Is there any way to gauge whether a Zen teacher is really helping me in teaching and corrections? A crucial question, so the response is longer than originally intended. Zen training can be extraordinarily frustrating. One role of teaching is exactly that---to frustrate the calculating mind so that one can go beyond ideas. Often, a teacher is fully supportive at the beginning of practice until students get their footing. At some point though, the teacher appears to withdraw the support, behavior that may baffle, confuse or frustrate the student for years. This change in behavior is normal and intended to be beneficial. However, it is certainly the case that teachings that are skillful may not be welcomed by the recipient or may cause short term duress. So, discomfort is not the criteria. Teaching and advice can be difficult for both the teacher and the student. We are studying how to express our true nature. “Skillful means” (also referred to upaya) is the term frequently used in connection to the effectiveness of teaching. “Skillful means “covers a lot of ground and in itself can be used to justify actions or methods in dealing with a student. In the majority of interactions, the actions are intended to benefit the student. The declaration by the teacher is not a sufficient judgement. Unfortunately, Zen teachers do make mistakes and it is a rare admission for some teachers to admit an error. Errors may be rooted in arrogance, personal likes or dislikes, finances, etc. It is important that everyone have a clear idea of a criteria in teaching or correcting a student’s mistakes. This is not a simple matter and there are a number of elements in the interaction of teacher/student. This response is a composite of different talks and sources. The indented sections are from Shunryu Suzuki 1. The teacher must be connected to the Way. If a teacher thinks that what his student did is a mistake, he is not a true teacher. It may be a mistake, but on the other hand it is an expression of the student's true nature. When we understand this, we have respect for our student's true nature, and we will be careful how we point out mistake. As an observable matter, this means that the ego and attachments are not involved. In other words, if the self-desires, attachments, or ego emerge in the interaction, this criteria is not met. 2. The teaching must be true to the Dharma. The teaching does not violate the precepts. The teacher is reminded to be truthful, which means the teacher does not point out his disciple's mistake just because he thinks it is a mistake. 3. The teaching must benefit the student. The teacher gives advice or points out the student’s mistake solely for the sake of helping them, and does not do this just to get something off his chest. 4. The teaching must be delivered at a time and manner when the student is receptive. . . . the teacher is reminded to be gentle and calm, and speak in a low voice rather the than shouting. . . . and puts emphasis on having a calm gentle attitude when talking about someone's mistake. . . . and not point out the student's mistake in front of many people. . . .points out the student's mistake with compassion, which means that the teacher is not just the teacher, but also the disciple's friend. Sheng-Yen summarizes this in 3 lines: they have a correct view of the dharma, their actions reveal no attachment, clear sense of responsibility.