Last updated: December 21, 2023

What Does Paramahansa Mean?

Paramahansa is an honorific applied to Hindu spiritual teachers who are regarded as having attained enlightenment, or the supreme state of moksha.

The term comes from the Sanskrit roots parama, meaning “supreme” or “transcendent,” and hansa, meaning “swan” or “wild goose.” It is typically translated to mean “supreme swan.”

Someone with this title is awakened in all realms – both of matter and of spirit – and embodies the Divine. This title has been bestowed upon some of the most honored members of the yoga tradition, such as Paramahansa Yogananda.


Yogapedia Explains Paramahansa

In Vedic lore, the swan can distinguish between milk and water, even if they are mixed. The swan, therefore, became a metaphor for enlightenment — the ability to discern the difference between what is real and what is not, even though they coexist. It is this ability that indicates a sage has obtained moksha and is worthy of the title, Paramahansa.

Two of the most prominent gurus with this title so far have been:

  • Paramahansa Yogananda – a 20th century Indian yogi and guru who introduced the Western world to yoga and meditation through his writings and public appearances. He was author of the top-selling spiritual classic, "Autobiography of a Yogi."
  • Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa – a popular 19th century Indian mystic and saint who played a key role in Bengal's social reform movement.

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