There are twenty-two names of Arjuna and forty names of Krishna by which each one of them is addressed in the Gita. In this series detailed explanation of each of these names will appear one by one . For the entire list of the names click HERE
गुडाकेश guḍākeśa is one of the names of Arjuna by which he has been addressed by Srikrishna in the Gita (ref. 10:20 & 11:7). The literal meaning of the word is the one who is the master (ईशः īśaḥ) of sleep (गुडाका guḍākā). (ref. footnote on Mahabharata, 1.151.9). Shankaracharya in his commentary on verse 10:20 of the Gita says: गुडाका निद्रा तस्याः ईशः गुडाकेशः जितनिद्रः इत्यर्थः guḍākā nidrā tasyāḥ īśaḥ guḍākeśaḥ jitanidraḥ ityarthaḥAnother meaning of गुडाका guḍākā being thick or dense (स्नुही snuhī), the word गुडाकेश guḍākeśa also means thick-haired or with matted hair or curly hair. In this sense the word गुडाकेश guḍākeśa is also used for Shiva. Shankaracharya and Neelakantha both while commenting on the verse 10:20 of the Gita mention घनकेश ghanakeśa or thick haired as one of the meanings of गुडाकेश guḍākeśa. But Shiva being Adiyogi is also the master of sleep गुडाकेश guḍākeśa.
If we look at the contexts in which the word गुडाकेश guḍākeśa (master or conqueror of sleep) is used in the Gita we can find that Arjuna is addressed by such a name not because he does not sleep but because he can sleep well when he truly needs and can remain awake and dynamic for long without sleep if needed and without any fatigue. Also it can mean while in sleep he is ever conscious. The true गुडाकेश guḍākeśa is the one who knows the art and science of conscious sleep. One can learn a lot from this meaning that sleep is not just a biological need but can be practiced as a sadhana. Many Yogis and spiritual masters did have this siddhi of sleeping less and working dynamically for a long time without any fatigue. We have heard that the Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram used to work dynamically for twenty-two hours a day with two hours of conscious sleep.
The sleep you describe in which there is a luminous silence or else the sleep in which there is Ananda in the cells, these are obviously the best states. The other hours, those of which you are unconscious, may be spells of a deep slumber in which you have gone out of the physical into the mental, vital or other planes. You say you were unconscious, but it may simply be that you do not remember what happened; for in coming back there is a sort of turning over of the consciousness, a transition or reversal, in which everything experienced in sleep except perhaps the last happening of all or else one that was very impressive, recedes from the physical awareness and all becomes as if a blank. There is another blank state, a state of inertia, not truly blank, but heavy and unremembering; but that is when one goes deeply and crassly into the subconscient; this subterranean plunge is very undesirable, obscuring, lowering, often fatiguing rather than restful, the reverse of the luminous silence.
Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga — IV: Sleep
Sleep or nidrā is also associated with tandrā meaning sloth, laziness, exhaustion, lethargy, inertia and drowsiness. When Krishna addresses Arjuna as गुडाकेश guḍākeśa he awakens in him the concentrated and undeviating attention so then he can receive, hold and execute the message imparted to him. Sri Purshottama ji in his commentary on the Gita (10:20) therefore says: अतन्द्रितभावेन श्रवणार्थं सम्बोधयति atandritabhāvena śravaṇārthaṃ sambodhayati. It means Krishna addresses Arjuna as गुडाकेश guḍākeśa with the expectation that he listens to and contemplates on the messages without sloth, laziness,exhaustion, inertia and tamas. Vallabhacharya in his commentary on the same verse of the Gita says: निरालस्यतयैव चिन्तनीयमिति सम्बोधयति nirālasyatayaiva cintanīyamiti sambodhayati meaning Arjuna must contemplate on the teaching without any laziness. Dhanapati in his commentary on the same verse writes: एतज्जिताज्ञाननिद्रैरेव ज्ञातव्यमिति द्योतयन् संबोधयति etajjitājñānanidraireva jñātavyamiti dyotayan saṃbodhayati. It means the teaching that is being imparted can be known only by the one who has conquered the sleep of ignorance. Therefore, Arjuna is reminded by this name of his that he must pay sincere attention to what is being said to him. If the mind is fickle, chaotic, in a dispersed state, lacking attention, then whatever is attended to by this mind does not get registered in it rightly. For an effective listening a concentrated attention is needed and this is possible when there is a focused mind free from all kinds of troubles and tamasic elements. By addressing Arjuna with this name Krishna makes him aware of his quality of being focused, ingathered and concentrated. We have heard many stories of Arjuna how he had a tremendous power of focus and concentration. And it was because of this power he was the greatest and the most accomplished archer of that time. Knowing that the same Arjuna has now fallen into the state of delusion and darkness and is shaken up by the inner tamas, Krishna awakens the real Arjuna in him by addressing him as गुडाकेश guḍākeśa — the one who is free from all tamasic qualities. Neelakantha in his commentary on the both (10:20 & 11:7) verses of the Gita also interprets the word गुडाकेश guḍākeśa as the one who has conquered sleep (जितनिद्र jitanidra). Conquering sleep does not mean to eliminate sleep but to transform it by bringing more awareness within and by invoking peace and calmness into one’s being. Mastery over sleep or control over sleep or conquering sleep means to have control over oneself during sleep. Ordinarily people have no control over themselves during sleep. But by following the yogic discipline one can have full control over oneself during the sleep. When someone has attained to this state of sleep in which one is not just fully aware of oneself but has full control over oneself then one can be called as गुडाकेश guḍākeśa. This was one of the qualities of Arjuna that he had complete control over himself even during sleep.
But in the context in which he is addressed as गुडाकेश guḍākeśa, it refers to the state free from all tamas and being in a state of concentrated attention so then he does not miss the message imparted to him. Dhanapati explains beautifully in his commentary on the 11:7 of the Gita saying that Arjuna must become extremely attentive so then he can see the universal form of Krishna without missing anything — हे गुडाकेशेति संबोधयन् द्रष्टुं सावधानो भवेति सूचयति। he guḍākeśeti saṃbodhayan draṣṭuṃ sāvadhāno bhaveti sūcayati.
For any progress one needs to awaken the गुडाकेश guḍākeśa within. A concentrated attention without slightest deviation with complete control over oneself indeed is the key to any success.
Commentaries followed: गीताभाष्य — Shankaracharya अमृततरङ्गिणी — Purushottama; भावदीप — Neelakantha;; भाष्योत्कर्षदीपिका — Dhanapati Suri; तत्त्वदीपिका of Vallabhacharya
Read about the other names of Arjuna: