aramhans means the Supreme Swan, but in the context of Gurbani (Guru’s words/teachings), it is a title given to the greatest, most supreme Sikh of the Guru.
In this article, we will go through what Guru Granth Sahib Ji and Bhai Gurdas Ji Vaaran say about the quality, nature and lifestyle of a Paramhans.
We look through the Sakhi of Bhai Paro Julka, who was a Sikh of the 2nd Guru, Guru Angad Dev Ji as told by Bhai Mani Singh Ji Shaheed in their Pothi (commentary) - Sikhan di Bhagat Mala.
ਪਉੜੀ ੧੫ : ਦੂਸਰੀ ਪਾਤਸ਼ਾਹੀ ਦੇ ਸਿੱਖ
Sikhs of the second Guru
ਪਾਰੋ ਜੁਲਕਾ ਪਰਮਹੰਸੁ ਪੂਰੈ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਕਿਰਪਾ ਧਾਰੀ।
Bhai Paro Julka was a Sikh of supreme state (Paramhans), on whom the Guru showered grace.
Bhai Paro Julka came to the sanctuary of Guru Angad Dev Ji, and made a request, “O Protector of the Meek, who is a Paramhans and what are their qualities?” Guru Sahib replied, “Bhai Paro, I will tell you the story of a Paramhans, and upon listening, you too, shall become a Paramhans, and those who do your Sangat (keep your company), they too will become Paramhans”.
੮: ਸਾਧ ਸੰਗਤ ਮਾਨ ਸਰੋਵਰ
Manasarovar, the holy congregation
ਮਾਨ ਸਰੋਵਰੁ ਆਖੀਐ ਉਪਰਿ ਹੰਸ ਸੁਵੰਸ ਵਸੰਦੇ ॥
It is said that on Manasarovar (lake) resides swans of the highest breed.
ਮੋਤੀ ਮਾਣਕ ਮਾਨਸਰਿ ਚੁਣਿ ਚੁਣਿ ਹੰਸ ਅਮੋਲ ਚੁਗੰਦੇ ॥
In the Manasarovar are pearls and rubies and the invaluable jewels are picked up by swans to eat.
ਖੀਰੁ ਨੀਰੁ ਨਿਰਵਾਰਦੇ ਲਹਰੀਂ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਫਿਰਨਿ ਤਰੰਦੇ ॥
These swans separate water from milk and go on floating on the waves.
Manasarovar Lake is a lake near Mount Kailash in Tibet. It is said that the best breed of swans live here. These swans only peck on pearls from the bottom of the lake of Manasarovar. If you place a mixture of water and milk in front of them, they can separate the milk and water by using their beak which is sour. They place their beak into the mixture, and the sourness causes the milk to curdle. The swans then consume the milk curdle and leave the water behind.
ਹੰਸਾ ਹੀਰਾ ਮੋਤੀ ਚੁਗਣਾ ਬਗੁ ਡਡਾ ਭਾਲਣ ਜਾਵੈ ॥
The swans peck at the diamonds and pearls, while the crane chases after frogs.
A Paramhans is that person who picks out and consumes only the gems and pearls which is Gur-Shabad (Guru’s hymns). By reading, listening and contemplating on the Guru’s Shabad, they obtain Budh (intellect), Bibek (pure wisdom), and Bichaar (contemplation). These become their beak, which is able to then separate truth and false.
ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਵੰਸੀ ਪਰਮਹੰਸ ਖੀਰ ਨੀਰ ਨਿਰਨਉ ਚੁੰਜਿ ਵੀੜੀ ॥
Gurmukhs are the Supreme swans, they separate water from milk with their beak of contemplation.
The Body and the Soul
The body and soul have been entwined into one entity. A Paramhans through contemplation realizes that the body is perishable, inanimate and goes through pain and suffering. They also know that the soul is true in all three time zones, it is consciousness and the form of bliss.
The body perishes, is unable to recognize itself, and always remains attached to its pain and suffering. The body identifies itself with its suffering. But a Paramhans, through the lens of intellect and wisdom, understands that in reality we are not the body but the soul. We pay for the Karma (actions) of our past lives, and we continue to pay for the accounts of the actions we commit in this life too.
The soul recognizes itself and even the body, it recognizes Vaheguru. If a person can separate their identity from the body through wisdom and contemplation, then that person is a Paramhans. If one can dissociate from the body, then they would not be attached to or indulge in the pleasures of the body.
Swans and Gursikhs
Just like the swans live only in Manasarovar lake, for Gursikhs (Sikhs of the Guru), Sadh Sangat (holy congregation) is their Manasarovar. They love the Sadh Sangat and from within it, they consume the pearls of Naam and Gurbani.
ਮਾਨ ਸਰੋਵਰੁ ਛਡਿ ਕੈ ਹੋਰਤ ਥਾਇ ਨ ਜਾਇ ਬਹੰਦੇ ॥
Leaving Manasarovar, they go nowhere to sit or reside.
ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸੁਖ ਫਲੁ ਸਾਧ ਸੰਗੁ ਪਰਮਹੰਸ ਗੁਰ ਸਿਖ ਸੋਹੰਦੇ ॥
For a Gurmukh, it is blissful and fruitful to be in the congregation of the holy people, and they thus look beautiful as the Supreme Sikh of the Guru.
Guru Sahib uses the analogy of a lotus flower. A lotus flower living in the pond is surrounded by water, but remains detached and unaffected by the water. Its focus remains on the sun always. Similarly, a Paramhans lives within this world, yet the concentration remains on Vaheguru. It is not affected nor is attached to the joy and suffering of the body. A Paramhans realizes that this world is just like a dream, thus there is no attachment or bondages formed.
ਇਕ ਮਨਿ ਇਕੁ ਧਿਆਇਦੇ ਦੂਜੇ ਭਾਇ ਨ ਜਾਇ ਫਿਰੰਦੇ ॥
With single-minded devotion they concentrate upon the Lord and do not go astray to any other thought.
ਸਬਦੁ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਲਿਵ ਅਲਖ ਲਖੰਦੇ ॥੮॥
Merging their consciousness into the Word they behold that imperceptible Lord.
Bhai Paro Julka lived his life as per Guru Sahib’s teachings and he is known in the world as Bhai Paro Julka Paramhans. He was saved and he saved his whole lineage as well.