Abhedananda, Swami

   pioneer Hindu leader in the United States
   The Indian monk Swami Abhedananda founded the New York City Vedanta Society at the end of the 19th century, pioneering the spread of Hindu thought in America.
   Abhedananda was born Kaliprasad Chandra in Calcutta (Kolkata). As a teenager, he was interested in yoga, philosophy, and the religious life and, though quite intelligent, did not attend college. Rather, at the age of 18 he had his first meeting with Sri RAMAKRISHNA, who immediately recruited the youthful Kaliprasad to his inner circle. Kaliprasad moved into the Ramakrishna residence at Dakshineswar, where he lived until Ramakrishna died two years later.
   Shortly after Ramakrishna’s passing, Kaliprasad joined the other men who had gathered around the master in taking the vows of the renounced life (see SANNYASI), at which time he took the name Abhedananda. He spent the next several years in concentrated study of the Hindu holy books and in meditation. For a brief period he left his brother monks to wander around India.
   In 1893, one of his fellow monks, Swami VIVEKANANDA, traveled to America to address the WORLD PARLIAMENT OF RELIGIONS. Abhedananda organized the celebration in Calcutta of the swami’s American success, and three years later Vivekananda called him to assist his work in the West. Abhedananda remained in London for a year speaking and build-ing a following for the Vedanta Society.
   In 1897, Abhedananda began a 25-year stay in New York City. He succeeded in organizing a Vedanta Society (Vivekananda had failed to do so), and built it into a relatively strong organi-zation. He moved in the intellectual circles of his day and was invited to speak at a number of colleges and universities. He also made some 17 lecture tours in Europe. All his teachings and lec-turing consistently reflected the ADVAITA VEDANTA perspective of Ramakrishna; together with his learned colleagues he argued for the unity of Truth and the confluence of science and religion.
   In 1921, Abhedananda returned to India, where he was received as a celebrity. He went on to establish two Ramakrishna centers, in Darjeel-ing (1923) and Calcutta (1929). Among his last duties was presiding at the 1937 Parliament of Religions in Calcutta, organized to celebrate the Ramakrishna Centennial. Abhedananda died two years later in 1939.
   Further reading: Swami Abhedananda, Doctrine of Karma: A Study in the Philosophy and Practice of Work (Calcutta: Ramakrishna Vedanta Math, 1965); ———, The Religion of the Twentieth Century (Calcutta: Ramak-rishna Vedanta Math, 1984); ———, Spiritual Teachings of Swami Abhedananda. Translated by P. Sheshadri Aiyer (Calcutta: Ramakrishna Vedanta Math 1962); ———, Swami Vivekananda and His Work (Calcutta: Ramak-rishna Vedanta Math, 1968); Ashutosh Ghosh, Swami Abhedananda, the Patriot Saint (Calcutta: Ramakrishna Vedanta Math, 1967).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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