Sometimes we want to help others. When we give assistance to others it comes in different ways. It may be quiet, relying upon the attentiveness of the other, or it may be directly spoken. Sometimes they appreciate our assistance; sometimes others just want to struggle on their own without assistance. The help of others isn't always wanted.
How then may we help? Zen teacher Joko Beck has written about compassion, "[so compassion ] if we're truly listening with compassion to another person, we may not feel much of anything; we simply listen and act appropriately... compassion is not itself an emotion."
And there is a Zen story to illustrate another way of help to others:
A Zen master enters the prayer hall with a bowl, ready for the meal being served; he comes much too early. So the cook stops him in the kitchen and says they have not rung the bell yet. The Zen master returns to his room and waits. Meanwhile the cook can't resist! He approaches the abbot, tells him of the master's folly, with glee. The abbot listens, then shrugs replying that the master can become befuddled sometimes!
Soon the Zen master returns to the hall to eat. He hears of the abbot's remarks and is displeased. Later he speaks to the abbot in private. He inquires of him if he be disapproving. At that, the abbot leans forward to the Zen master and whispers into his ear. Immediately the Zen master is relieved of his concern.
Later the Zen master gives a dharma talk. It is thought very good. The abbot profusely compliments the Zen master afterward.
Yet for those listening, the question remained: what was whispered into the Zen master's ear by the abbot? Or from another perspective: what was the role of the abbot in the situation? Did he help the Zen master?