The ātmā is self–evident, but that it is Brahman is not known. To know this, perception and inference are of no use. We have to bring in śabda, words, from outside. When you are listening to the words, then you are a knower for name's sake. The very knower is told, “You are Brahman.” That means the knower has to give up the status, “I am a knower.” That knower, who has identified with the body–mind–sense complex, himself is dissolved in the wake of knowledge.
In all other pramāṇa operations the knower continues to be the subject related to the object known. This is the difference between the śabda–pramāṇa revealing the fact “I am Brahman” and all other pramāṇa-s. In the operation of all the other means of knowledge like perception, inference, presumption, etc., the knower retains himself and enjoys the pramāṇa–phala, the result of operating the pramāṇa. Here the knower sits relaxed, exposed to the teaching which resolves the knower as Brahman. Therefore, this pramāṇa is a different thing altogether. It has to be handled. That is why śraddhā becomes important here. You must have the buddhi, “I am letting the pramāṇa operate upon me.” Just as you allow a surgeon to operate upon you because you have śraddhā in him, so too you require śraddhā to allow this pramāṇa to operate upon you.
Ātmā is already self–evident and it is alupta–dṛk, a seer that never ceases. It never even winks. It is always a witness. But it is a witness only with reference to whatever is seen. By itself, it is in the form of consciousness. This self–evident ātmā is Brahman. That is the teaching. Because of this teaching a vṛtti takes place in the mind which destroys ignorance and itself goes away. That vṛtti, “All that is here is myself,” is called ātmaikya–bodha or aparokṣa–jñāna. Sometimes the word anubhūti or anubhava also is used for the knowledge, but these words also indicate the immediate recognition of the Self as the result of the teaching. That aparokṣa–anubhūti or aparokṣa–jñāna is said here as ātmaikya–bodha. Without this knowledge you do not gain freedom.
But why do you insist that ātmaikya–bodha alone will give mokṣa? People are many and their tastes are different; therefore many paths must be available for gaining mokṣa. For some, worship is good enough; for others āsaṇa, prāṇāyāma; for some people, something else. There are so many methods, why should we not just follow any one of them? True, you have choices. Among these methods, many choices are available. These various means are things to be done; so you have a choice there. But for mokṣa there is no choice because the problem is that of ignorance, and nothing else resolves ignorance except knowledge.
‘Vivekacudamani – Talks on 108 selected verses’ pp23–25, Swami Dayananda
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