Verse 3.8: Perform your prescribed duty, for doing so is better than not working. One cannot even maintain one's physical body without work.
For all the aspiring yogis out there...you might have encountered this feeling every so often. At certain times in your practice, you may get fed up with all the superficiality that the material world has to offer. Having tasted the richness of bhakti, you decide that perhaps the best thing to do is retreat to a secluded place and just meditate.
Guess what? Arjuna went through it too. However, his expert guide and guru, Krsna, clears up a very important misconception. Better to work according to your nature. In fact, Krsna even says that it's not possible to maintain one's physical body without work.
Hmmm...if that's the case....does that mean we shouldn't ever spend time in an ashram or go on a pilgrimage?
One thing I've learned about myself over the years' is my tendency to categorize things. It probably stems from the fact that it's much easier to label something as black or white, right or wrong, up or down etc. In fact, it takes thinking and using my intelligence right out of the picture! One of the biggest gifts that I've received from my own personal practice of bhakti is some much needed perspective.
Perspective that not everything is so easily labelled. I'm learning to (and trust me...I still have a long way to go) look at things through the eyes of the Gita and according to time, place and circumstance. The answer I've been able to glean from the Gita is this - the same solution doesn't apply to everyone. That, in fact, is the best part about bhakti. It recognizes that you are a unique and special individual that needs things tailor made for you.
This verse is applicable to all of us who, by our nature, are inclined to work in a variety of professions. There are few persons out there who are truly happy living very simply and spending their time just reading and engaging in mantra meditation everyday. For those who are like that - no problem. That is their "work". That is their propensity and they are naturally engaging in it. For the rest of us, it is best if we work according to the unique talents and gifts we've been blessed with. For some of us that might mean working 9-5.
Coming back to the question of whether those of us who do the 9-5 ritual should ever spend time in an ashram or go on pilgrimage, the answer is a resounding yes! It gives us an opportunity to do something for our souls. Actively working is for the maintenance of the body. Therefore taking regular "time outs" to hear from advanced bhakti practitioners, visiting spiritually surcharged places and living the simple life in an ashram can give us a glimpse into what can really nourish us.
Like I said, it's all about perspective. Just because we may not be cut out to retreat and just meditate full-time doesn't mean we can't find opportunities to incorporate it in our lives. Those precious moments will inspire us and naturally cultivate the enthusiasm to spend more time engaging in bhakti yoga.