The Higher Taste: A Gustatory Story

Photo courtesy Michael Erlewine

Simply put, the Karmapa is the most powerful human being I have ever met, and by “powerful” I don’t mean imposing, but rather inviting, kind, and compassionate, like someone finally seeing me for who I am inside my personality.

The Karmapa was the actual spiritual being that the Eddie Murphy movie “The Golden Child” was based upon. I spent three days at His Holiness Karmapa’s ancestral monastery high in the mountains of Tibet years ago and served as photographer for him during his first two visits to the U.S.

During his first U.S. visit, the Karmapa of course stayed at his main seat in this country, Karma Triyana Monastery in Woodstock, New York where Margaret and I have belonged for many years. Since we were old-timers there, we were all busy helping to make the visit successful. Mostly we ate at the monastery but occasionally we would jump ship and eat out at one of the local restaurants.

A bunch of us happened to go to a Mexican restaurant in Woodstock one evening. Now I like Mexican food a lot, and I even know how to cook some of it, so I was surprised at the quality of what I found at the local restaurant. It was better than any that I can remember eating, even in San Diego, and places like that. Here in this tiny restaurant was some of the best Mexican food I ever tasted in my life. I was knocked out.

When I went back to my home in Big Rapids, Michigan I spent months dreaming about that Mexican restaurant and just could not wait to get back out to Woodstock and have at it again. When the opportunity to once again travel to the monastery came up, I jumped at it, although this time His Holiness was not present.

And I just could not wait to get down the mountain and back to that little Mexican place. Once there, of course I ordered all the fantastic items on the menu I had ordered before, but to my total surprise the food was lousy, middling to poor – kind of terrible. I was so disappointed. What Happened?

Well, what happened was that when I had been there previously I was in what they call the ‘mandala’ of His Holiness the Karmapa, having somehow been zapped just by being in his presence, and so everything tasted divine, including this lousy Mexican food. I just inhaled it at the time the Karmapa was there.

However, on my next trip when I was just in my own presence, it was way less than memorable. I tell this story just to remind myself that food is not all about recipes and proportions. The quality of the day and of your own mind makes a huge difference in how food tastes.

– Michael Erlewine

Here are Michael and Margaret Erlewine’s two books on His Holiness, each produced after visits to the U.S. :

Karmapa at KTD – 2008
208 Pages, 197 full-color photographs

Karmapa at KTD – 2011
177 Pages, 183 full-color photographs

Photo courtesy Michael Erlewine


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