The life story and great legacy of the Buddha have probably been widely known across the world as Buddhism has long become a global religion. What the world knows little about is the Buddha's messages about His true teachings. Over the course of centuries, these teachings have been modified or even lost to a certain extent.
"After Luc To (the 6th Buddhist Patriarch), the teachings of true Buddhism were discontinued. Therefore, no one could reach Nirvana despite hard self-cultivation. Shenxiu (神秀) modified and denatured the original doctrine.
The original doctrine was lost for two thousand years and because of the Divine Law, I cannot change it. This is now the time for the Third Universal Amnesty; the Pure Land and the Jade Emperor’s Court have ordered the saving of living beings. This was foretold in the Buddhist Canon. You were not aware of this simply because you did not take effort to discover it."
(The Buddha's Divine Message, 1926; Cao Đài 13)
Since then, Buddhism in East Asia has become a very hierarchical religion with high authority reserved for the most senior and educated monks. Many pagodas have been built not to function as a shelter for the Sangha but mainly to attract material offerings from lay members... These malpractices contrasted starkly with the Buddha's original way which opened the door to everyone from all walks of life on an egalitarian basis. Buddhahood was not possible for only the most senior disciples, although it often required a very high level of cultivation and wisdom.
Let us recall how Prince Siddhartha left his palace of pleasure and comfort for the quest to save living beings from suffering. His unsurpassed example will remind us for ages of the core principles of His Way, such as renunciation, loving-kindness, and compassion.
"I lived in refinement, utmost refinement, total refinement. My father even had lotus ponds made in our palace: one where red-lotuses bloomed, one where white lotuses bloomed, one where blue lotuses bloomed, all for my sake... I had three palaces: one for the cold season, one for the hot season, one for the rainy season. During the four months of the rainy season, I was entertained in the rainy-season palace by minstrels..." (A III 38)
"Before my Awakening, when I was still an unawakened Bodhisatta, being subject myself to birth, aging, illness, death, sorrow, and defilement, I sought [happiness in] what was subject to birth, aging, illness, death, sorrow, and defilement. The thought occurred to me: Why am I, being subject myself to birth... defilement, seeking what is subject to birth... defilement? What if I... were to seek the unborn, unaging, unailing, undying, sorrowless, undefiled, unsurpassed security from bondage: Unbinding.
So at a later time, when I was still young, black-haired, endowed with the blessings of youth in the first stage of life, I shaved off my hair and beard — though my parents wished otherwise and were grieving with tears on their faces — and I put on the ochre robe and went forth from the home life into homelessness." (M 26)
Now, the time has come when the world falls into incessant crises and utmost decay. The dharmaless age is plunging living beings into the abyss of total destruction.
"Thus spoke the Buddha:
A great man had a great house. The house, since it was old, was in a state of collapse: the halls were lofty and precarious, the bases of the pillars crumbling and rotten, the beams and ridgepoles aslant, the stairways and landings disintegrating, the walls and partitions cracked, the clay and paint peeling off, the thatch worn thin and in disarray, the rafters and eavepoles coming loose, totally misshapen, and full of assorted filth. Kites, owls, and eagles; crows, magpies, pigeons, and doves; newts, snakes, vipers, and gribbles; centipedes and millipedes; lizards and myriopods; weasels, badgers, and mice milled back and forth in a crisscross. Places stinking of feces and urine overflowed with their filth, with may-bugs and maggots clustered on them. Here and there and all about were ghosts and demons, poisonous insects, and other malignant birds and beasts...
All the living beings, all my children, are profoundly addicted to worldly pleasure and have no wise thoughts. The world is just like a house afire, being full of many woes most frightful, constantly marked by birth, old age, sickness, death, and cares - fires such as these, raging without cease." (The Lotus Sutra, Ch.3)
In order to save Buddhists and living beings again, the Buddha has brought them into the same fold with the Great Faith:
"Shakyamuni Unites Buddhist Religion, Buddhist Dharma, Buddhist Sangha, Back into the original Great Tao/ Way, May you know, living beings!
Great joy! Great joy!
All Angels, Saints, Immortals, and Buddhas are very joyful to be in this Third Universal Amnesty! I will not worry anymore about suffering in this world, because all living beings are receiving teachings from the Jade Emperor or Cao Dai Tien Ong Dai Bo Tat Ma Ha Tat!"
(The Buddha's Divine Message, 1926; Cao Đài 8)
Due to ignorance, pride and delusion, most living beings have remained indifferent to these messages for a century, shutting down the door to liberation and even to survival. For this reason, the Buddha lamented:
"The paths are devoid of humans, the fields of plowers,
The (Cao Dai) Way unheeded,
I foresee the End upon all living beings."
(The Buddha's Divine Message, 1928; Cao Đài 50)
His prophecy has come true as humanity continues to race ferociously towards annihilation. Before it finally happens, are you breathing the Cao Đài Way on a daily basis? Are you living love and justice out loud every day at a minimum? Are you glorifying His Cao Đài name? Are you bringing others into His very fold?
Or, are you preaching His words to lure others into your own way? Are you spitting love and justice without walking or even contemplating them? Are you despising His name, while elevating yours? Are you still ignorantly solidifying your own burning house and decaying fold?
Cao Đài. Collection of Divine Messages. Translated by H. Bùi and H. Bùi. Edited by Todd A. Berry and Ngasha Beck-Huy, Center for the Study of the Cao Đài Religion, 2015.
Cao Đài. Thánh-Ngôn Hiệp-Tuyển. Ðại Ðạo Tam Kỳ Phổ Ðộ - Toà Thánh Tây Ninh, 1972.
Kubo, Tsugunari and Yuyama, Akira. The Lotus Sutra. Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, 2007.
Thanissaro, Bhikkhu. Access to insight. Refuge - An Introduction to the Buddha, Dhamma, & Sangha. Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, 2013. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/refuge.html
Jordan, David K. The Tale of Huìnéng. University of California San Diego, 2012. https://pages.ucsd.edu/~dkjordan/chin/LiowTzuu/HueyNeng.html
Thompson, John M. Huineng (Hui-neng) (638—713). Internet encyclopedia of philosophy. https://iep.utm.edu/huineng/