Srila Madhvacarya was born in Udupi, South India, in the early thirteenth century. From his early childhood it was obvious that he was a remarkable person. He once cleared his father of debts by converting tamarind seeds into coins. Whenever his mother was disturbed, from wherever he was he would appear before her in one jump. When Madhva was five years old, with his toe he killed a demon in the form of a snake living near his home.

Most noteworthy, however, were Madhvacarya's spiritual qualities. He received brahmana initiation at the age of five and accepted sannyasa, the renounced order of life, at age twelve.

Madhvacarya met Vyasadeva, the compiler of the Vedas, in the Himalayas, where Vyasadeva had been living for thousands of years. Madhva became a great scholar by studying the Vedas under Vyasa and used his erudite scholarship to crush the Mayavada (impersonalistic) philosophy. By defeating several Mayavada leaders, he became famous throughout India. He initiated eight disciples, who became the directors of his eight monasteries. Madhvacarya was also famous for his physical strength. A person named Kadanjari, who possessed the strength of thirty men, once challenged Madhva to fight. Madhva placed the big toe of his foot on the ground and asked the fighter to lift it. Kadanjari could not and had to admit defeat. Once Madhvacarya was attacked by robbers, but he killed them all. Another time, Madhva's companion Satya Tirtha was attacked by a tiger, but with his great strength Madhva separated them.

One day, while Madhvacarya was meditating by the sea, he saw a large boat in danger. He helped the boat to safety and was rewarded with a large chunk of gopi-candana, sacred clay from Dvaraka, the city where Krsna had lived on the west coast of India. As the clay was being carried, it broke apart, revealing a Deity of Lord Krsna. The Deity assumed such a great weight that not even thirty people could carry Him, but Madhvacarya personally carried Him to Udupi and installed Him there. The Deity is still worshiped there according to the standards set by Madhvacarya.

Madhvacarya is the principal acarya, or spiritual teacher, in the disciplic line in which Srila Prabhupada, and therefore ISKCON, has come. That line is known as the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Sampradaya.