Mahayana Buddhism is based on the observation that consciousness is pure and unimpeded. It is the things it becomes conscious of that color it and give it structure. By becoming unattached to the body, the senses and instincts and learned preferences associated with the body, we get back to the bright emptiness underneath all the ego and suffering. This unconditioned awareness is called “the unborn”, your “original face”, “the one”, “Amida Buddha”, the Buddha-nature, etc.
The monastic path works by just refusing to follow any attachments until they atrophy. It is good to have the monks and nuns around, because that primitive, direct method serves as an example of what Buddhism is for, what makes it work, and what it can do for you. But more subtle and effective methods have been developed over the centuries.
The most famous type of practice is meditation. There are many types. Here are some sources.
About the most popular technique is based on something like Jung’s “guided imaging”, learning the basic facts, attitudes and orientation from stories and images. This is usually based on teachings in this mode given by the Buddha to laypersons, and usually revolve around the story of “Amida Buddha”, alone in the largest Buddhist denomination (Jodo Shinshu) or supported by other personifications (such as Kwan Yin, or Kannon, symbolizing compassion) in other groups, like Chinese, Tibetan, or Southeast Asian Buddhism. By expressing reliance to symbols of Amida, representing the Buddha-nature, you gradually learn to rely on your Buddha-nature. Everyday life becomes religious practice. Very effective!
Other groups depend a lot on ritual. I’m not too sure how that is supposed to help. As a supporting practice, it helps you develop a more Buddhistic self-image so you practice more regularly, but any self-concept is limited, so that is only replacing a bad problem with a slightly lesser problem.
In Buddhism, traditionally, all karma (all attachments and graspings) lead to suffering. Theravada speaks of “skillful karma” instead of good karma, for that reason. Karma is not, as far as I know, used by any Buddhist sect to achieve the unconditioned. The best it can do is replace even worse karma, again a very useful supporting practice, but not one that “carries you across to the other shore”.
Hope this helps. Good luck with your practice.