The Meaning of Nir’vana
The ancient Sanskrit word ‘nirvana’ is a metaphor. The metaphor is a user friendly analogy (or simile) for the ambiguous notion of blowing or going out, i.e. like a fire or a storm.
The metaphor ‘nirvana’ is as accurate/inaccurate as the metaphor ‘sunrise’. Everyone has experienced a sunrise … BUT …. the sun doesn’t actually rise, does it?
During his 40 year long career, the Buddha did not once provide an accurate factual description or analysis of the biophysical, possible neural mechanics of the going out (or going beyond) process. Consequently no one knows for sure precisely what he meant when he used the term, that is to say, ‘IF’ he used the term at all and ‘IF’ it was as important to him as it was to his later populist Mahayana followers needing to ‘sell’ a positive goal.
What the (very secular) metaphor ‘nirvana’ appears to have been intended to describe is ‘having come to rest’. You’ve attained nirvana (i.e. your inner storm (of confusion, emotions, good or bad intentions) has ceased to blow, or your inner fire has been extinguished) when you’re @ rest, when you‘re in the ‘On Standby’ or ‘Shut down’ mode.
So, nirvana basically means: RIP (@rest = in peace)
There are two kinds of @rest states:
1. @ relative rest, for instance when your running (your car) in neutral, i.e. on stand-by.
2. @ absolute rest, when you’ve turned off (your car), i.e. after ‘shut down’.
@ Relative rest nirvana is achieved in two ways.
Firstly, when you’ve reached (and stopped at) your destination. More precisely stated, when you’ve completed a task (and stopped). Completion is self-signalled with a surge of released energy (called enlightenment), self-represented as the various intensities of elation, i.e. happiness, joy, bliss, rapture and so on, the formere gradually dissipating into (the feeling of) @rest ≈ nirvana, i.e. when you ‘wait’‘on standby’.
And secondly, before you start your journey (or task), i.e. before GO, to wit, ‘The calm before the storm.’ The majority of early (non-religious) Buddhist meditation – and Yoga – techniques are ‘return to before GO’ or ‘Don’t Start’ (i.e. prevent (or suppress) birth or rebirth) exercises. They return to @ rest status ≈ on standby (or pre ‘turn on’) mode prior to the stress (or turbulence; see Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra No 2) of task (or journey) performance (i.e. coming alive, ‘arising’).
It’s in between ‘GO’ and ‘STOP’ that stress (Sanskrit: samsara = the stressful process of a life cycle = a life) happens. In between ‘GO’ and ‘STOP’ you (i.e. a bio-logical device processing to completion = fulfilment) are undecided, incomplete, imperfect, stressed; indeed distressed if you can’t complete. The level of distress resulting from non-completion of a task is self-signalled (i.e. interpreted) as the various intensities of (energy) depression (to wit: en-darkenment), further self-represented with the feeling icons of unhappiness, misery, agony, and so on.
So, in so far as the vague metaphor nirvana can be understood at all, it appears to mean: function (i.e. task processing) stopped, ended, ceased, abated, extinguished and so on. When stopped, peace (i.e. on ‘standby’ or shut down) happens, and suffering (Pali: dukkha), resulting from stress and distress, has ended.
There’s really nothing noble (Pali: Aryan), spiritual (i.e. life giving), mystical (i.e. mysterious) or religious, or good or bad about (the notion of) NIRVANA, unless a corrupt Buddhist priest makes it so in order to sweeten his sales pitch.