Master Deshan and Yantou were working together a lot trying to bring Xuefeng to realization. One day, Yantou said to Deshan, who was probably in his mid-eighties by this time, “Look, Xuefeng hasn’t come to realization yet. How about if I take him out on a pilgrimage? Maybe something will happen, or maybe we’ll run into someone that can bring him to realization.” Deshan said, “Go ahead. Take him.” And so off they went, visiting one master after another, together. When they arrived at Turtle Mountain, a snowstorm forced them to stop.

“Before you have clarified it completely, it all seems like an impenetrable forest of brambles.” Everybody’s practice gets in to that forest of brambles sooner or later. Practice usually starts off as a very wonderful, romantic notion, and it all looks good and it feels good. After a while, the romance wears off and you’re faced with the reality of the fact that practice is hard work. Probably the hardest work any of us will ever do in our life.

The prologue goes on to say, “When you have been able to see it, you realize that from the beginning there never have been any hindrances.” You realize that those forests of brambles, those obstructions, barriers, are nothing but ourselves. We create them—and because we create them, we can get rid of them. That’s what it means to be master of your life, to realize that what you do and what happens to you are the same thing. When you take responsibility, you’ve empowered yourself to do something about it. No one else can do it for you.

Then it says, "By means of knowledge that has no teacher, he realizes the wondrous teachings of formless form and the marvelous mind of nirva- na." Transmission doesn't come from the outside; there's no teacher telling you what you have to learn. You already have it. There's only realization of that which is already there. It's the life of each one of us.

The next line says, "By means of unconditioned grandmotherly compassion he freely kills and gives life." That's a reference to Yantou and the way he's working with Xuefeng to get him to realize what he needs to realize.