I recently read the following mini-essay about Satipatthana and its place in Buddhism by Buddhadasa:
...and I can't really find fault with it. I recently read Analayo's study of the Satipatthana Sutta and I was surprised at how little real technique or explanation of practice there was. If the Anapanasati tetrads cover the four focuses of mindfulness, then why were other methods like Mahasi's created, and why are they often valued as more "correct" than the most detailed record we have of the Buddha himself teaching a step-by-step method?
Another common problem is that some people cling to and are stuck on the word satipatthana (foundations of mindfulness) far too much. Some go so far as to think that Anapanasati has nothing to do with the four foundations of mindfulness. Some even reject Anapanasati out of hand. In some places they really hang onto the word "satipatthana." They cling to the satipatthana of the Digha-nikaya (Long Discourses) which is not anything more than a long list of names, a lengthy catalogue of sets of dhammas. Although there are whole bunches of dhammas, no way of practice is given or explained there. This is what is generally taken to be satipatthana. Then it is adjusted and rearranged into these and those practices, which become new systems that are called satipatthana practices or meditation.
Then, the followers of such techniques deny, or even despise, the Anapanasati approach, asserting that it is not satipatthana. In truth, Anapanasati is the heart of satipatthana, the heart of all four foundations of mindfulness. The 16 Steps is a straight-forward and clear practice, not just a list of names or dhammas like in the Mahasatipatthana Sutta. Therefore, let us not fall into the misunderstanding that Anapanasati is not satipatthana, otherwise we might lose interest in it thinking that it is wrong. Unfortunately, this misunderstanding is common. Let us reiterate that Anapanasati is the heart of all four satipatthana in a form that can be readily practiced.
We have taken time to consider the words "satipatthana" and "Anapanasati" for the sake of ending any misunderstandings that might lead to a narrow-minded lack of consideration for what others are practicing. So please understand correctly that whether we call it satipatthana or Anapanasati there are only four matters of importance: kaya, vedana, citta, and Dhamma. However, in the Mahasatipatthana Sutta there's no explanation of how to practice these four things. It gives only the names of dhammas and expands upon them. For example, the matter of kaya (body) is spread out over corpse meditations, sati-sampajanna in daily activities, the postures, and others more than can be remembered. It merely catalogues groups of dhammas under the four areas of study.
The Anapanasati Sutta, on the other hand, shows how to practice the four foundations in a systematic progression that ends with emancipation from all dukkha. The sixteen steps work through the four foundations, each one developing upon the previous, and supporting the next. Practice all sixteen steps fully and the heart of the satipatthana arises perfectly. In short, the Satipatthana Suttas are only lists of names. The Anapanasati Sutta clearly shows how to practice the four foundations without anything extra or surplus. It does not mention unrelated matters.
Basically, as I read more about both camps, I am honestly confused why a sutta that does little more than list subjects of meditation in groups is considered the better frame to base meditation on than a sutta that teaches how to apply mindfulness to the four focuses in depth and detail? I'm not trying to say that the Satipatthana sutta isn't great, but I am uncertain why some have felt the need to create new meditation systems for it while the one taught by the Buddha himself is somewhat ignored!
Thoughts? Criticisms? Things I'm missing?