What, supposedly, is handed down in the flame or light transmission of Zen, we wrongly imagine it to be tangible; something that can be handed over or even thought. Paradoxically, nothing is literally handed down or handed over. There has only been this one eternal substance. We either connect with it or we don't. When we connect with it, we stand firm within it; there being not the slightest jot of difference between us and this immaculate substance.
This is why it says in the Blue Cliff Records (Shaw’s translation), “not all the thousand Holy Ones have handed it [the hua-t’ou] down,” the hua-t’ou referring to “real substance of the Universe” according to the Blue Cliff Records.
Not only is it the real substance of the universe but according to Hui-neng, the Sixth Patriarch, as true reality, it “is the substance of thoughts.” Not only is this marvelous universe its function but so are our temporal thoughts its function! Whosoever awakens to this sublime fact is amazed. Whereas before we seemed to live in the poverty of spirit, now where is it not present? But we just can’t believe this—we have to directly realize it. Belief only takes us so far. It is not enough.
This is when the wrong ideas about the flame transmission's content comes into play. Of what is transmitted, heaven cannot cover it, earth cannot hold it nor can space contain it. The brightest light cannot brighten it or make it cast a shadow. Using our thoughts to find it is like riding an ox, seeking to find an ox. Our thinking hides the substance which we are trying to converge with. Everything conceals it.