What are the characteristics of a human being?


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.

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