Huỳnh Phú Sổ, the founder of Hòa Hảo Buddhism, was born on January 15, 1920 or on 25th of 11th month of Kỷ Mùi year of the traditional lunar calendar. He was born in Hòa Hảo village, Tân Châu district, Châu Đốc near the Cambodian border. Huỳnh Phú Sổs native village gave its name to his teaching. His father Huỳnh Công Bộ was a village chief, or Hương Cả, in Hòa Hảo village.
On July 4, 1939, or on the 18th of the 5th month of Kỷ Mão year, Huỳnh Phú Sổ authoritatively proclaimed the creation of a new religious community, namely Hòa Hảo Buddhism. It should be pointed out that when Hòa Hảo Buddhism was created, the prophet of the new religion was less than 20 years old. Moreover, because of his fragile health, Huỳnh Phú Sổ had to halt his studies and leave school at the age of fifteen. Due to the seriousness of his health condition, local healers were retained to treat Huỳnh Phú Sổ who suffered from insomnia and fever. However, all efforts to treat his maladies proved fruitless.
Despite his reputation as a frail young man, Huỳnh Phú Sổ declared he came to the Mekong Delta to propagate a new Buddhist teaching. Also, the sudden overcome of his chronic illnesses and his deep knowledge of the Buddhism doctrine, despite his limited education, were perceived as miracles. Almost overnight this fragile youngster became an impassioned preacher of the new doctrine, which was destined to win the hearts and minds of millions. Moreover, he became a healer himself and successfully treated sick people in the areas around Hòa Hảo village. First his family, and then neighbors, acknowledged him as an illuminated holy man due to his sudden enlightenment and subsequent healing successes.
Subsequently, followers of Hòa Hảo Buddhism regarded Huỳnh Phú Sổ as a living Buddha, or Phật sống, destined to save the world.