Q: Does this sound right to you?
Advaita considers this to be innate certain knowledge: I exist, I experience (i.e. I am a subject). It is the bedrock of the Advaitin teachings. The source. If I am not utterly certain that I exist and experience, all of the downstream Advaitin views of self and reality will be skewed.
A: No. It is certain knowledge that ‘I exist’. But that ‘I’ (Atman) does not act or enjoy (akartA, abhoktA). So it does not ‘experience’ either. It cannot be a ‘subject’ because then there would have to be an ‘object’ – and that would be duality. Everything other than ‘I’ is mithyA. ‘Experience’ is via the reflected consciousness (chidAbhAsa) in the mind.
Q: I understand. The thing is, I’m a very intuitive person. I rely on and trust my gut feelings about things. Pure reasoning and logic only go so far for me, particularly in the metaphysical realm.
So in order to be certain that I exist, I need to know it in my gut. Up to now, neither reasoning nor shravaNa has elicited this in-the-gut certainty. What has is perceiving, thinking, and feeling stuff – I experience, therefore I am.
Brahman is clearly neither subject nor object (nor anything else that can be thought or expressed in words). Thus Atman is also neither subject nor object. Ditto for the Self. But some students (a sizeable number I reckon) are going to find it next to impossible to somehow KNOW stuff like this with certainty but without relying at all on experience, gut feeling, intuition, etc.
A: Sureshvara says that only shravaNa can bring the ‘final understanding’. If you do not currently have it, all you can do is more manana (which you are doing by asking questions) and nididhyAsana (more reading, listening to talks etc.) and then, at some point in the future, come back to more shravaNa. And repeat this loop until a shravaNa session brings you an Aah! moment!
A: Very good!