A. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘grace’. If you mean that someone or something gives you a prize for your efforts, well, I don’t think so. Our part on the spiritual path is to learn, through making use of the tools of practice, how to give ourselves up, surrendering the notion of self that attaches and creates life’s problems. The ‘reward’, as you put it, is the natural fruit of practice that falls when the conditions are right, returning ‘us’ to our own eternal True-nature — that is warm and loves all that is.

There is a timeless paradox within spiritual practice. Commitment to a spiritual path invariably means making use of supports and systems, including religions. In Buddhism we refer to these as ‘the raft’. The raft ferries us to the ‘other shore’, and once there we let go of the raft. For most of us, to get to the other shore on our own, without support and guidance, would be impossible. The Buddha (like all great spiritual teachers) recognised this reality and created supports to help us in our commitment.

We call it the ‘Buddha-Dharma’ or ‘Buddhism’. There are those that say that such things create attachment and a sense of doing something, of trying to go somewhere, and trying to become something, and therefore can never work. This is true if you don’t know that what you are making use of is merely a ‘skilful means’, something to let go of when it has fulfilled its purpose. This includes the whole network of supports and teachings that collectively is known as ‘Buddhism’.

You may well imagine that when the moment arrives to return to your Original-nature, after many years of cultivating Buddhist insight, you will be full of wisdom. This notion couldn’t be further from the truth. When the moment arrives for you to return to your True-nature you are no longer a ‘Buddhist’ or any sort of conditioned being. Even the wisdom that has brought you to this moment deserts you. Rather, you are like a newborn baby that knows nothing and is incapable of any attachment.

If you decide that you don’t need a raft of any kind, then be aware that this way of practice can be fraught with dangers. What we are engaging ourselves in is indescribably subtle. If you feel that you are someone special, not needing to make use of the checks and balances that all the great sages have made use of throughout the ages, then be careful. You run the grave risk of straying up a blind alley, all the while convinced you’ve got everything right.