Coconut Religion – The Unique Ritual Power That Once Ruled the Kingdom of Coconut.

Đạo Dừa/ Hòa đồng tôn giáo (Coconut religion or Religion of Unity) was once famous in Cồn Phụng (Phoenix islet), Bến Tre. Nowadays, even though the religion is almost dead and only a few old people follow it, many people are still curious about its unique name as well as its founder.

The origin:

Coconut Religion was founded in 1963 by Mr Nguyễn Thành Nam (1909-1990), as known as Sir Coconut Monk. In the 1900s, Mr Nam was a scholar born with a silver spoon in his mouth. After having graduated with a diploma of Chemical Engineering in France, he came back to Bến Tre and started his soap business. The company shortly went bankrupt. Soon after that, Mr.Nam left his family to start his own religion. At that time, people reported him meditating on tops of coconut trees and consumed mostly coconut water for daily nutrients. That’s why he’s got his name Sir Coconut Monk.

Ông Đạo Dừa – Sir Coconut Monk
photo: https://dongsongcu.wordpress.com.

In 1963, Sir Coconut Monk started spreading his doctrine to the locals. The religion is based largely on Buddhism and Catholic beliefs, along with the preaching of Sir Coconut Monk. It quickly adapted to the community and soon gained followers. At its peak, Coconut religion had around 4,000 followers.

The practice:

The advocates of Coconut Religion were mostly men. They practised praying and consuming only coconut products for their daily diets. However, polygamy was allowed for advocates as they could get married up to 9 wives. Under the government of the former Republic of South Vietnam, monks were exempted from joining the national army. For that reason, Đạo Dừa had gained so many followers, mostly young men at the age of 18 to 35 whose desires weren’t to serve the country’s service.

Advocates praying for peace in the temple.
photo: mapio.net

The advocates donated a large sum of money for Sir Coconut Monk to build his own temple in Phoenix Islet.  The temple is named Nam Quốc Phật (Vietnamese Buddha). Along with the temple, there is a large square with nine dragons columns – which stands for Cửu Long (the Mekong region). Behind, the Peace tower consists of two tall buildings which stand for Hanoi-North and Saigon-South.

Nam Quốc Phật, the temple of Coconut Religion.* photo: https://mapsights.com, taken by Lance and Cromwell

*The gate, with Crucifix on the left and Vietnamese Buddhist sign on the right, expresses the will to unify the two main Vietnamese religions.

The (phantom) legacies:

Sir Coconut Monk had been notorious for his so-called “ultimate” religion since the Southern Vietnam government existed. In 1967, Southern Vietnam began the new electoral campaign. Sir Coconut Monk, with his willing for peace for the humanity, had stood for election for Presidency! He promised to pacify the Vietnam War within 7 days had he been nominated Presidency. Nonetheless, he refused to answer how he could make that happen. Sir Coconut Monk had been then sent to Biên Hòa asylum to run a mental health check.

Sir Coconut Monk at Chợ Quán (Biên Hòa) asylum after his mental health check.
photo: baomoi.com

After that “historic” event of Coconut Religion, the government had banned him from seeking intervention from other countries to help develop his religion nationwide. Despite having sent many letters to President Diệm, President J.F.K, President Charles de Gaulle, and so on,  he never had a reply from any of whom he asked for help. Moreover, both the governments: the Republic of South Vietnam and Communist Vietnam had identified him as a threat of rebellion and had banned him from going abroad. Sir Coconut Monk had been caught at the border trying to pilgrimage to Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat, Siem Reap (Cambodia).

Sir Coconut Monk and foreign reporters.
photo: https://blog.nfb.ca/blog/2017/04/28/photo-friday-different-view-vietnam-war/
The tragedy:

During the end of Vietnam war, Sir Coconut Monk had failed to flee outside the country. Thus, he had been forced to go to a rehabilitation camp. After a short while, they had released him on bail because of his mental issues record. Ever since the fallen of South Vietnam, the new government had identified Coconut Religion as a cult. Sir Coconut Monk continued to run Coconut Religion under the law despite the government’s strong attempts to prevent it from expanding.

On 12/05/1990, while the crowd were practising Coconut religion at Sir Coconut Monk’s private property, the government broke into his house and issued Coconut Religion a ban from spreading superstition to the community. At the tipping point of the conversation with the government, Sir Coconut Monk left upstairs to “pray for peace”, but one of his followers pulled him back to confront the government. Unfortunately, the pull was too strong for Sir Coconut Monk that he fell off the ground. Sir Coconut Monk departed the next day of a serious traumatic brain injury, aged 81. Since the death of the creator of Coconut Religion, the number of followers has ceased drastically from thousands to very few people.

Sir Coconut Monk’s stone stele at his own temple.
photo: doisongphapluat.com
Ending:

For the locals, Sir Coconut Monk was an “accidental legend” of Bến Tre. In the kingdom of coconut, people do not worship this ‘creator’ anymore. Instead, they will tell either ridiculous or odd anecdotes about him. You can witness his legacy when coming to Phoenix Islet by coming to the temple and talking to his followers. I am sure there are yet things to learn about this interesting religion. If you haven’t registered on our upcoming trip to Bến Tre, do not hesitate to contact us! We wish to bring you the best discovery experience in Vietnam.

Levi.

[Event] – Ben Tre Weekend Trip: Coconut Trip

Welcome you to our 8th travel – Ben Tre, the coconut land in Southern Vietnam. This tour was particularly designed by a Ben Tre local with the aim of offering the most local experiences for participants.

Let’s COCONUT it by:
  • Row boating across small canals in Tiền River (Mekong Delta.)
  • Visit a coconut candy factory and try fresh coconut candies.
  • Visit the remaining constructions of Ông Đạo Dừa – the Coconut Monk.
  • Trying making ‘Bánh Xèo’ by yourself.
  • Experience picking coconuts.

Wait! That’s just a part of the trip, we will also:

  • Sit on horse carriages to observe fruit gardens.
  • Visit the honey bee raising area.
  • Listen to ‘Đờn ca Tài tử – traditional music in Mekong Delta.
  • Catching and grill snakehead fish.
  • Try ‘Chuối đập’ (lit. pounded bananas) – a speciality of Bến Tre
  • Visit Vĩnh Tràng Pagoda, a national historical site, one of the most visited pagodas in Southern Vietnam.
Time: 9th September 2018
Maximum number of participants: 13 people
Schedule:

Fee:

The sooner your payment is, the higher promotion you get 😉

  • 20/08 – 26/08: 850,000VND (36.50USD)
  • 27/08 – 01/09: 950,000VND (40.85USD)

Including:

  • Transportation (16-seated van)*
  • Services: electric carts, horse carriages, and row boating.
  • Entrance tickets.
  • Breakfast, Lunch, and snacks
  • Drinks and water
  • Tour guide fee

*Note: We will transport by the van if there are more than 10 participants. Otherwise, taking a public bus is another option. In that case, your two-way bus tickets will be covered instead.

**Excluding: Other fees out of those above-mentioned things.

Cancellation Refund Policy:

If you cancel your registration, you will receive refund based on the time of your cancellation.

  • 20/08 – 26/08: Refund 60% of the total fee.
  • 27/08 – 01/09: Refund 30% of the total fee.
  • 02/09 – 09/09: No refund.
Registration Process:

Step 1. Register by filling in the form below.

https://goo.gl/forms/X7GIUPHDPTtAalUt2

Step 2. Complete your payment via:

***Bank Transfer: The information of bank account will be sent to you via email.

***Direct Payment:

Contact Minh Nguyen

  • Phone: 01666725720
  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/minhvuongainguyen

***Your registration will only be counted after completing your payment.

Before registration, please read the following terms carefully.

1/ In each trip, there is a main guide who is in charge of planning, arranging everything, contacting people, and guiding during the trip. The guide cooperates with us via the Local Supporters Program. All of the expenses of the guide will be shared among other participants in the trip. That’s why in your fee includes the fee for the guide. The guide of this trip is Nguyen Thi Yen Nhi.

If you agree with the above-mentioned term and feel interested in the trip, register ASAP! First come first served. Please fill in the the form below.

>>>Let’s take a look at our previous trips:

Thanh An Island (Can Gio) | Giang Dien Waterfall (Dong Nai) | Tay Ninh | Bac Lieu