What should be or are the characteristics of a human being? In today's age, are people real humans? I feel that humans are those who have compassion towards others, and love towards others be it animals, nature or other humans... But I don't see any such characteristics in today's humans (>99%). Should I call them humans just because they have intelligence? I think even the crow is intelligent. Is only self awareness enough to be a human being?

As I've learned those animals who start to develop compassion and love towards other life forms and are self giving have the real characteristics of a human being. As I can remember some parts of the Hindu mythology where Vishnu takes an avatar of a fish and one person to show the character of humans... I don't remember any more of this story, but you people may know a lot about it. I am really sad by seeing that now a days people will not do any good to others unless there is some benefit or some emotional/instinct wise way.

4 Answers 4


As per Bhagavad-gītā 16.1-3,

श्री भगवानुवाच

अभयं सत्त्वसंशुद्धिः ज्ञानयोगव्यवस्थितिः।

दानं दमश्च यज्ञश्च स्वाध्यायस्तप आर्जवम्।।16.1।।

अहिंसा सत्यमक्रोधस्त्यागः शान्तिरपैशुनम्।

दया भूतेष्वलोलुप्त्वं मार्दवं ह्रीरचापलम्।।16.2।।

तेजः क्षमा धृतिः शौचमद्रोहो नातिमानिता।

भवन्ति सम्पदं दैवीमभिजातस्य भारत।।16.3।।

The Supreme Personality of Godhead (Lord Krishna) said: Fearlessness; purification of one’s existence; cultivation of spiritual knowledge; charity; self-control; performance of sacrifice; study of the Vedas; austerity; simplicity; nonviolence; truthfulness; freedom from anger; renunciation; tranquillity; aversion to faultfinding; compassion for all living entities; freedom from covetousness; gentleness; modesty; steady determination; vigor; forgiveness; fortitude; cleanliness; and freedom from envy and from the passion for honor – these transcendental qualities, O son of Bharata, belong to godly men endowed with divine nature. ~ English translation from Bhagavad-gītā As It Is by Swami Prabhupāda

As per this Shubhashita:

आहार निद्रा भय मैथुनं च

सामान्यमेतत् पशुभिर्नराणाम् ।

धर्मो हि तेषामधिको विशेष:

धर्मेण हीनाः पशुभिः समानाः

Eating (or things needed for survival), sleep, fear from somebody and sex; these habits are common between human beings and animals. (in this respect we can't differentiate between man and animal). It is Dharma which is additional important quality of man, without which he is same as an animal.

So your question boils down to What are the characteristics of Dharma? and this is what scriptures mention in this regard:

Manusmriti 6.92

धृतिः क्षमा दमोऽस्तेयं शौचमिन्द्रियनिग्रहः ।

धीर्विद्या सत्यमक्रोधो दशकं धर्मलक्षणम् ॥

(1) dhṛtiḥ (Steadiness)

(2) kṣamā (Forgiveness),

(3) dama (Self-control),

(4) asteyaṃ (Abstention from unrighteous appropriation),

(5) śaucha (Purity),

(6) indriyanigrahaḥ (Control of the Sense-organs),

(7) dhī (Increasing intelligence with good deeds),

(8) vidyā (Knowledge),

(9) satya (Truthfulness), and

(10) akrodh (Absence of anger),

these are the ten-fold characteristics of Dharma (duty).

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (Bhāgavata Purāṇa) SB 7.11.8-12

These are the general principles to be followed by all human beings:

1 truthfulness,

2 mercy,

3 austerity,

4 cleanliness,

5 tolerance,

6 distinguishing between good and bad;

7 control of the mind,

8 control of the senses,

9 non violence,

10 celibacy,

11 charity,

12 reading of scripture,

13 simplicity,

14 satisfaction,

15 rendering service to saintly persons,

16 gradually taking leave of unnecessary engagements,

17 observing the futility of the unnecessary activities of human society,

18 remaining silent and grave and avoiding unnecessary talk,

19 considering whether one is the body or the soul,

20 distributing food equally to all living entities,

21 seeing every soul as a part of the Supreme Lord,

22 hearing about the activities and instructions given by the Supreme Personality of Godhead,

23 chanting about these activities and instructions,

24 always remembering these activities and instructions,

25 trying to render service,

26 performing worship,

27 offering obeisances,

28 becoming a servant,

29 becoming a friend,

30 surrendering one’s whole self

O King Yudhiṣṭhira, these thirty qualifications must be acquired in the human form of life. Simply by acquiring these qualifications, one can satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Vasishtha 10.30

To avoid

  • backbiting,
  • jealousy,
  • pride,
  • self-consciousness,
  • unbelief,
  • dishonesty,
  • self-praise,
  • blaming others,
  • deceit,
  • covetousness,
  • delusion,
  • anger, and
  • envy

is considered to be the Dharma (duty) of (men of) all orders.

This wiki article defines Dharma from various scriptures.


There are a lot of stories which discribes ideal persnality lord shiva, lord vishnu, lord rama(purushottam) i.e. best among men, lord krishna,mata sita,goddess radha, goddess parvati ,raghuvnshis,chandravanshis etc

तदेतत्त्रयँ शिक्षेद् दमं दानं दयामिति

Learn three cardinal virtues – temperance, charity and compassion for all life.

— Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, V.ii.3,

According as one acts, so does he become. One becomes virtuous by virtuous action, bad by bad action.

— Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.5


To action alone hast thou a right and never at all to its fruits; let not the fruits of action be thy motive; neither let there be in thee any attachment to inaction Fixed in yoga, do thy work, O Winner of wealth (Arjuna), abandoning attachment, with an even mind in success and failure, for evenness of mind is called yoga.

—(Bhagawata geeta 2.47–8)

It is very shortly told by me there are a lot of duties its just a hint.

  1. The flat definition of "human" is "member of the homo sapiens species", which has pretty clearly defined biological characteristics.
  2. Humans have a lot of impulses, some of them conflicting: Compassion vs. egoism, fight vs. flee. There are even banal conflicts: eat vs. sleep vs. create art vs. chat with co-humans. These conflicts aren't bad, they're just how humans (and animals) decide what to do next: Have a set of needs, follow the most pressing need first, and if needs are either weak or of equal strength, then the resolution could be triggered one way or the other by seemingly tiny details.
  3. One of the impulses is altruism towards "those who belong to us". The issue is that "us" is socially defined, it can range from core family to all of humanity. Even today, some hunter-gatherer societies are constantly at war between tribes, others are peaceful across tribes but very aggressive to outsiders, yet others consider even Orang Utans human (they're pretty hairy but so what? they're forest humans... though I don't know whether any tribe has ever considered an Orang to be "one of us").
  4. The literature complaining about the lack of humanity among humans, itself, is a strong indicator that humanity is one of the strongest impulses in humans.

The answer to the question What are the Characterisitics of a Human Being is being posted. My reply is not based on smritis, bashyas, etc., but on two stanzas by 5th Century CE scholar Bharthrihari.

Bharthrihari, is a Sanskrit writer to whom are normally ascribed two influential Sanskrit texts: Scholars differ about his time, but it is definitely between 5thCentury CE and the first half of 7th Century CE. Legend also has it that he was in the court of Chandragupta Vikramaditya (ruled 380 to 415 CE) and was actually his elder brother, who due to his attitude towards life gave up the claim for the throne.

His famous work on Sanskrit Grammar is “Vakyapadiya” His poetic work is “Satakatraya) "the three śatakas or 'hundreds' ('centuries')" aptly named NIti Shatka (Morality), Shringara Shataka (Romance / Love) and Vairagya Shataka (Dispassion / Renunciation). Unfortunately, the extant manuscript versions of these shatakas vary widely in the verses included. Sanskrit Scholar D.D.Kosambi has identified a kernel of two hundred that are common to all the versions.

In his ‘Neeti Shataka’ Bharthrihari says:

येषां न विद्यां न तपो न दानम् , न चापि शीलं न गुनोर्न धर्मः|

थे मृत्यलोके भुविभार भूताः , मनुष्य रूपेण मृगाश्चरन्ति ||

Where there is no knowledge, nor worship, nor charity – where norms of decent behaviour are missing, without any redeeming qualities and discipline – such persons are a burden in this earth, animals grazing in human form.

साहित्यसंगीतकलाविहीन साक्षात् पशु पुछः विषाण हीनः |

तृणम् न खादनापि जीवमानः तद्भागदेहं परमं पशूनां ||

Without literature, music and arts a person is actually an animal without tail and horns. That they survive without grazing on the grasslands is the extreme good fortune of the grazing animals.

So the qualities a human being should possess is discipline, good qualities, knowledge (wisdom), worship of God, a charitable disposition, pleasing behavior and be familiar with literature, music and art. Without these qualities a human being is nothing but a grazing animal without tail and horns.

I feel the above beautifully enumerates the characteristics of a human being and is most relevant in the modern days.

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