Nisargadatta was a fiery one!
Consider this satsang not long before he left the body later on in 1981:
Q: Then these others [in this satsang] do not have the knowledge, and that’s why they come back?
M[aharaj]: You speak for yourself! Other people may be more knowledgeable than you, why do you equate them with you? You have committed a grave offense by equating these people with the level of your wisdom. Take care of yourself, don’t worry about others. How dare you bother about others when you do not fully know yourself?
Q: There is some link which binds us together.
M: Never criticize others.Consciousness and the Absolute: The Final Talks of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, p. 51
You might wonder what is going on, but you needn’t. You might also be inclined to view Nisargadatta’s replies along moral lines–but you needn’t do that either.
Nisargadatta is not really pressing a moral case against his interlocutor. Rather, the key to understanding–and to being floored by his powerful style of teaching–this passage is to be found in his charge that his interlocutor does not know himself.
“Never criticize others” really means: stick with metaphysics! Let this statement drive you back into the depths of ignorance. Let it kindle a natural drive to go back beyond the personality, which claims to have knowledge of the world and others, to “I Amness,” which is chetana (or manifest, non-individuated consciousness).
In this sense, we should certainly regard Nisargadatta along strict Vedantic lines, for he is continuing, in his own impassioned and impressive way, one of the first Vedantic teachings, and that is the seminal value of discrimination (vairagya) between the unreal and the Real.
Here is how Frithjof Schuon summarized the matter at hand:
The entire message of the Upanishads, of the Brahma-Sūtras of Bādarāyana, and finally of Shankara, may be condensed into the following words: “Brahman alone is real; the world is illusion, Māyā; the soul is not other than Brahman.”
Similarly, Nisargadatta would say: the Absolute alone is real; the separate personality is an illusion; and I amness, though still very much within the orbit of Maya, is the key Home. Hold tightly onto I Amness until it too dissolves back into the Absolute.
In sum, the injunction–“Never criticize others”–is, in Nisargadatta’s hands, like a Mack truck driving away the personality, the illusory sense of a separate individual, while also driving back toward I Amness. A fierce, and very compassionate, pointer indeed!