Manusmriti Verse 9.335 says:

शुचिरुत्कृष्टशुश्रूषुर्मृदुवागनहङ्कृतः ।

ब्राह्मणाद्याश्रयो नित्यमुत्कृष्टां जातिमश्नुते ॥ ३३५ ॥

śucirutkṛṣṭaśuśrūṣurmṛduvāganahaṅkṛtaḥ |

brāhmaṇādyāśrayo nityamutkṛṣṭāṃ jātimaśnute || 335 ||

Translation from the site Wisdom Library seems to imply that they can attain higher caste in current birth.

But according to the site Sacred Texts they can attain higher caste in next birth.

So, which of the translations is correct?


According to Manu Smriti -- NO.

See the following verse for e.g.:

10.4. Brahmana, the Kshatriya, and the Vaisya castes (varna) are the twice-born ones, but the fourth, the Sudra, has one birth only; there is no fifth (caste).

If a Sudra can attain higher caste in the current life then it would not have said for him that he has only one birth. Because he will then be eligble for performing necessary sacrifices like Vratyastoma and get his Vedic sacraments, which will be his second birth.

And, also see:

10.122. But let a (Sudra) serve Brahmanas, either for the sake of heaven, or with a view to both (this life and the next); for he who is called the servant of a Brahmana thereby gains all his ends.

10.123. The service of Brahmanas alone is declared (to be) an excellent occupation for a Sudra; for whatever else besides this he may perform will bear him no fruit.

So, again, if the text agrees with a Sudra getting a higher caste in the current birth, then it would not have said 10.123, because then for a Sudra serving the Brahmins would not have been the only fruitful occupation.

and, finally see this:

10.126. A Sudra cannot commit an offence, causing loss of caste (pataka), and he is not worthy to receive the sacraments; he has no right to (fulfil) the sacred law (of the Aryans, yet) there is no prohibition against (his fulfilling certain portions of) the law

This again is contradictory with the statement that "a Sudra can attain higher caste in the current life" because then it would be verily possible for him to loose his caste.

So, for the given verse 9.335 - translation wise, the Wisdom Library's one is precise, because the verse does not explicitly mention which birth but overall interpretation wise, the other translation/interpretation is correct, because the verse is certainly not talking about attaining higher castes in the present life itself.

Because, the text, Manu Smriti, does not support such an idea at all.

  • 2
    Thanks for taking time to answer my question. On a similar note, if someone wants to convert to Hinduism, what varna would he be assigned with? Does Hindu scriptures support conversion at all? – Hardeep Kumar Nov 29 '18 at 1:25
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    No AFAIK, thr is no conversion concept in Hinduism. But anyone who want to practice the religion has to get oneself initiated first. Two kinds of initiations are thr - Vedic and Tantric. The Vedic initiation is usually available only for certain Hindu castes (called twice borns) whereas the Tantric one is available for everyone without caste,creed or gender considerations. So for a non-Hindu, Tantric initiation seems to be the only way getting "into" Hinduism. The Tantras say after Diksha castes dissolve. So, such a "convert" or initiate won't be having any caste and .. @HardeepKumar – Rickross Nov 29 '18 at 6:31
  • .... can practice the religion without any prohibitions .. – Rickross Nov 29 '18 at 6:32
  • does scriptures restrict core concepts such as moksha to twice born alone as suggested here? – Hardeep Kumar Nov 29 '18 at 16:26
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    (Without going through ur link) - No all human beings are elligible for Moksha. Caste is not a barrier. You do something and u will get Moksha - the concept is far more complicated than that. @HardeepKumar – Rickross Nov 30 '18 at 8:50

Śruti scriptures i.e., Vedas and Upanishads doesn't have any verses supporting either birth-based or guna-based varna. In Smriti scriptures, there are lots of verses that support guna-based varna such as one from Brahma Purana (Chapter 115 - 53-65) where Mahadeva says:

Even a Śūdra who is richly endowed with the knowledge of the Vedas shall become a Brahmin and cultured. Even a Brahmin shall forfeit his Brahminhood and become a Śūdra if his conduct is base and if his diet and culture is base. Brahma himself has said that even a Śūdra should be resorted to like a Brahmin, O gentle lady, if he is virtuous, purified by holy rites or if he has conquered his sense-organs. A Śūdra who clings to his duties, should be considered purer than the twice-born ones. Neither the womb of birth, nor the consecratory rites, neither the Vedic knowledge nor the lineage can be the cause of Brahminhood. Conduct is the real cause. All men are Brahmins if their conduct is pure. Even a Śūdra who strictly adheres to good conduct attains Brahminhood.

Then he provides means by which Brahminhood must be protected after attaining it:

O gentle lady, after attaining Brahminhood the man of controlled self shall protect it by holy rites such as acceptance of monetary gifts from worthy persons. O lady of pure smiles thus the secret doctrine has been recounted to you as to how a Śūdra becomes a Brahmin or how a Brahmin, falling off from virtue, attains the status of a Śūdra.

Śruti scriptures are more authoritative than Smriti and whenever Smriti contradicts Śruti, Śruti takes precedence. As far as guna or birth-based varnas are concerned Śruti scriptures are silent on the matter. So a Śūdra can indeed attain higher caste in his current birth according to Manusmriti from verse 9.335 since the verse is not referring to birth, it is more reasonable to assume that it is referring to current birth rather than next. If its intention was to convey birth-based varna it would have mentioned birth factor in the verse itself.

  • 5
    Not answering the question – Naveen Kick Feb 23 at 9:46
  • It's talking about "status", not actual caste which is birth-based. Cherry-picking verses is not the correct approach. You have to interpret all the verses in the scriptures. – Ikshvaku Feb 26 at 13:58

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