Details of Totakacharya’s birth and initial life are not much known. After the installation of Mother Sharada in the Shringeri temple, the Acharya stayed there for a few days giving discourses to his disciples and other keen students of Vedanta. At this place a new disciple named Giri(Or Anandagiri as some say) joined the Acharya. He was notedfor his obedience, industry, righteousness and tacitumity. Hisdevotion to the service of the teacher was such that he would doeverything for him anticipating his want. Thus he would take his bath before his teacher, make all arrangements for his personal needs like cleaning of teeth, ablutions, sitting, sleeping, etc. Hewould shampoo his feet and follow him like a shadow. He would never do before the teacher anything smacking of disrespect – never sit listlessly before him, talk too much in his presence, or turn hisback to him. He always walked behind the teacher, stopped when he stopped, listened attentively to whatever he said, and did every" thing for him even without being told. One day, this disciple hadgone to wash his teacher's clothes and was a bit late in returning, and so the teacher, out of love for the disciple, delayed his discourse for a time, awaiting his arrival. As it was getting late, some of the other disciples started the Santipatha uttered at the beginning of the class, but the teacher stopped them and asked them to wait for a while until the disciple Giri returned. Thereupon, Padmapada said, pointing to a wall near by with his eye, "Whom are we to wait for? What qualification has a fellow, so dull as that wall, for the study of the Sastra ?" . In order to dispel the pride of these disciples, and out of his love for the one they traduced, the Acharya awakened in him, by an act of will, the knowledge of fourteen subjects. With all knowledge awakened in him by the grace of the Guru, the disciple Giri now appeared on the scene, uitering a great hymn in the metre known as Totaka, and for this reason he afterwards came to be known by the name Totaka. "Devotion to the Guru is an aid like a ladder that helps man inascending to that high, sky-transcending state of spiritual absorption, from which all the three worlds look very small. What wonder is there if the veil of ignorance was so rapidly dispelled in one who knew the proper use of this aid! "It must indeed be the grace of the Acharya that enabled the fool of this fellow to compose thegreat poem in Totakametre, embodying all the highest teachingsof the Veda." So thought all the disciples. Thus on witnessingthe wisdom and the poetical skill that their co-disciple had acquiredthrough his devotion to the Guru, Padmapada and others abandonedtheir pride of learning and came to hold him in high regard.As this poem emerged from this disciple's mind entirely out of hisdevotion to the Guru and as it took shape in Totakametre, he(that disciple) has come to be known as Totakacharya among wisemen. This brief but superbly beautiful, well-reasoned and profoundpoem in Totakametre, introductory to the study of theVedanta, is even to this day known among schoiars as Totakam.Reeeiving the new name of Tot aka from the Acharya, and equaling Padmapada himself in learning and intelligence, he came to beknown as one of the chief disciples of Sankara.
Sri Totakacharya went on to become the first head of the Shankara Mutt at Badrinath (known as Joshi Mutt).