One evening, Shido Munan, called his disciple, Dokyo Etan, to his quarters. The master was seated in front of a brazier of coals which warmed the chilly room. “I’m old,” he told Etan, “and you alone of all my disciples have demonstrated the capacity to carry on my teaching.”
Etan bowed in silence.
Munan brought out a manuscript and presented it to the younger man. “This is a text which I received from my teacher, Gudo Toshoku, who received it in turn from his teacher, and so on. I’ve added some notes in which I express my understanding. It’s an important record, and I’m entrusting it to you.”
“If it’s so important, perhaps you should keep it,” Etan said, gently pressing the manuscript back into Munan’s hands.
“I want you to have it as evidence that you’re my successor,” Munan said, once again presenting it to Etan.
“You used no written text when I received your teaching; I don’t need one now.”
“That’s true,” Munan admitted, “but the document has been passed from teacher to student for seven generations, so please accept it as a symbol that you’re the heir of that teaching.”
Munan placed the manuscript in Etan’s lap. Etan took it up and tossed it onto the coals of the brazier.
“What are you doing!” Munan shouted, angrily.
“What are you saying!” Etan shouted, just as loudly.
[Dokyo Etan – Zen Masters of Japan: 226-28, 233]