Sri Totakacharya

Sri Totakacharya was one of the four principal pupils of Sri Shankara Bhagavatpada. Associated with Him is the following edifying anecdote as in Madhaviya-shankara-digvijaya; it exemplifies humility and devout service to one’s guru. His pre-monastic name was Giri. The lad Giri was neither intellectual and erudite like Sri Sureshvara or Sri Padmapada nor enlightened like Sri Hastamalaka. Nonetheless, He was wedded to sincere, punctilious and personal guru-seva, service to the guru. One day in Sringeri, as He was engaged in washing His guru’s clothes at the river, the guru and His other students were all set to commence the lessons. Sri Shankara seemed to tarry for Giri to get back. Sri Padmapada then commented rather brusquely that Giri’s presence in the class would only be on par with that of a wall. Sensing the need to drive home to Sri Padmapada and the others the significance of unstinted guru-seva, Sri Shankara deemed it ripe to also reward the devout Giri. Sri Shankara mentally blessed Giri that complete knowledge of all sastras dawn on Him instantaneously. Soon, an enlightened Giri approached His master singing extempore, an octad of hymns marking surrender to and lauding Sri Shankara, his Guru, as the most compassionate conferrer of direct knowledge of the Supreme leading to emancipation. This spontaneous sublime hymn set to Totaka metre came to be called Totakashtaka and Giri, Sri Totakacharya. His other work, Sruti-sara-samuddharana, also set to Totaka metre, is the quintessence of the upanishads. Sri Totakacharya was nominated the first head of the Uttara-amnaya Peetha or Northern cardinal seat of vedic learning, at Jyothirmath, Uttarakhand, India, by Sri Bhagavatpada.