Organization Structure (Cont.)
3) The Cửu Trùng Ðài (The Nine Degrees of Evolution Body, the Nine-Divine-Plane Body 九重臺).
The Cửu Trùng Ðài literally means the nine-plane palace. In the Great Divine Temple/ Đền Thánh, the Cửu Trùng Ðài is symbolized by the central nave of the Temple (building), the place where the worshippers kneel, pray and offer themselves to God (The Supreme Being), between the Bát Quái Ðài (God's Altar) and the Hiệp Thiên Ðài. The Cửu Trùng Ðài is the Executive Body of Caodaism which takes charge of the administration of the Religion and missionary activities.
Head of Cửu Trùng Ðài/ Executive Body is Giáo-Tông (Pope). The Giáo-Tông (Pope) represents God to watch over the preservation of His Religion in this world. Whatever his age, he is the eldest brother and acts as a guide for the children of God. The Giáo-Tông (Pope) has the same powers as God to teach Virtue to all His Disciples. He is concerned with each one of them; he guides each one and takes care to ensure that no one transgresses the Divine Laws (Thiên Điều). He obliges all disciples of God to conform strictly to the prescriptions of the New Codes (Tân Luật). Thus any disciple, whatever his rank in the Episcopal Hierarchy, in the case of wrong behaviour, ought not to benefit from leniency or mercy from the Giao Tong (Pope). Protection of a guilty disciple makes him lose his spiritual position (Thiên Vị), provokes jealousy among the faithful, and lessens the good reputation of the Holy Doctrine. The Giáo-Tông (Pope) must protect, uphold or console disciples who are crushed by the miseries of life, and dignitaries who as members of the Sacerdotal Council (Hội Thánh) are overwhelmed by the weight of their abstinence. Since the Giáo-Tông (Pope) has full powers to replace God he must try to transform the life of suffering into an existence marked by happiness. This is the Exalted Task of the Giáo-Tông (Pope).
The Cửu Trùng Ðài / Executive Body is responsible for the administrative tasks, such as training of adherents, organising various programs, and controlling the total Church program. For dignitaries in the College of Men, the Executive actually has three branches corresponding to the three main Religions. Each of these three branches also has a name and a colour [Buddhism / Phái Thái (yellow), Taoism / Phái Thượng (blue), and Confucianism / Phái Ngọc (red)]. The Cửu Trùng Ðài's hierarchy is ranked in nine levels; and the number of dignitaries in the College of Men is limited.
Giáo-Tông (教宗) / Pope - There is only one Giáo-Tông / Pope who is the Leader of the Cửu Trùng Đài/ Executive Body
Chưởng-Pháp (掌法) / Legislative Cardinal - There are three Chưởng-Pháp / Legislative Cardinals. The three Legislative Cardinals / Chưởng-Pháp belong to the three branches: Nho (Confucianist), Thích (Buddhist) and Đạo (Taoist); one for each branch. The Legislative Cardinals / Chưởng-Pháp have the right to examine the religious laws before their promulgation, whether they come from the Pope (Giáo-Tông), or proposed by the Cardinals (Đầu-Sư).
Đầu-Sư (掌法) / Cardinal - There are three Đầu-Sư / Cardinals, one for each branch. "The Cardinals / Đầu-Sư have the right to direct the Disciples of God, spiritually and temporally". "They have the right to enact laws, but they must submit them for the approval of the Pope".
Phối-Sư (掌法) / Archbishop - There are 36 Phối-Sư / Archbishops, 12 for each branch. Among these thirty-six, there are three Principal Archbishops / Chánh Phối-Sư / 正配師. "These three dignitaries are not only the heads of the thirty-three Archbishops / Phối-Sư, but they are also the representatives of Cardinals / Đầu-Sư, with the same powers as the Cardinals". "Since they are the representatives of the Faithful, the Principal Archbishops / Chánh Phối-Sư have the duty to obey the laws. They can, however, ask the Cardinals / Đầu-Sư for certain improvements in the laws, but they do not have the power to propose new ones".
Archbishops work under the Principal Archbishops. They have the same authority of the Principal Archbishops when they execute a mission assigned by the Principal Archbishop.
Giáo-Sư (掌法) / Bishop - "There are 72 Giáo-Sư / Bishops, divided into 3 branches of 24 each. They are responsible for the spiritual and temporal education of the disciples. They are to care for the disciples the way the Elder Brothers care for Younger ones."
Giáo-Hữu (掌法) / Priest - "There are 3,000 Giáo-Hữu / Priests, a thousand for each Branch. This number must be neither increased nor decreased. They preside over ritual ceremonies in the province temples. The Priests have the Mission of propagating the Religion."
Lễ-Sanh (掌法) / Student Priest - The number of Lễ-Sanh /Student Priests is unlimited. The Student Priests are drawn from the most virtuous of the Sub-dignitaries. The Student Priests must always visit the disciples, and preside over the "ceremony of the installation of the Altar" at their homes. They take the place of the Priests for the teaching of the rites.
Chức Việc / (Chánh-Trị-Sự, Phó-Trị-Sự, Thông-Sự / 正治事 - 副治事 - 通事) / Minor Office-Bearers /Sub- dignitaries or Religious Village Administrators - The number of Minor Office-Bearers is unlimited. The Minor Office-Bearers should look after the disciples in the villages. They should consider the disciples as their younger sisters/ brothers. They should follow the orders of the Priests and Student Priests who are the chiefs of the parishes.
Tín-Đồ (掌法) / Disciples - The number of disciples is unlimited.
Female dignitaries reach the rank of Cardinal only. The number of dignitaries in the College of Women is unlimited. There is no branch for female dignitaries. The Dignitaries of the College of Women are formed by the Spiritual Pope Li Tai Pai (Lý Thái Bạch). The Supreme Being/ God said, "I wanted to abolish the College of Women, but you are all my children, so I make no distinction between you". For this reason, at the point when the Rules and Religious Laws were created, women were admitted to investiture with priestly functions.
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