Sense of taste

Buddhist Perspective

The object of engagement of the tongue is called the taste. From Buddhist perspective, the gustatory consciousness recognizes six primary tastes: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter, Hot, and Astringent, which can be combined together to create 36 derivative tastes, such as “sweet and sour” or “bitter and salty.” Tastes can be further classified as superior (pleasant), inferior (unpleasant), or intermediate (insipid), altogether making as many as 108 different tastes. The nature of taste is defined by that which is perceived by the contact of the tongue with various substances. Substances in their finest parts are composed of the five elements. When a food or herb substance touches the tongue (with the three conditions fulfilled), a taste consciousness is formed.

Our reactions vary when we sense tastes – what is pleasant sweet for some may be too sweet for another. How do you respond to different tastes?

Western Perspective


We can distinguish only five different tastes: bitter, sweet, unami (savory), sour, and slaty. The human tongue contains 10,000 taste buds, and each of these has 100 taste receptor cells. There are five different types of taste receptor cells – one type for each of the five tastes. The commonly reproduced “taste” of the tongue, indicating that different parts of the tongue respond to certain tastes, is simply not correct!

Signals from the tongue travel through the brainstem, and are processed in several regions of the brain. Our brains incorporate smell, texture, taste, and other information to create our experience of flavor.

How do we distinguish thousands of different flavors with only five taste receptors?

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