Relative to our temporal world and our own temporal life, the question of “What is nirvana?” has no concise, significant meaning for us. Truth be told, it is not oblivion, or annihilation. It is not a special kind of ego death after which we are released from suffering. Western scholars who have tried to make sense of nirvana are aware of the problem of defining nirvana. To be sure, there is a diversity of interpretations. These interpretations can be, more or less, influenced by certain philosophical predilections. Despite these seeming differences there is some agreement in general.
What we learn from the discourses of the Buddha is that nirvana is beyond existence and nonexistence. It is understood to be in stark contrast with our world of temporal appearances. It is certainly in stark contrast with dependent origination. Hence, nirvana is completely transcendent.
Nirvana, which involves a transcendent realization for the adept, presents a problem for popular Buddhism and its followers. While the scholarly world has not ignored nirvana, where Buddhism is marketed to the general public, nirvana has been, for the most part, given mostly lip service. On the same score, transcendent signifiers such as the One Mind, pure Mind, Buddha-nature are also not taken up a seriously as they might be. The public, who is interested in Buddhism, is often simply unaware that nirvana is the alpha and omega of Buddhism.
It is easy to forget that the Buddha taught that nirvana is the goal of the holy life since the appeal that Buddhism has these days is mainly that of a tool which helps us to cope with the tension of daily life. What this reveals is that many modern followers of Buddhism are still very much caught up in samsara; who are unwilling to let it go sufficiently to make nirvana their goal; not just giving it lip service.