is Brahman.That Brahman is beginningless, transcendant, eternal.  (Bhagavad Gita)

Sikkhism says: God, being truth, is the one light of all.  (Adi Granth)

The common Buddhist conception is that the Creator and living beings came from the nothingness: There is an unborn, not become, not made, unmanifest.  (Samyutta- Nikaya of Theravada Buddhism)

Taoism calls the Creator the Tao:
The Tao begot one,
And the one, two.
The two begot three,
And three, all else.  (Tao Te Ching, 42)
And the Tao is nothing but the nothingness:
There was something nebulous
Existing before the heaven and earth,
Silent, empty,
Standing alone, altering not,
Moving cyclically without being exhausted,
Which may be called the mother of all under heaven. (Tao Te Ching, 25)

A Native American Faith (Lakotah) says:
The Light of Wakantanka is upon my people. (Song of Kablaya)

Alice Bailey, a well-known modern theosophical writer, believes that the Supreme Being is nothing but a source of energy. She wrote: "Energy is all there is... but is not known."

We may say that religions agree very much with each other that the Supreme Being is an unfathomable source of energy in the nothingness from which the universe and human beings were created. Since human beings bear the coat of physical body and soul, the sacred spirit which is omnipotent, omnipresent and everlasting becomes completely covered and hidden by this coat. In order to rediscover their spirit or miraculous Little Sacred Light, human beings have to see beyond their coat of physical body and soul by means of spiritual self-cultivation. The physical body of human beings possesses six senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and thought. Each of these gives a different type of perception. Man has a tendency to pursue the gratification of each perception by possessing anything that pleases his senses. The soul or earthly heart of man is the origin of all this tendency in making the physical body work, strive and fight for endless acquisition of things. This is the origin of emotions: one's happiness is dependent on the attainment of physical and emotional pleasure and the avoidance of physical and emotional pain. Anger, hate, jealousy, sadness, joy, etcetera, all stem from a myriad of situations related to the perceptions of the six senses of the physical body. All these adverse emotions, together with desires and greed make the physical body and soul of man heavy, vibrating at a very low frequency. They constantly create obstacles, preventing man from realizing his Little Sacred Light, also called his inner self, which is always with him and in him. Although his inner self continuously gives him messages of what he needs to do to acquire wisdom and to be unified with his inner self, these messages are emitted at too high a frequency, so that his physical body and soul, being too heavy and vibrating at a much lower frequency, can not understand and perceive them. CaoDai meditation consists of helping one's physical body and soul eliminate desire, greed and adverse emotions, and become purer and lighter--and thus be able to attune the physical vibration with the spirit's and reach self-realization. CaoDai believes in the law of justice, or karma, which means that any current situation is the result of past good or bad deeds; and therefore believes that the human soul evolves continuously according to this karmic law through many physical lives to become progressively purer, ultimately to unify with the Supreme Being (in Heaven).

Karmic law is also observed in other faiths: Hinduism: "This body is called the Field, because a man sows seeds of  action in it, and reaps their fruits."  (Bhagavad Gita)

Buddhism: " Even an evildoer sees happiness so long as his evil deed does not ripen; but when his evil deed ripens, then does the evildoer sees evil."  (Dhammapada)
"Even a good man sees evil days so long as his good deed does not ripen; but when his good deed ripens, then does the good man sees good things."  (Dhammapada)

Taoism: "Those who do evil in the open light of day---men will punish them. Those who do evil in secret---God will punish them." "Today too many men: Care for no one other than themselves; seem to seek injustice; are boastful braggards. These characteristics lead to death. The man who is compassionate, just, humble, knows these vitues lead to life everlasting."
"The wise man knows the more he gives to others, the more he has left for himself."

Judaism: "Sow in righteousness, reap in mercy."  (Hos. 10:12)
The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh... to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward."  (Prov.11:17-18)

Christianity: "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."  (Gal.6:7)
"Listen carefully to what you hear. In the measure you give you shall receive."  (Mark 4:24)

Islam: "Whatever good you do for others, you send it before your own souls and find it with Allah who sees all you do."  (Koran 2:104)
"Every soul will be rewarded according to its merit."  (Koran 3:182)

Karmic law, or justice, is the divine law, the absolute law that is applied to all souls and that chains men to rebirth; or in other words, it requires that a man make payment for transgressions if not in the present life, then in another. Anyone who does anything--whether it be good or evil--receives its result, either in this life or in the next. No one escapes this law. Otherwise, there would be no justice. This law explains reincarnation as the spiritual evolution of all souls.

Reincarnation is well accepted in Eastern culture. The scriptures of Hinduism clearly support it: "If a man fail to attain Bramahn before he casts off his body, he must again put on a body in the world of created things. (Katha Upanishad) Just as the dweller in this body passes through childhood, youth and old age, so at death he merely passes into another kind of body... Bodies are said to die but that which posseses the body is eternal...
Worn-out garments
Are shed by the body:
Worn-out bodies
Are shed by the dweller
Within the body.
New bodies are donned
By the dweller, like garments. (Bhagavad Gita)
And according to the Gita, the cycle of rebirth or Karma can be ended by egoless action.

Buddhism has similar conception: "Him I called a Brahmana who knows the mystery of death and rebirth of all beings, who is free from attachment, who is happy within himself and enlightened.... Him I call a Brahmana who knows his former lives, who knows heaven and hell, who has reached the end of births, who is a sage of perfect knowledge and who has accomplished all that has to be accomplished." (Dhammapada)

Taoism writes the following: "There was a beginning before the beginning. There was a beginning previous to that beginning. Death and life are not far apart. When I look for their origin, it goes back to infinity; when I look for their end, it proceeds without termination. Life is the follower of death, and death is the predecessor of life. What we can point to are the burnt ends that have been consumed, but the fire is transmitted elsewhere."

Judaism: "Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations... Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, 'Return, ye children of men.' For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up. In the morning it florisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth."?

Christianity denies reincarnation. There are, however, a number of passages in the New Testament of the Bible that have been cited as supporting reincarnation. Several statements by Jesus to the effect that John the Baptist was a reincarnation of the Old Testament prophet Elijah or Elias: "Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist... For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, it is Elias, which was to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." (Matt. 11:11-15)
And again, later in Matthew (17:10-13): "His disciples asked him, saying,  `Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?'  And Jesus answered and said unto them, `Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, that Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.'  Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist." John 9:1-3: "And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him saying, `Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?'  Jesus answered, `Neither hath this man sin nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
Question: How could the man have sinned prior to being born blind unless he had lived before? [Actually, the Christian answer, although independent of this passage, would probably be that his sin would have derived from original sin.]
In John 3:13 Jesus states: "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from Heaven."  This declares preexistence before physical birth.

If  there is Karma law, or the Justice, with reincarnation as the result then what is the purpose of life?
In accepting the Karma law and reincarnation, then life on this earth is just a place for the souls to pay back (to reap) the deed that they have caused (sowed), in order to progress spiritually. CaoDai believes that with meditation, one would become progressively detached from all secular distractions, and therefore free from the effect of the Karma law and able to avoid reincarnation, and ultimately become one with the Supreme Being.

Hum D. Bui, M.D.


Bc Sĩ Bi ắc Hm l một Hiền Ti Cao i (truyền thống Ty Ninh), hoạt động rất tch cực cho ại-ạo Tam-Kỳ Phổ-ộ v l tc giả nhiều bi bo cũng như sch gi trị Cao i bằng tiếng Anh.

Dr. BDH ist engagiertes Mitglied der CAO-DAI - Gemeinschaft in den USA. Er ist Mitheraugeber einiger CAO-DAI- Zeitschriften und Autor verschiedener, fundierter Beitrge und Bcher ber die Religion Cao Dai in Englisch.


(Bc Sĩ Bi ắc Hm, hnh chụp thng 7-2003 tại Kha Hạnh ường tổ chức tại Thin L Bửu Ta, CA, USA)

(Dr. Bui Dac Hum, July-2003, at Thien Ly Buu Toa, CA, USA)