No one knows what the Buddha meant when he used the metaphor ‘nirvana’. That’s because he never gave a clear and unambiguous factual definition (for instance a biological systems description) of the term.1 The term Nirvana is explained (or described) in several ways, the most popular being the image of the blowing out or extinguishing of fire.
The image of nirvana suggests the extinction (though not, falsely, pro rata decrease) of turbulence (i.e. experienced as heat) and/or the distress (and suffering, Pali: dukkha) it causes.
Nirvana happens if and when its opposite, to wit, Samsara (= life, i.e. resulting from both ordered and disordered turbulence2), subsides/ends.
The split person (operating in a relative world) suffers the heat (of the frustration) of inner turbulence resulting from non-order or dysfunction, hence from not-@-1-ness. The split person is not focussed,2 consequently his (or her) currently available state energy is not aligned (that is to say, ‘stable’ @ minimum entropy). That person’s current state energy is burning out of control.
There are two options for extinguishing the unpleasant fire of chaotic (i.e. non-directed or non-ordered) inner turbulence/heat. The first is to stop feeding the fire (i.e. with more indecision or more energy). This is the means of ascesis. Ascesis (i.e. withdrawal = detachment. See the Fasting Buddha) eliminates the causes of the fire.
The second is to focus the fire (i.e. to direct one’s active energy @100%) upon a single outcome. This is the fundamental thrust of YOGA. By aligning (or harmonizing) the inner conditions (or sub-states, elsewhere read: molecules), inner interaction and the heat it creates ceases, the drop in heat being experienced as coolness. If and when new (differential) interaction (hence fusion) happens, full momentary awakening (or arousal, to wit: sammasambodhi) = full (or @100%) enlightenment) and release (i.e. as in moksha or mukti) of heat/energy happen, followed by happiness > joy (resulting from an energy surge within). Nirvana (in fact, non-awakening = non-arousal = sleep) ensues if and when the released energy is fully dispersed (i.e. @ maximum entropy). Access to nirvana (re-entering non-awakening) is experienced as blissful coolness. Both versions (in fact there are 3) of Nirvana, i.e. the relative and the absolute, happen beyond experience.
In other words, withdrawal from the causes of inner turbulence (i.e. from indecision, hence uncertainty = imperfection) returns a system (i.e. a person) to a prior state of order (i.e. to a previous minimum entropy state) or to a (sleep or waiting or standby) state prior to both order and disorder (hence to maximum entropy, to wit, to factory settings prior to ‘application’ = life). Focussing @100% upon one outcome (or object = Pali: nimitta) reconfigures (to wit: aligns) a system (or person) to (or with) self-absolute @-one-ness, to wit, to (relative) singularity, hence to @ minimum entropy (i.e. when all available energy flows in one direction (i.e. towards one goal, hence to @one’ness), thereby eliminating inner turbulence and heat.
In short, by eliminating inner turbulence (read: stress > distress), a system recovers inner stability (i.e. enstasis) and whose access is experienced as cool (and refreshing). However, once sameness (i.e. non differentiation) ensues experience ceases (i.e. it is compressed out).
If awakening (read: bodhi = waking up) is correctly described as arousal (i.e. excitation), then distress (i.e. Sanskrit: dukka) happens when a person is aroused (or awakened) to more than one focus, hence being partially aroused to each individual focus, hence partially asleep and therefore frustrated and on fire because maximum excitation (read: ecstasy) is not achieved.4
The Great Arousal (or Awakening = sammasambodhi) happens if and when a person is wholly (i.e. @100%) aroused to One. That happens if and when a wholly (i.e. @1 = @100%) asleep, internally non-active One (i.e. a system @ rest) contacts an alternate (indeed random) wholly asleep, internally non-active (hence in Nirvana 1) One, that is to say, when two quanta (i.e. two whole bits (or quanta) collide/fuse @ random, therefore in a relativity vacuum, thereby producing a true (i.e. non-relative) other-real experience and a fusion explosion that release maximum stored energy.
1 … The term ‘Nirvana’ is a metaphor, i.e. a highly ambiguous (i.e. multi-valence, hence fuzzy) fantasy description of a biological state not described. It is interesting to note that the Buddha failed to define any of the primary reference terms (metaphors = analogies) he used, such as atta, tathagata, dharma, sammasambodhi (suggesting enlightenment) and so on. AND HE REFUSED TO ANSWER 12 OF THE MOST COMMON, BECAUSE MOST PRESSING QUESTIONS ABOUT LIFE AND DEATH. Indeed, by fuzzing the issue he actually ‘ took no position’, thereby leaving the core or heart of his instruction read: dharma) empty (Sanskrit: sunja). He consistently took the Zero or Null ‘or ‘fence’ (note this metaphor), hence ‘Yes’ (another metaphor) ‘non-position’. By so doing he mirrored the non-position (or actualisation) of Brahman, elsewhere represented as the Universal Goddess. pilgrim\critic\metaphor.htm
2 … Nirvana (=@rest) ‘happens’ before and after Samsara (Samsara being a metaphor for the endless wheel of life = becoming). Samsara ‘happens’ as the affect of arousal = awakening (resulting from interaction). Consequently it could be conceived that the opposite of Sammasambodhi, namely full and complete awakening = arousal, is Nirvana.
3 … Only the interaction between two whole quanta, that is to say, between two states in relative Nirvana (i.e. @ nirvana 1 = @ relative rest) produces maximum awakening = arousal (‘dawning’).
4 … Despite Buddhist window dressing note the metaphor and which means what in bio-systems terms ???) with the ‘bliss of nirvana’ and ‘the elimination of distress’ and ‘the attainment of non-death (Pali: a’mara), the basic thrust of the Buddha dhamma was to avoid waking up, to wit, not to get aroused, in fact, to return to sleep = non-wakefulness. For both the increase (i.e. acceleration) and decrease (i.e. deceleration) of arousal appear to have been experienced by the Tathagata (read: Buddha) as unpleasant, therefore to be first reduced, then eliminated. The Tathagata always saw the bottle as ‘half empty’. There is not record of him having ever laughed. Nor did he ever observe the beauty of the night sky or of the dawn. Nor did he revel in the joyful laughter of children. To him (and to all Buddhists), everyday life was (is) thoroughly disgusting, consequently to be ended.