Bhakti is not a part of life; life is a part of bhakti
Many people treat bhakti as an optional part of life: “You like bhakti, you practice it. I don’t like it, so I won’t practice it.”
At a functional level, this understanding of bhakti seems correct. After all, people are free to choose whether to practice bhakti or not.
At a factual level, however, perceiving bhakti thus as a voluntary cultural hobby misses its universal essence: the longing of the heart for undying love. We all long to love and be loved.
Gita wisdom explains that this longing can be perfectly and perennially fulfilled if we direct it towards the all-attractive Supreme Person, Krishna. And bhakti-yoga is the process of spiritual discipline by which we can redirect the heart’s bhakti instinct, its longing for love, towards Krishna. Over many lifetimes, we have been searching for love, a search that was essentially our bhakti instinct gone astray due to ignorance or intemperance.
Ignorance misdirects our love towards temporary objects instead of Krishna. But because all such things are temporary, whereas we souls are eternal, our longing stays perpetually unfulfilled.
Intemperance lets our love gets dragged towards worldly objects even after we come to know that Krishna is the best object for our love. Pertinently, the Bhagavad-gita (06.45) indicates that the attainment of spiritual perfection often takes many lifetimes.
By thus understanding our existence as a multi-life search for love, we see life, that is, our present lifetime, as a part of bhakti. And we see the relegation of a bhakti to an optional part of life as a correct-seeming ignorance that sabotages our willpower to focus our love on Krishna.
When we reject this ignorance and bring bhakti to the center-stage of our worldview, then bhakti swiftly grants our heart everlasting fulfillment.
“And when the yogi engages himself with sincere endeavor in making further progress, being washed of all contaminations, then ultimately, achieving perfection after many, many births of practice, he attains the supreme goal.”