Possible ancient meanings of nirvana
For nir (or nis) read: not (or no).
1. For vána, derived from (root word) ván read:
1. like, love; wish, desire; gain, procure; conquer, win; possess; prepare;
Nirvana derived from this root meaning of ván can mean: elimination of (i.e. no) like, love; wish, desire; gain, procure; conquer, win; possess; prepare. The general meaning of this nirvana version is ‘given’ as ‘the elimination of desire, craving, thirst and so on’ (all of which create bondage).
2. tree; forest; thicket, cluster, group; quantity; wood;
Nirvana derived from this root meaning of ván means: elimination of (i.e. no) tree; forest; thicket, cluster, group; quantity; wood. The general meaning of this nirvana version is ‘given’ (by Buddhist priests) as the elimination of ignorance or confusion (and which creates bondage).
2. For vâna, derived from (root word) vâ read:
1. blow (of wind); emit (an odour), be wafted or diffused
Nirvana derived from this (root word) vâ is generally taken (i.e. by Buddhist priests) to mean: extinguished, gone out, released from bondage (i.e. as in moksha, Pali: vimokkha). This is the most abstract version of nirvana and, by putting the emphasis on nir, appears to mean ‘no’ (i.e. quit, end, eliminate, empty (of) whatever) actual content.
Nirvana derived from the (root word) vâ is generally taken (i.e. by Buddhist priests) to mean: not connected, un-clustered, not intermingled (hence free).
Take your pick! The extraordinary ambiguity of the word nirvana, and which served – and still serves – as a basic premise (i.e. goal) of Buddhist everyday reality and its elimination theory, should really make one wonder why the Buddha did not apply ‘right thinking’ and define the term clearly.
In short, and with a little bit of lateral thinking, the important part of the word nirvana does not appear to be the highly ambiguous term vana but nir, meaning ‘not’ or ‘no’ (or un-), which by extension came to mean nothing, i.e. empty of (sunyata) (abiding) thingness, the latter notion becoming synonymous with anatman or (Pali) anatta.