(Buddhism is) an epistemological philosophy and an intrapersonal approach to perception, self-awareness and self-regulation. It’s an aesthetic. It’s a non-anthropocentric ethical viewpoint that places an emphasis on meaningful, compassionate and genuine relationships. It’s a type of Humanism. It encourages meditation and a mindful approach to living. It’s a worldview and methodology that promotes skepticism, rationality, empiricism and even non-conformity. It is the practical acknowledgment of the unavoidable perceptual subjectivity that is part of the human condition. It is the recognition that the mind matters and that conscious awareness can and should be optimized.
On the issue of spirituality I’ll give Sam Harris the last word:
“There is clearly a sacred dimension to our existence, and coming to terms with it could well be the highest purpose of human life…[I]t must be possible to bring reason, spirituality, and ethics together in our thinking about the world. This would be the beginning of a rational approach to our deepest personal concerns. It would also be the end of faith.”
My thoughts: I respect nihilism, and find that we do not and can not intellectually know anything perfectly. Yet I believe we also have to respect the fact that things exist. This causes a tension, a tension that can not be resolved by witty coffee talk or goth-black underwear, or even by the most sophisticated deconstruction. We don’t know, yet we are. The subjective may never “understand” the objective, in fact, my belief and that of the mathematician Goedel is that it can not. That does not resolve the question into abstract blur. We still are. Buddhism starts at this boundary, of what we can not know, and attempts to address this, in a personal, immediate, meaningful way.
Update: If you doubt you can have a meaningful connection to what you can not know, to what is beyond the ken of concept, then you equate concept with meaning. Well, a kiss may be meaningless, as may be a babies life, or your own. None can be defended or owned by concept. Buddhism attempts to address meaning with a fluid and precise-as-practical conceptual framework, surrounded largely and most importantly by a non-conceptual framework, using a variety of the minds abilities to cognize, such as the immediacy of sense perceptions, the act and fact of noticing of sensations as transcendent to the sensations, the possibilities to expand attentiveness to unnoticed details, and the minds ability to organize sense perceptions and thoughts into a vast de-centralized coherent system. Concept is a small portion of what we do, when we be.