What is Vipassana meditation? What is it to watch the breath?

Acharya Prashant
6 min readApr 19, 2021

The following is an excerpt from a samvaad (dialogue) session with Acharya Prashant.

Acharya Prashant (AP): That which you call “Vipassana” today, is a very recent phenomenon. They claim that it comes from the Buddha, actually, it is not. The stream flowing from Buddha got extinct around the 8th or 10th century AD. This modern Vipassana came up in Burma, just around a 100 years back. And, this is not what the Buddha taught. It is a very much improvised thing.

If you could really look, first of all, you would look into what you are doing right now. Why would you be someone who has the capacity to look at something as subtle as the breath? And, yet he is not able to look at something as gross as his actions. It’s about looking, right? Observing — Vipassana, observing rightly. The breath is subtle, actions are so loud. If you could look, what is it that you would first of all look at? Your actions!

And, if you are able to directly look at your actions, do you really need to look at your breath, or this or that?

See how you are living, that’s all. Seeing is important, obviously, seeing is important. But, what to see, ‘breath’? There is nothing wrong with the breath, why are you watching the breath? Or maybe watching the breath is a convenient way to avoid watching that which really needs to be watched. You need to watch your behavior towards your wife, instead of that, you are watching your breath. Nice trick, Smart chap. You need to watch; how greedy you are towards your customers and how exploitative you are towards your employees. And, instead of that, you are watching -your breath. (Sarcastically) Nice, pretty nice!

You need to watch your restlessness when you are waiting at the traffic signal. And, it’s so evident, it’s observable. Look at the tension, in your calves. See, how you are constantly pushing at the clutch pedal or the accelerator.

Even though, you fully well know that the car is in neutral. There are forty more seconds to go before it goes green. And, you see how your legs are twitching and you’re fiddling with the controls. The moment it goes green, you honk. Now, is that not observable?

Acharya Prashant