Nirvāṇa (Sanskrit: निर्वाण; Pali: निब्बान nibbāna ; Prakrit: णिव्वाण) literally means "blown out", as in a candle. In the Buddhist context nirvana refers to the imperturbable stillness of mind after the fires of desire, aversion, and delusion have been extinguished.
In the Buddhist tradition, nirvana is described as the extinguishing of the fires that cause suffering. These fires are typically identified as the fires of attachment (raga), aversion (dvesha) and ignorance (moha or avidya). When the fires are extinguished, suffering (dukkha) comes to an end. The cessation of suffering is described as complete peace.
Bhikkhu Bodhi quote:
"The state of perfect peace that comes when craving is eliminated is Nibbāna (nirvāṇa), the unconditioned state experienced while alive with the extinguishing of the flames of greed, aversion, and delusion"
In Theravada Buddhism, Nirvana is achieved after a long process of committed application to the path of purification (Pali: Visudhimagga) taught by the Buddha. The Buddha explained that the disciplined way of life he recommended to his students (dhamma-vinaya) is a gradual training extending often over a number of years. To be committed to this path already requires that a seed of wisdom is present in the individual. This wisdom becomes manifest in the experience of awakening (bodhi). Attaining nibbāna (nirvana), in either the current or some future birth, depends on effort, and is not pre-determined. Nirvana is the result of following the Noble Eightfold Path.
Nirvana also plays a role in Mahayana Buddhism, but is not regarded to be the final goal, nor to be different from samsara. The tathagatagarbha-literature gives a positive interpretation of Nirvana. A bodhisattva must achieve full liberation as part of the process of achieving Buddhahood as defined by the Mahayana. On the Bodhisattva-paths, the 8th bhumi or 8th ground is equivalent to the Theravada attainment of Arhatship or Buddhahood.
See also: Wikipedia