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.