He was born in north Calcutta on 2 October 1866 and was named Kaliprasad Chandra. His father was Rasiklal Chandra and his mother was Nayantara Devi. In 1884, at the age of 18, while studying for the school final examination under the University of Calcutta, he went to Dakshineswar and met Sri Ramakrishna. Thereafter, in April 1885, he left home to be with him, during his final illness, first at Shyampukur and then at Cossipur Garden-house near Calcutta.
After his Master's death in 1886, he plunged into intense sadhana (meditations), by shutting himself up in a room at the Baranagarmatha, this gave him the name "Kali Tapaswi" amongst his fellow disciples. After the death of Ramakrishna, he formally became a Sanyasi along with Vivekananda and others, and came to be known as "Swami Abhedananda Puri".
In 1896, Vivekananda was in London, when he asked Abhedananda to join him, and propagate the message of Vedanta in the West, which he did with great success. He went to the USA in 1897, when Vivekananda asked him to take charge of the Vedanta Society in New York, here he preached messages of Vedanta and teachings of his Guru for about 25 years, travelling far and wide to the United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan and Hong Kong. Finally, he returned to India in 1921, after attending the Pan-Pacific Education Conference at Honolulu.
In 1922, he crossed the Himalayas on foot and reached Tibet, where he studied Buddhist philosophy and Tibetan Buddhism. In Hemis Monastery, he claimed to have discovered a manuscript on the lost years of Jesus, which has been incorporated in the book Swami Abhedananda's Journey into Kashmir & Tibet published by the Ramakrishna Vedanta Math. Years earlier, writer Nicolas Notovitch claimed to have found the same manuscript in the same place; however, when philologist Max Müller wrote to the monastery to ask for further details, the lama confirmed that no Westerner had visited the monastery in the fifteen years prior, and that no such manuscript existed. Müller concluded that the story was a hoax; other historians agree.
He formed the Ramakrishna Vedanta Society in Kolkata in 1923, which is now known as Ramakrishna Vedanta Math. In 1924, he established Ramakrishna Vedanta Math in Darjeeling in Bengal Presidency (now West Bengal). In 1927, he started publishing Visvavani, the monthly magazine of the Ramakrishna Vedanta Society, which he edited from 1927 to 1938, and which is still published today. In 1936, he presided over the Parliament of Religions at the Town Hall, Calcutta, as a part the birth centenary celebrations of Ramakrishna.
He died on 8 September 1939 at Ramakrishna Vedanta Math. At the time of his death, he was the last surviving direct disciple of Ramakrishna.
Alambazar Math, 1896 (farewell to Swami Abhedananda leaving for the US)(from left) standing: Swami Adbhutananda, Yogananda, Abhedananda, Trigunatitananda, Turiyananda, Nirmalananda, and Niranjanananda; sitting: Swamis Subodhananda, Brahmananda (on chair), and Akhandananda
Gospel of Ramakrishna, by Swami Abhedananda. Published by The Vedanta Society, 1907. Online version
Vedanta Philosophy; Three Lectures on Spiritual Unfoldment: Three Lectures on Spiritual Unfoldment, by Swami Abhedananda. Published by The Vedanta Society, 1901. Online version
An Apostle of Monism: An Authentic Account of the Activities of Swami Abhedananda in America, by Mary Le Page. Published by Ramakrishna Vedanta Math, 1947.
Swami Abhedananda, the Patriot-saint, by Ashutosh Ghosh. Published by Ramakrishna Vedanta Math, 1967.
Swami Abhedananda centenary celebration, 1966–67: souvenir, containing the most valuable and authentic records of the glorious life of Swami Abhedananda, by Swami Abhedānanda. Published by Ramakrishna Vedanta Math, 1966.
Swami Abhedananda: A Spiritual Biography, by Moni Bagchee. Published by Ramakrishna Vedanta Math, 1968.
The Bases of Indian Culture: Commemoration Volume of Swami Abhedananda, by Amiya Kumer Mazumder, Prajnanananda. Published by Ramakrishna Vedanta Math, 1971.
The Philosophical Ideas of Swami Abhedananda: A Critical Study; a Guide to the Complete Works of Swami Abhedananda, by Prajnanananda. Published by Ramakrishna Vedanta Math, 1971.
^Simon J. Joseph, "Jesus in India?" Journal of the American Academy of Religion Volume 80, Issue 1 pp. 161-199: "Max Müller suggested that either the Hemis monks had deceived Notovitch or that Notovitch himself was the author of these passages"
^Friedrich M. Mueller, Last Essays, 1901. (republished 1973). ISBN0404114393. Page 181: "it is pleasanter to believe that Buddhist monks can at times be wags, than that M. Notovitch is a rogue."
^Bradley Malkovsky, "Some Recent Developments in Hindu Understandings of Jesus" in the Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies (2010) Vol. 23, Article 5.:"Müller then wrote to the chief lama st Hemis and received the reply that no Westerner had visited there in the past fifteen years nor was the monastery in possession of any documents having to do with the story Notovitch had made public in his famous book" ... "J. Archibald Douglas took it upon himself to make the journey to the Hemis monistry to conduct a personal interview with the same head monk. What Douglas learned there concurred with what Mueller had learned: Notovitch had never been there."
^McGetchin, Douglas T., Indology, Indomania, and Orientalism, Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press, 2009, ISBN083864208X. p. 133: "Faced with this cross-examination, Notovich allegedly confessed to fabricating his evidence."