Coconut Religion

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The floating pagoda of the Coconut Religion, photographed in 1969

The Coconut Religion (Vietnamese: Đạo Dừa or Hòa đồng Tôn giáo)[1] is a Vietnamese religious sect centered in southern Vietnam's Bến Tre Province. Founded in 1963, adherents created a "Coconut Kingdom" on an islet of the Mekong River. The religion is largely based on Buddhist and Christian beliefs, alongside the pacifism teachings of founder Nguyễn Thành Nam. The religion was abolished by the communist authorities after 1975. At its peak, the religion had some 4,000 followers. After the founder’s death following a clash with the authority in 1990, the cult is now still practiced by a very small minority.


The Coconut Religion advocates consuming only coconuts and drinking only coconut milk.[2] Monks of the religion were permitted to wed up to nine wives.[3]


The Coconut Religion was founded in 1963 by Vietnamese scholar Nguyễn Thành Nam,[2] also known as the Coconut Monk,[4][5] His Coconutship,[6] Prophet of Concord,[6] and Uncle Hai[6] (1909 – 1990[1]). Nam, who attended a French university,[2] established a floating pagoda[6] in the southern Vietnamese "Coconut Kingdom", in the province of Bến Tre.[2] It is alleged that Nam consumed only coconuts for three years;[1] for that period he also practiced meditation on a small pavement made from stone.[3] Nam was a candidate for the 1971 South Vietnamese presidential election; he lost and returned to his "Coconut Kingdom".[2] Despite his eccentric behaviour, the government of Saigon respected him and called Nam a "man of religion".[7] He usually sported a crucifix around his neck and dressed in traditional Buddhist robes.[8]

Estimates of followers of the religion worldwide were 4,000 at its highest. One notable follower was John Steinbeck IV, the son of American novelist John Steinbeck.[2] The religion was deemed a "cult" and was promptly banned in 1975 by communist officials.[2]

In 1990, the Coconut Monk fell to his death during an intense clash with the authorities, marking the demise of the cult. The Coconut Estate is now served as a tourist attraction along the My Tho Mekong Delta Tour.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Dodd, Jan (2003). The Rough guide to Vietnam (4 ed.). Rough Guides. p. 142. ISBN 9781843530954.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Coconut religion". Vinhthong. Archived from the original on October 22, 2013. Retrieved May 25, 2013.
  3. ^ a b Hoskin, John; Howland, Carol (2006). Vietnam (4 ed.). New Holland Publishers. p. 115. ISBN 9781845375515.
  4. ^ Pillow, Tracy (2004). Bringing Our Angel Home. iUniverse. p. 106. ISBN 9781469714011.
  5. ^ Ehrhart, William Daniel (1987). Going back: an ex-marine returns to Vietnam. McFarland. ISBN 9780899502786.
  6. ^ a b c d Vu Trinh (1974). "The Coconut Monk". Vietspring. Archived from the original on 2013-05-01. Retrieved 2013-05-26.
  7. ^ Ellithorpe, Harold (1970). "South Vietnam: The Coconut Monk". Far Eastern Economic Review. p. 15.
  8. ^ "THE OTHER SIDE OF EDEN: LIFE WITH JOHN STEINBECK". American Buddha. Archived from the original on June 24, 2013. Retrieved May 26, 2013.