‘Do not say that it is harder for lay people living in the world of senses and desires to sit and meditate, or that it is hard to concentrate with so many worldly duties, or that one with an official or professional career cannot practice Zen, or that the poor and the sickly do not have the power to work on the Way. These excuses are all due to weakness of faith and superficiality for the thought of enlightenment.
If you observe that the matter of life and death is serious, and that the world is really impermanent, the will for enlightenment will grow, the thieving heart of egoism, selfishness, pride, and covetousness will gradually die out, and you will come to work on the Way by sitting meditation in which principle and fact are one.
Suppose you were to lose your only child in a crowd or drop an invaluable gem? Do you think you would let the child or the jewel go at that, just because of the bustle and the mob? Would you not look for them even if you had a lot of work to do or were poor or sickly? Even if you had to plunge into an immense crowd of people and had to continue searching into the night, you would not be easy in mind until you had found and retrieved your child or your jewel.
To have been born human and heard true teaching is a very rare opportunity; so to neglect meditation because of your career is to treat the life of wisdom of the body of truths of the Buddhas less seriously than worldly belongings. But if you search for wisdom single-mindedly like someone who has lost a child or dropped a gem, one day you will undoubtedly encounter it, whereupon you will light up with joy.
People in all walks of life have all sorts of things to attend to; how could they have the leisure to sit silently all day in quiet contemplation? Here there are Zen teachers who have not managed to cultivate this sitting meditation concentration; they teach deliberate seclusion and quietude, avoiding population centers, stating that “intensive meditation concentration cannot be attained in the midst of professional work, business, and labor,” thus causing students to apply their minds mistakenly.
People who listen to this kind of talk consequently think of Zen as something that is hard to do and hard to practice, so they give up the inspiration to cultivate Zen, abandon the source and try to escape, time and again becoming discouraged. This is truly lamentable…
As an ancient said, if people today were as eager for enlightenment as they are to embrace their lovers, then no matter how busy their professional lives might be and no matter how luxurious their dwellings may be, they would not fail to attain continuous concentration leading to appearance of the Great Wonder.’ (An Elementary Talk on Zen)
I came across this text from the early 17th Century; while much of it is quite dry and severe, this passage feels relevant.