In modern times a great deal of nonsense is talked about masters and
disciples, and about the inheritance of a master's teaching by favorite
pupils, entitling them to pass the truth on to their adherents. Of course
Zen should be imparted in this way, from heart to heart, and in the past
it was really accomplished. Silence and humility reigned rather than
profession and assertion. The one who received such a teaching kept the
matter hidden even after twenty years. Not until another discovered
through his own need that a real master was at hand was it learned hat the
teaching had been imparted, and even then the occasion arose quite
naturally and the teaching made its way in its own right. Under no
circumstances did the teacher even claim "I am the successor of
So-and-so." Such a claim would prove quite the contrary.
The Zen master Mu-nan had only one successor. His name was Shoju. After
Shoju had completed his study of Zen, Mu-nan called him into his room. "I
am getting old," he said, "and as far as I know, Shoju, you are the only
one who will carry on this teaching. Here is a book. It has been passed
down from master to master for seven generations. I also have added many
points according to my understanding. The book is very valuable, and I am
giving it to you to represent your successorship."
"If the book is such an important thing, you had better keep it," Shoju
replied. "I received your Zen without writing and am satisfied with it as
"I know that," said Mu-nan. "Even so, this work has been carried from
master to master for seven generations, so you may keep it as a symbol of
having received the teaching. Here."
The two happened to be talking before a brazier. The instant Shoju felt
the book in his hands he thrust it into the flaming coals. He had no lust
Mu-nan, who never had been angry before, yelled: "What are you doing!"
Shoju shouted back: "What are you saying!"