The Heart Sutra is among the shortest of the Prajnaparamita sutras. The Heart Sutra is a succinct expression of many concepts embraced by Mahayanists. In the Heart Sutra, Avalokiteshvara addresses the Buddha’s disciple Sariputra, explaining the nature of emptiness in the context of a self grasping hopelessly at the Five Aggregates.
The work is a dazzlingly concise expression of the Two Truths doctrine in which the concept of emptiness is held as the ultimate principle. Here, as in many Mahayana Sutras, classic Buddhist concepts like the Five Aggregates, the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, and Dependent Origination are not permanent or distinct.
To believers of the Skillful Means doctrine, the historical Buddha’s teachings were delivered in accordance with what his hearers would understand and accept. However, from the perspective of absolute truth (as opposed to the worldly relative truth required by the Buddha’s disciples), all things are defined by their emptiness.
The sutra, in the spirit of all Prajnaparamita texts, casts the teachings of the Buddha’s discourses as expendable by the person who has “reached the other shore.” The sutra contains the incisive statement: “Form is no other than emptiness; emptiness is no other than form.”