Thich Nhat Hanh applies Buddhist concepts to twentieth-century dilemmas and issues. For example, in writing about the ancient Buddhist concept of mindfulness in his book The Miracle of Mindfulness, the author shows how mindfulness can be applied to busy, modern lives. He uses the example of a man named Allen who has two children and a wife. In the past, Allen felt stressed about not having enough time for himself. Now, using mindfulness techniques, he realizes that time spent with his family is time for himself. Instead of rushing through time with his son, for example, he relishes being spiritually present during the time he spends with his son. Therefore, being mindful helps Allen be present and share the time with his son in a meaningful way. Thich Nhat Hanh makes ancient Buddhist concepts relevant to modern audiences by showing the utility and power of these concepts in our world.
In his work How to Love, Thich Nhat Hanh shows that ancient Sanskrit ideas about love, including maitri, karuna, mudita, and upeksha (loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity) can be brought to modern relationships. In explaining how these ideas apply to modern life and relationships, he makes them universal. For example, he explains that understanding the suffering a person has experienced in his or her own life allows that person to understand the suffering of another. These are emotions that everyone has experienced, and he explains their applicability to modern-day situations.
Thich Nhat Hanh is also very much a part of the modern world. Rather than retreating, as many Buddhists teachers have done in the past, he believes in a form of Engaged Buddhism. His practice involves applying Buddhist ideas such as mindfulness to real-world problems in an effort to bring about change and justice. He believes that by finding peace within oneself, a person can also work for peace in the world. For example, in the 1960s, he forged an alliance with Dr. Martin Luther King to work together to end the Vietnam War. He is engaged in the problems of the world.