Nirvana, or in Pali, निब्बान (nibbāna), literally means “blowing out” — referring to the blowing out of delusion.
What follows are notes on this most peculiar topic:
We experience illusion, but it is not nirvana that is the illusion; it is your ‘self’, your ‘soul’ that is the illusion. Whether you seek enlightenment or not, nirvana is always upon you — it is the only thing real in an otherwise delusional metaphor that we mistake for the real world. Your perceptions are in your mind; and they include every color, every sound, every object that you have either touched or imagined, every possession, every concept of self, God, and soul; these are abstractions in your mind to represent the world you exist within.
Consider for a moment why the blue sky is blue. Radiant sunlight refracts into a gaseous atmosphere and passes through your eyes triggering your brain to construct a visual representation experienced as a blue sky. A beautiful metaphor placing you at the center of a magnificent world domed in blue.
Consider the last well-made chair that you sat upon. You saw a chair and knew it was a chair as you sat upon it, but did you perceive the true nature of this thing you call a chair? The wooden legs, once growing from the ground as an oxygen producing tree, the carefully carved pieces interlocking with precision imagined by this chairs designer; all these things in that simple chair.
We see and experience a filtered and abstract metaphor that places our mind at the center of the universe, we call this set of perceptions a soul and imagine attributes that fill out an identity that we call an ego. It is tremendously useful and yet entirely imagined; a wonderful process of the creation of ego. It does not exist in anything except for its own perceptual delusion; all that does exist cannot be simultaneously in your brain, nirvana remains the only concept that once fully understood is the only thing real in an otherwise illusionary world.
And whether you are aware of it or not — that is, whether or not your mind has created a perceptual abstraction that allows your conscious ego to be aware of nirvana, and thus aware of its own illusionary nature, that the illusion of self knows it is an illusion — nirvana is already upon your being. The cycle of dukkha and samsara is itself an illusion, you are not going in a circle, there is no you to circulate.
Each moment dies and produces the next moment, and with that truth, everything that is “you” is no more significant than a blade of grass turning to face the sun. This is dependent arising, and in this awareness where the self is accurately perceived as an illusion, this is awareness of anatta, of not-self. And in this experience of anatta, this is awareness of nirvana.
There is no nirvana to be achieved, only an awareness of the nirvana that already exists.