Guru Nanak Sahib describes how life is fruitful by recognizing IkOankar (the Divine), the One who commands everything. This recognition comes through Wisdom (Guru).
nihphalaṅ tasya janmasya   jāvad braham na bindate.
sāgaraṅ sansārasya   gur parsādī tarahi ke.
karaṇ kāraṇ samrathu hai   kahu nānak bīcāri.
kāraṇu karte vasi hai   jini kal rakhī dhāri.2.
-Guru Granth Sahib 1353
Literal Translation
Interpretive Transcreation
Poetical Dimension
In the second salok, Guru Nanak addresses those who may know that there is no way other than the eternal Wisdom but who refuse to believe or accept it. The Guru says that our lives are fruitless as long as we do not develop a relationship with the Divine, IkOankar (One Universal Integrative Force, 1Force, the One). Making our lives fruitful allows us to come out of the cycle of lives we may live within a single lifetime or the cycle of lifetimes upon lifetimes. We tend to be driven by death or fear of death, and it is through developing a relationship with IkOankar that we stop wandering with fear at the helm. The Guru reminds us that this world is like an ocean, and the only way that some of us may be able to swim across it is through the grace of the Wisdom. We develop a relationship with IkOankar and make our lives fruitful through the grace of the Wisdom.

The Guru says that in this world-ocean, the great Doer is the Divine, the cause of causes. The root cause of the world is under the Command of this Creator. Nothing is done without the capacity of the Divine. Everyone in this world is playing the roles ascribed by the writ of the Divine. Everyone is dancing as they are shown to dance. Everything is under the Command of the One. The Guru invokes two words: Karan and Kaaran. Karan refers to the One acting and doing, while Kaaran refers to the One causing it to happen. Guru Nanak’s reflection is that both elements are under the all-capable One. All causes are under the Creator, who is protecting everyone in this age. Intellectuals like those described in the first composition believe they can become the cause. They tell themselves that they are the doers, that if they just accumulate enough knowledge and win enough arguments, they can take on the role of the causer. But they are living under a pretense. They know that they are not even the doers, that all elements of doing and causing are rooted in the One. These things are interrelated, and how they are interrelated is part of the grand mystery. But if we can figure out how to have a relationship with that One who is the doer and the cause, we can better understand how to navigate our lives successfully. It is more mysterious until it is mostly understood.

This is where grace becomes operative; an idea intellectuals are not keen to understand. Through the grace, we develop a relationship with the One, and through the grace we then understand how to navigate our lives and make them fruitful. Swimming across this world-ocean is the acceptance of the grace itself. We may think we have become great just by reading religious texts and intellectualizing. But without submitting to the Wisdom, inculcating the virtues, and dealing with our adversaries like pride and ego, which tell us we have all the answers, we cannot make our lives fruitful. We might tell ourselves we can swim the ocean on our own and already know how to swim. But we have been swimming in pools. We do not understand how to swim the ocean with its unpredictable waters. We need the grace to ferry us across; we need Wisdom as the ship. It is hard for us to submit and accept the grace. We make excuses. We might tell ourselves that just like the pandits, we have read all the religious texts and done everything on our own. But the One is the reason for reasons, the cause of causes, and the Doer. So we might do our good deeds and feel that we have accomplished something, but we forget that the One giving us the capacity to do these deeds is the One, IkOankar. This is a question of whether or not we know who is making us move. We may not be able to see the One who is moving us, but we know we are being moved. So then the question is, are we ready to pursue this understanding? Are we ready to accept that we cannot swim these waters alone? Do we gracefully accept that the Wisdom will guide us to shore?