(1) I did not expect any Buddhist to be anything more than a human being with flaws, even teachers. Nor did I expect perfection out of an entire community. I accepted that any Sangha I might find was not a "safe haven" or shield.
(2) I accepted that my practice was stagnating on its own. I wanted the support (and challenges) for my individual practice that interacting with a community or Sangha provides.
(3) I accepted that if I separate myself from religion or Buddhism, isn’t what I leave worse off for my absence? Why should I separate myself from the very people holding values most similar to my own?
When a person is born into the world, each of us is gifted with "the eternal, joyous, selfless and pure" along with the inheritance of samsara. I consider the eternal, joyous, selfless and pure to be at least one definition of the Buddha-dharma, i.e. what the Buddha taught. In my view, every person has a responsibility to honor and protect what is eternal, joyous, selfless and pure within themselves. This is the source of the sincerity and wisdom-power that motivates practice, including zazen. This is also the source of kindness and compassion towards others. One of the things that seems true for me is that when I sit I tap into the "What" that is eternal, joyous, selfless and pure and uncontaminated by views. Sitting helps me be aware of It, even if I can't put what It is into words.
In my opinion, the most important question for any person to ask regarding their own practice is:
(4) Is what I am doing or not doing encouraging the growth of the safe haven* within, i.e. that which is eternally joyous, selfless and pure?
As a member of a Sangha or monastery, the question also can be extended:
(4b) To question our own role in any community we may be a part of. For example, by rephrasing the question as: Is what I am doing encouraging the growth of the safe haven within other individuals in the community?
(4c) To question the behavior of teachers in a community. Is what the teacher is doing encouraging the growth of the safe haven within myself?
In this regard, it's important to recognize that a good teacher will encourage the growth of the safe haven within a student not by pampering it, but rather by challenging it. A good teacher will challenge and thereby strengthen the safe haven of a student without seriously damaging it by going too far. How do a teacher or student know what "too far" is? I think it's the responsibility of a formally accepted teacher to be aware of and sensitive to where the student is in his or her practice, specifically what stressors and resources, mental and physical, exist for the student. I think that if a student is made aware of the three points mentioned above, it is also the responsibility of the student to question any situation they encounter as to whether that which is eternally joyous, selfless and pure is being expanded on by their experience and to challenge the teacher or situation if their own answer to that question is not clear.
*The commonly used term is refuge.