The Bardo: Background information when reading Lincoln in the Bardo

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Lincoln in the Bardo

by George Saunders

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
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  • Published:
    Feb 2017, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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Beyond the Book:
The Bardo

The word bardo comes from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and means "in-between." It refers to a transitional state when one's awareness of the physical world is suspended. According to Spiritualtravel.org the concept is an "umbrella term which includes the transitional states of birth, death, dream, transmigration or afterlife, meditation, and spiritual luminosity...for the dying individual, the bardo is the period of the afterlife that lies in between two different incarnations." Most of the characters in Lincoln in the Bardo are in this latter state throughout the novel, stuck between life and whatever awaits them beyond.

Broadly speaking, Buddhist philosophy states that while a person's physical body may die, one's essence does not, and that one is reborn. Whether the new life is better or worse than the earlier one depends on the person's actions during the current cycle.

Throughout the process of death and rebirth the individual is thought to pass through four separate ...

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