The very venerable Huynh Phu So, deferentially called "Đức Thầy" or Master Huynh by His followers and Hoa Hao sympathizers, was the founder of Hoa Hao Buddhism. He was born at Hoa Hao Village, Chau Doc, South Vietnam, a province adjacent to the Vietnamese- Cambodian border, on 25 November, the year of Earth Goat (15 January 1920). He was the eldest son of His Eminence Huynh Cong Bo and Her Eminence Le Thi Nham, one of the prominent families best-known for their generosity and credibility in the local community.
From 15 to 1̣́9, he never ceased to be in ill health. When He completed primary education, He had to leave school early for convalescence. However, He never entirely recovered whoever was His best treating physician, Oriental or Occidental.
In 1939, He proved fully Enlightened after a pilgrimage He initiated with His Father to the proper Thất Sơn ̣and Bokor Mountains, both famous for holiness and magnificence. On 18 May 1939, the Earth Rabbit Year, He launched His mission as a Messiah. He started with faith healing. He healed many hardly curable diseases, despite His incredibly simple methods, e.g., the use of tree leaves, freshwater, the yellow paper that flabbergasted both Oriental and Occidental physicians and warlocks.
While healing, He went preaching far and wide, and His speeches were characterized by great eloquence. Poets, writers, lawyers, and the like, who, on hearing His reputation, wanted to test His knowledge and skills and all acknowledged that He was supernatural. He left behind an invaluable treasure in Vietnamese literature. Since 1939, He composed a lot of Stanzas, whose themes cover a wide range of issues, the most obvious among which is the impending world war with its devastating effects upon humankind. Therein, He urged people to repent and do good, fulfill their Four Great Debts of Gratitude, and cultivate virtues so that they may timely enter the Pure Land.
In the same way that He treated myriad patients in critical conditions with simple methods, He successfully awakened so many of His audience with His practicable and easily understandable teachings. Up to date, the collection of His Six Books of Stanzas, the yearly archives of hundreds of poems, proses, mantras, tinged with Vietnamese folklore, and, in cases, classics, still serve as the almanac for millions of Vietnamese faithful and Hoa Hao Buddhist sympathizers.
His writings are mainly in vernacular, concise, and engaging. In addition, He wrote prolifically, without drafting. Many eyewitnesses provided ample anecdotal evidence of Master Huynh's exemplary deeds that by far exceeded the expectations of His contemporary on many planes. By following His greater biography, one can better find His miraculous theoretical and practical manifestation of His Mission Statement and the Sixth Booklet, in particular, and the whole Oracle collection, in general.
Even though Master Huynh's preachings are profound, they are efficient and adaptable to various audience levels for the time being. He is a great religious revolutionary. Before He launched His mission, Buddhism in Vietnam had long been stagnant and disoriented. Buddhism over the rest of the world was not much different. First, He simplified the rituals according to what Lord Master Sakyamuni Buddha initially taught. Then, He introduced a few innovations in practicing methods. It is owing to these renewals that, within a short period of time, He had about two-million followers in the South-Western region of Vietnam, and His influence continued expanding.
As His reputation had grown bigger every day, so did the authorities invent measures to clamp down on the Hoa Hao Buddhist movement. Thus, they placed Him under political surveillance at the Nhon Nghia commune, Can Tho. Here, He was even better known than before, prompting colonial authorities to institutionalize Him in the Cho Quan hospital (Saigon). Later, He was moved to Bac Lieu till 1942.
When the Japanese encroached on Indochina during the late Second World War, they transferred Him back to Saigon, where He stayed over at the Japanese Kempeitai headquarters. Here, He waited for the opportunity to assume the position of national÷level responsibility. Then, He composed a pair of sentences to express His ordeal.
"Zhang Xian returned to Han, but He was not Han's subject,
Guan Di, who lived in Cao Cao's camp, did not yet submit to him."
The Japanese wanted to ingratiate Him because they intended to win over the widespread support from His massive following, of which they could take advantage later. However, Master Huynh would be wise enough to never let them implicate Him in their preparations against the Allies. After the coup d'état of 9 March 1945, He kept a very reserved attitude as He had undoubtedly known in advance that the Japanese would sooner or later lose their war. Then, He made a humorous prediction: "The Japanese could not eat up the whole chicken." That was proven! The Year of Rooster perfectly matched 1945, which has finished no sooner than Japan's fate had been sealed. In 1945, 'Filled with compassion for masses on the verge of calamity,' He stood out for national salvation by setting up the Union of Buddhist Organizations to unify their faithful and the Alliance for Vietnam's Independence to campaign for national independence.
After the Japanese Emperor's unconditional surrender to the Allies, Vietnam had to spend an uncertain period. Vietnamese compatriots feared the old scenario of being enslaved with a new master. Thus, Master Huynh and politico-religious leaders established the National United Front to have a united voice with foreigners. However, this entity was annexed by the Viet Minh, for which Master Huynh himself was one of the first representatives in South Vietnam.
Given that Ho Chi Minh's impolitic policy through the Treaty of 6 March 1946 facilitated the re- colonialization of Vietnam, Master Huynh linked up with non-communist leaders to found the Front of Nationalist Allies. However, the masses enthusiastically supported this Front, which the dictatorial Viet Minh arbitrarily disbanded. The latter set up the Union of Vietnam's People to camouflage Third International's red nuance and cleanse the masses' memory from the bloody suppression by Communist generals in late 1945. In 1946, for the sake of unity among different strata of compatriots, He agreed to participate in the Administrative Commission as a Special Commissioner.
In the meantime, He linked nationalist fighters and all Hoa Hao Buddhists together under the Party for Social Democracy that He established on 21-09-1946 to foster social justice in a democratized Vietnam. He was a shrewd religious revolutionary and a highly talented political leader. Through His wording of the Party's Declaration and Programs, even His opponents and the most demanding critics should find one of the most progressive innovations and unsurpassed perspicacity.
He also sent His people overseas. He formed a coalition of fugitive nationalist revolutionaries to establish the National United Front. The Nationalist solution was also inspired by Himself and fugitive revolutionaries in undertakings that have so far existed. As His directions ran counter to the Communist doctrine and might lead to breaking down Atheism, therefore, the Communists had made any attempts to harm Him but to no avail.
By early 1947, in the Western region, Hoa Hao Buddhists protested the autocratic Viet Minh commissions for the dictatorial style of operation they imposed on their mass organization and management. To avoid fratricide, Master Huynh returned to South Western Vietnam in bona fide to calm down the Hoa Hao Buddhists while trying to reconcile them with the Viet Minh for the sake of effectively fighting the colonialist. But, on 25 February, Fire Pig (16 -04-1947), the Viet Minh attempted His life at Doc Vang Ha, Dong Thap.
Since then, no one heard any further from Master Huynh, but all Hoa Hao Buddhists hold the firm belief that the Communists had never succeeded in harming Him. And all His followers are convinced that their Master should return one day and in the greatest of His glory.
The following guidebook, "Essentials Guide to Practice," in the Vietnamese language, was one of His manuscripts published over 300 times, amounting to 800,000 copies. It is an excellent summary of all of what an Hoa Hao Buddhist needs to know in daily practice.
Hoa Hao Sacred Site, 1 January 1966,
The Central Religious Propagation Commission The Hoa Hao Buddhist Congregation (Term I, 1964 – 1966)
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