The Way of Love

‘Madonna in Gloria’ (part) – Antoniazzo Romano – WikiArt

One of the oldest and most beautiful poem about love is found in the New Testament. This is a very human and touching piece, for both its modernity and universality. It was co-written 2000 years ago by Sosthenes and Paul. Paul, born Saul of Tarsus (5 – 64/65 AD), was one of Jesus’ apostles, who disseminated his teachings and founded some of the first Christian communities in Asia Minor and Europe. The poem is excerpted from the book ‘1 Corinthians 13’, and is presented here in the ‘World English Bible’ translation. This soaring piece presents all the qualities found in love. Some of its verses became famous over the years. The quote “Through a glass darkly”, (not appearing in this translation) inspired the title of a film by Ingmar Bergman and many other artworks in fields as diverse as poetry, plays, novels, songs, essays or television series. Many other verses of the poems were also quoted in similar works. Behind its apparent simplicity, I find the poem to have a profound meaning that confers it the quality of a prayer. I hope you will enjoy


If I speak with the languages of men and of angels,
but don’t have love, I have become
sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.

If I have the gift of prophecy, and know
all mysteries and all knowledge;
and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains,
but don’t have love, I am nothing.

If I dole out all my goods to feed the poor,
and if I give my body to be burned,
but don’t have love, it profits me nothing.

Love is patient and is kind; love doesn’t envy.
Love doesn’t brag, is not proud,
doesn’t behave itself inappropriately,
doesn’t seek its own way, is not provoked,
takes no account of evil; doesn’t rejoice in
unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.

But where there are prophecies,
they will be done away with.
Where there are various languages,
they will cease.
Where there is knowledge,
it will be done away with.

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part;
but when that which is complete has come,
then that which is partial will be done away with.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child,
I felt as a child, I thought as a child.
Now that I have become an adult,
I have put away childish things.

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, [through a glass darkly]
but then face to face.
Now I know in part,
but then I will know fully,
even as I was also fully known.

But now faith, hope,
and love remain — these three.
The greatest of these is love.

~ 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (World English Bible)



Poem by Sosthenes and Paul the Apostle (1st century AD)

Painting by Antoniazzo Romano (1430-1510)



1 Corinthians 13 (Wikipedia)
Paul the Apostle (Wikipedia)
Bible Gateway
Antoniazzo Romano (Wikipedia)


Prayer to the Higher Self

‘Bodhisattva Padmapani, cave 1, Ajanta, India’ – Unknown author, 450-490 CE – Wikimedia

This prayer is a beautiful expression of longing from a student to the Master, which the title reveals to be the Higher Self. It is excerpted from a long Sanskrit poem attributed to Adi Shankara in the 8th century, whose original title is the ‘Vivekachudamani’, which translates as the ‘Crest-jewel of discrimination’. The text was used as a teaching manual of Advaita for centuries. I found this prayer to be a very moving and humble call for self-knowledge. It is found in verses 35 to 40, and opens to 540 more verses of elaborate teaching of non-duality…


“I submit myself to thee, Master,
friend of the bowed-down world
and river of selfless kindness.
Raise me by thy guiding light
that pours forth the nectar of truth and mercy,
for I am sunk in the ocean of the world.
I am burnt by the hot flame of relentless life
and torn by the winds of misery:
save me from death,
for I take refuge in thee,
finding no other rest.

Sprinkle me with thy nectar voice
that brings the joy of eternal bliss,
pure and cooling,
falling on me as from a cup,
like the joy of inspiration;
for I am burnt by the hot, scorching flames
of the world’s fire.
Happy are they on whom thy light rests,
even for a moment,
and who reach harmony with thee.

How shall I cross the ocean of the world?
Where is the path? What way must I follow?
I know not, Master.
Save me from the wound of the world’s pain.”



Prayer by Adi Shankara (788-820)

Translated by Charles Johnston (1867-1931)



Something must be said of the painting above. It is one of many paintings found in a series of Buddhist caves near Ajanta, in Central India, excavated between the 2nd century BC and the end of the 5th AD. The caves served as a retreat for monks until the 7th century, before being abandoned and forgotten. They house sculptures and paintings on their walls that narrate the many lives of the Buddha. Speaking of their subjects, the art specialist Ananda Coomaraswamy wrote: “We don’t know what to admire more: either their technique, which is already so perfect, or the intensity of emotion they contain, their lives seeming very close to our own; for they are as modern in design as they are in feeling. […] The grace of their movements, their serene self-control, the love with which their every gesture is imprinted, their profound sadness creates an unforgettable impression.”

Here is another prayer composed by Adi Shankara, ‘In the Morning I Remember’…

Here is a homage to Adi Shankara: ‘Shankara the Great’, on the blog…

– ‘In the Light of the Self: Adi Shankara and the Yoga of Non-dualism’ – by Alistair Shearer – (White Crow Books)
– ‘Adi Shankaracharya: Hinduism’s Greatest Thinker’ – by Pavan K. Varma – (Tranquebar)
– ‘The Crest-Jewel of Wisdom’ – by Shankaracharya (Trans. Charles Johnston) – (Pinnacle Press)
– ‘The Ajanta Caves’ – by Benoy Behl – (Thames & Hudson Ltd)

Adi Shankara (Wikipedia)
Vivekachudamani (Wikipedia)
Charles Johnston (Wikipedia)
Ajanta Caves (Wikipedia)
Ananda Coomaraswamy (Wikipedia)


Search me, O God

I am presenting here a text excerpted from the Christian Old Testament, in the Bible. It is commonly known as Psalm 139, and belongs to the Book of Psalms. ’Psalm’ in Greek means ‘instrumental music’ and is by extension, a hymn. These hymns are mostly praises to God. This particular Psalm was brought to my knowledge by Rupert Spira. This is certainly one of the richest for it expresses the all knowing and pervasiveness of God, of that deep presence that is the nature and heart of our utmost self. It also stresses that this presence shines in all circumstances, including in our darkest hours. The psalm seems to hold in itself the soft power of a prayer, which is the ability to make us aware of our true self. For this is the function of a prayer, to throw us back into our self, into the deep silence that is the core of our being. As Stephen Mitchell wrote in ‘A Book of Psalms’, “Pure prayer begins at the threshold of silence. It says nothing, asks for nothing. It is a kind of listening. The deeper the listening, the less we listen for, until silence itself becomes the voice of God.” Listen to the depth of this poem. As its promise reads, you may be led “in the way everlasting”.



O lord, thou hast searched me, 
     and known me.
Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, 
     thou understandest my thought afar off.
Thou compassest my path and my lying down, 
     and art acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word in my tongue, 
     but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.
Thou hast beset me behind and before, 
     and laid thine hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; 
      it is high, I cannot attain unto it.

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? 
     or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: 
     if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
If I take the wings of the morning, 
     and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
Even there shall thy hand lead me, 
     and thy right hand shall hold me.
If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; 
     even the night shall be light about me.
Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; 
     but the night shineth as the day: 
     the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.

For thou hast possessed my reins: 
     thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: 
     marvellous are thy works; 
     and that my soul knoweth right well.
My substance was not hid from thee, 
     when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought 
     in the lowest parts of the earth.
Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book 
     all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, 
     when as yet there was none of them.
How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! 
     how great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, 
     they are more in number than the sand: 
     when I awake, I am still with thee.


Search me, O God, and know my heart: 
     try me, and know my thoughts:
And see if there be any wicked way in me, 
     and lead me in the way everlasting.

~ Psalm 139 (King James Version)



Psalm from the Holy Bible (King James Version)

Photo by Alain Joly



– ‘The Book of Psalms: King James Version’ – (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform)
– ‘A Book of Psalms: Selected and Adapted from the Hebrew’ – by Stephen Mitchell – (Harper Perennial)

The Bible (Wikipedia)
King James Version (Wikipedia)
Psalms (Wikipedia)
Psalm 139 (Wikipedia)

Other prayers from the blog at Fragrance of Love


A Prayerful Mind

When I pray for aught my prayer goes for naught; 
when I pray for naught I pray as I ought
~ Meister Eckhart


This prayer is borrowed from a treatise allegedly attributed to Meister Eckhart, ‘The Rank and Nature of the Soul’, in the translation of Miss C. de B. Evans, 1924. The authenticity of these treatises is discussed, but it appeared to me like a beautiful prayer well worth sharing here. I have adapted it in a more modern English, sometimes taking some liberty with the original, and other times leaving it as it is. Its authenticity goes inasmuch as it is speaks to our hearts and reveals the fragrance of the divine presence it prays…

Meister Eckhart was a Christian theologian and mystic born in 13th century Germany. He is nowadays appreciated for the universal qualities of his message. For Meister Eckhart, the most powerful form of prayer is “the outcome of a quiet mind” where there should only be “a pure going out of what is our own”. Such a mind, in his own words, is one that “is forever immersed in God’s most precious will, having left its own.” A prayer is an invitation to rest or abide in what is most essential in our being, it is “the practice of pure being”. I hope this prayer will find a resting place in your heart…


O divine presence, supreme fragrance,
Show me the way to your most precious nature
That in your wisdom you have sent my way
To be seen and recognised as my own self;
To be loved as my being beyond earthly manners;
To be enjoyed in this new birth as happiness.
To be owned in thy perfect wisdom.

Preserve me from all separation, for you have raised me above myself;
You have exalted my soul beyond the grasp of ego;
You have sealed me with the seal of your eternal image;
Have made nothing more like yourself than a man in his soul.

Teach me to live so that I may never want you; 
So as never to hinder the working of your love-stream in me; 
So as never to lend myself to any outward pleasure without you;
Nor occupy my mind with any creature other than you. 

You are that pure consciousness incomprehensible by ego,
Inspiring the soul and raising her above entanglement
So that she can do thy will only, O Eternal Wisdom;
So that in grace she can be freed from all that comes uninvited.

You have made the soul to suit yourself in her nature and her laws
And she maintains she has no room for anyone but you.
O Almighty! Most Merciful Creator!  Dear Lord!
Help me to overcome the pitfalls of my egoistic tendencies.

Help me to believe, to hope, to love; to live and feel exactly as you will,
And as much as you will and what you will. Lord, grant me 
The sorrow of the humble; a mind escaped from mortal body; 
To love, to laud and to behold you and cherish every act and thought that is toward you. 

Grant me a clear, sober and genuinely prayerful mind 
With real intuition of thy will, together with the love and joy 
Which make it easy to perform. Lord, grant me always modest progress 
Towards better things and never to backslide in any harmful way. 

And, O my Lord, condemn me not, as I deserve, 
To rely on my own powers, or my human weakness and foolishness,
But on your good providence alone. Direct me Lord to the Good itself;
Command my every thought and act to your own liking.

Make so happen that on my part, in me, your will is always being done,
And that I can be saved from evil and brought to the eternal life.
Make me be one where thou are three in Person, in the essence of thy divine nature: 
Father, Son and Holy Ghost and the ever blessed almighty God. 




Prayer by Meister Eckhart
(adapted from a translation by Miss C. de B. Evans)

Painting by Joakim Frederik Skovgaard (1856-1933)
(Photo by Elsebet Barner)



Bibliography :
– ‘Meister Eckhart, Selected Writings’ – by Meister Eckhart – (Penguin Classics)
– ‘Conversations with Meister Eckhart’ – by Meister Eckhart & Simon Parke – (White Crow Books Ltd)

Meister Eckhart (Wikipedia)
Joakim Skovgaard (Wikipedia)

This is Meister Eckhart (Homage to Meister Eckhart)
The Poor Man (a Sermon by Meister Eckhart)
– The Quiet Mind (a quote by Meister Eckhart)


The Slow Path

A prayer is an invitation to rest or abide in what is most essential in our being. So it is something like an intimation, a subtle realisation of something that may take the form of a longing, or wishing, but is in fact already here, subtly present if not yet realised. I loved this humble prayer by Michael Leunig, so I share it here with you…




Dear God,

We pray for another way of being:
another way of knowing.

Across the difficult terrain of our existence
we have attempted to build a highway
and in so doing have lost our footpath.

God lead us to our footpath:
Lead us there where in simplicity
we may move at the speed of natural creatures
and feel the earth’s love beneath our feet.

Lead us there where step-by-step we may feel
the movement of creation in our hearts.

And lead us there where side-by-side
we may feel the embrace of the common soul.
Nothing can be loved at speed.

God lead us to the slow path; to the joyous insights
of the pilgrim; another way of knowing: another way of being.




Payer and cartoon by Michael Leunig



0526BD00-7BB3-43AD-BE57-E91737A198CCMichael Leunig is an Australian cartoonist, writer, painter, philosopher and poet. He describes his approach as regressive, humorous, messy, mystical, primal and vaudevillian – producing work which is open to many interpretations and has been widely adapted in education, music, theatre, psychotherapy and spiritual life. His work reflects, in his own words, “the fragile ecosystem of human nature and its relationship to the wider natural world.” He was declared a national living treasure by the National Trust for his unique contribution to Australian culture.

Read this article about Michael Leunig in Miriam Louisa Simon’s blog ‘The Awakened Eye’.

– ‘The Penguin Leunig’ – by Michael Leunig – (Penguin Random House Australia)

Michael Leunig
Michael Leunig Appreciation Page (on Facebook)


Naked Presence

A prayer is an invitation to rest or abide in what is most essential in our being. I have tried here to express my own version of a prayer:


I don’t know, sweet beloved, 
what to do with my fear, my anger,
all my overwhelming feelings
and the limits I impose on myself.

So please take them into your loving lap,
tender them till they melt 
and are taken away to be
one with your infinite being.

It is my plea and my wanting,
rather my offering – for I’m asking nothing,
to be rid of all my clothes and be seen 
naked in front of your most naked presence.

Let your constant outpouring of love
be my daily inescapable anchor,
let me I be you and you I
and feel no more the pain of separation.

You were so unnoticed,
at best visited from time to time,
let me now be the absent, unnoticed one.

Let me be whole and one with all things,
let me find in the pain, in the ache,
your most gracious presence,

my heart!



Text and photo by Alain Joly



Fragrance (on the role and nature of prayer)


My Beloved

A prayer comes from the heart, and points to something that is beyond words and meaning. Its only function is to throw you back to yourself, to silence. It must be devoid of demands, which can only be objective and an expression of separation. In prayer, the result precedes the wish. Uma Gautam has written a lovely prayer that I’m happy to share here with you:


My Beloved ~ I pray to you 

Grant us an exhaustion so deep
every cell in the body bows and accepts defeat.

Take away from us
the arrogance of guilt and judgement we don’t even recognise.

Help us move
as  leaves move, free-floating in the breeze
all hidden controls thrown away like muslin in the wind.

Make us so alone
we find we are our own best friend, lover and beloved.

Help us look every belief in the eye and keep it down gently. 

Let every idea we have of ourselves be given a quiet burial. 

Make our every thought word action
harmless as a rose and
sharp shiny and clear as a sword

Suffuse us with a Love so vast 
no sea, no rock, no tree, nothing is safe
from this love anymore.”



Text and Painting by Uma Gautam



7F5817A8-A1AC-4C8B-9BF7-CC52B4759526Uma Gautam paints and writes from the heart, playing and experimenting. She has published a book of poems, ‘Inner Weather’. Uma currently lives in Bangalore, India.

– ART BY UMA Gautam (Facebook Page)


Fragrance (on the role and nature of prayer)