retrofuturist wrote:For what it's worth, I believe it is said that the Buddha was practicing anapanasati when he became the Buddha... if that's any indication of its potential for enlightening.
A common misconception, but ānāpānasati can surely lead to awakening.
Mindfulness of breathing can be used for both concentration (samatha) and insight (vipassanā). The Venerable Ledi Sayādaw explains in his Manual of Respiration
how the meditator can switch to insight meditation at various stages of concentration.
The Bodhisatta practised ānāpānasati on the evening of his Enlightenment prior to attaining the knowledges of former existences, and destinations of other beings. In the latter part of the night before dawn, he turned his attention to contemplating the five aggregates and dependent origination, and it was this method that led to awakening.
From Questions and Answers
"Ko Hla Myint," the Sayādaw replied, "You have not studied the scriptures with the necessary attention to detail. It is true that the Buddha-to-be attained pubbenivasanussati-abhiñña (Knowledge of Former States of Being) and dibbacakkhu abhiñña (the Divine Eye of Omniscient Vision) in the first and second watches of the night through ānāpānasati. But in the third and last watch of the night, the Buddha-to-be was no longer absorbed in ānāpānasati, but had turned his great intellect to the doctrine of paticcasamuppāda, or Dependent Origination. ‘Through ignorance are conditioned the sankhāras, the rebirth producing volitions or kamma-formations, and so on.’ Then, just before the break of day, while meditating on the five khandhas, the physical and mental phenomena of existence, the Buddha-to-be attained arahatta-magga, arahatta-phala, and the Omniscience of the Buddha, the Supremely Enlightened. Thus, Buddhahood was won not through ānāpānasati, but through mindfulness on the physical and mental phenomena of the five khandhas."