What is the position of Durga in Gaudiya Vaishnavism?


Chaitanya Bhagavata is not a philosophical book, and it doesn't cover full life of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. It covers till Chaitanya Mahaprabhu takes sanyas and a bit after that. One things we learn from Chaitanya Bhagavata is that Bengali Vaishnavas were quite liberal and culturally sensitive and didn't have any fights/debates with other groups about supremacy.

However, Chaitanya Charitamrita covers later details and it is a book mixed with hagiograpy and philosophical teachings.

So, trying to get philosphical teachings from Chaitanya Bhagavata without understanding Gaudiya Vaishnava theology is misleading.

Some such statements are explained in this answer and I picked some portion of my answer from there.

Statements like "Chaitanya Mahaprabhu offered respects to Durga" doesn't prove anything that Durga and Krishna are same. If we use wrong logic, we can say, Chaitanya mahaprabhu offered respect to his mother Saci and thus his mother is same as Krishna.

It is like saying, Jiva is amsa. Avatars like matsya are amsa. So, Matsya is jiva.

And respecting someone has nothing to do with calling some one as minor deity, one respects Narada, Prahlada though they are jivas. It is again false logic to say that respect and calling someone as minor deity are mutually exclusive.

Chaitanya Charitamrita also says that in Navadvipa Chaitanya Mahaprabhu didn't manifest his potency as he did in his South Indian tour where he converted many into Vaishnavism.

CC Madhya lila :(109)

navadvipe yei sakti na kaila prakase se sakti prakasi’ nistarila dakshina-dese

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu did not manifest His spiritual potencies at Navadvipa, but He did manifest them in South India and liberated all the people there.

Thus Chaitanya Bhagavata which covers most of the earlier events doesn't have so much philosophy or not written in that style.

The reason why Chaitanya Mahaprabhu visited temples of Shiva and Durga in his pilgrimage is described in Sri Krsna Chaitanya Charita Mahakavya:

vainava sreth-a buddhya ye l phj ayanti mahesvaram tair ddatta ghnate so 'pi l tad anna pavana mahat

When bhaktas worship Mahadeva thinking of him as the best among vaisnavas, Mahesvara accepts that offering from them, and that food should be considered great and pure prasada . srI kna kn-a bh-akta-na l bheda buddhy-a patanty adhah durvvairan sikayas tas ca / bhakta rupah s-vaya harih

Those who in a sectarian spirit differentiate between Sri Krsna and his bhaktas indeed fall down. Sri Hari personally advented in the form of a bhakta as Caitanya Mahaprabhu in order to instruct such inimical persons.

acaryyaty api deveso l hita k-t sarvva dehinam nirmmalyam adarenaiva l ghItva j agad I-svarah

The Lord of all gods, who is the supreme controller of the cosmic manifestation, certainly seeks to benefit all embodied beings. Thus, by His reverential acceptance of Sri Siva's food-remnants, He teaches them by His example.

vainavaih phjito yatra l sn siva-h paramadarat anadi linga-m asadya l sn kna p-nti -hetav-e 20 tatraiva sasayo nasti l nirmmalya grah-ane kvacit bhaktir eva sada vipra l subha da sa-rvva dehin-am

Wherever the beginningless lingam of Sri Siva is worshipped with great respect by vaisnavas in order to develop love for Sri Krsna, there will be no doubt about accepting the remnants of Sri Siva's food. O vipra, such devotional service is verily auspicious for all embodied beings.

Some believe that Chaitanya mahaprabhu was born in Shakta family and thus he visited Shiva and Durga temples, however I didn't find any support for that claim. I asked a question here regarding that.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu specifically instructed Rupa and Sanatan Goswamis(seen in 19th and 23rd chapters of Madhya lila, CC) and other goswamis to go to Vrindavan and help Rupa and Sanatana to write books and excavate holy places in Vrindavan.

Therefore the works of Rupa, Sanatana and Jiva Goswamis are the authoritative opinions of Gaudiya Theology. No where they have accepted anyone other than Krishna/Vishnu as supreme. Of course in most of their works, they have dealt only with Krishna. Only very less portion is dedicated for other things.

The idea that all deities are equal is not found any where.

Brhad Gautamiya Tantra says :

radha durga siva durga lakshmi durga prakirtita gopala visnu pujayam ady anta na tu madhyama

Durga is name of Radha, Parvati and Lakshmi. In the worship of Gopala and Vishnu, only first (Radha) and last(Lakshmi) are employed, not the middle.

Gautamiya Kalpa says:

yah krsnah saiva durga syad ya durga krsna eva sah anayor antardarsi samsaran no vimucyate

Krishna is non different from Durga. Durga is non different from Krishna. He who sees the difference between them can't become liberated from this world.

Thus Krishna is the Lord and Durga is his svarupa sakti, not the Durga associated with material world.

The derivation of durga is: with great difficulty(dur) in worship, she is understood(ga).

In Narada-pañcaratra, in a conversation between Sruti and Vidya, it is described:

janaty eka para kante saiva durga tadatmika | ya para parama saktir maha-vi??u-svarupi?i || yasya vijñana-matre?a para?a? paramatmana? | muhurtad eva devasya praptir bhavati nanyatha || ekeya? prema-sarvasva-svabhava gokulesvari | anaya sulabho jñeya adi-devo ’khilesvara? || asya avarika saktir maha-mayakhilesvari | yaya mugdha? jagat sarva? sarve dehabhimanina? ||

“O beloved, the topmost transcendental potency, imbued with the nature of Maha-Vi??u, is fully aware. It is of one kind; it is the same as the spiritual Durga, being one in essence. Merely by cognizing that potency, and not otherwise, in a moment the transcendentalists can attain the Lord, Paramatma. This unique potency rules Gokula, and its nature consists entirely of pure love. The primeval God, the controller of everything, is understood and easily obtained through her. Maha-maya, the covering power that controls everything and by whom the whole world and all those who identify themselves with their material bodies are bewildered, is her potency.” (Narada-pañcaratra) (quoted by Jiva Gosvami in his commentary on Brahma-samhita 5.3)

From Anuccheda 285 of Bhakti Sandarbha,

The devatās such as Durgā and Ganeśa in the worship of the āvaraṇa during worship are seen as the Lord’s eternal servitors in Vaikuṇṭha such as Viṣvaksena. They are not the Ganeśa and Durgā composed of māyā-śakti. Since maya has no jurisdiction in Vaikuntha.

pravartate yatra rajas tamas tayoḥ sattvaṁ ca miśraṁ na ca kāla-vikramaḥ | na yatra māyā kim utāpare harer anuvratā yatra surāsurārcitāḥ ||

In Vaikuṇṭha there are no rajas or tamas, and no sattva mixed with rajas and tamas. There is no influence of time. There is no influence of māyā at all, what to speak of its products such as material elements. In Vaikuṇṭha the inhabitants are fully dedicated to the Lord and are worshipable by the devas, asuras and devotees. SB 2.9.10

Rather these people are filled with the Lord’s svarūpa-śakti. The controlling position of the special function of the śakti emanating from Kṛṣṇa’s svarūpa is described in the śruti and tantras.

In the discussion of Śruti-vidyā it is said:

bhaktir bhajana-sampattir bhajate prakṛtiḥ priyam | jñāyate’tyanta-duḥkhena seyaṁ prakṛtir ātmanaḥ || durgeti gīyate sadbhir akhaṇḍa-rasa-vallabhā |.

Bhakti, who is known as prakṛti, endowed with a wealth of worship, worships her dear Lord. She, the prakṛti of the Lord, is known with great difficulty. Thus the devotees glorify her, dear to the Lord of rasa, as Durgā (difficult to approach).

Her non-difference from the Lord is stated in Gautamīya-kalpa.

yaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ saiva durgā syād yā durgā kṛṣṇa eva saḥ

He who is Kṛṣṇa is Durgā. She who is Durgā is Kṛṣṇa.

tvam eva parameśāni asyādhiṣṭhātṛ-devatā

You are the supreme goddess, the controlling deity.

This hints at worshipping the Lord and Durgā as non-different, just as worship of the universal form and Mahāviṣṇu are treated as non-different.**

Durgā of material realm is a portion of māyā, engaged to serve by protecting the mantra in this world, which is dependent on the Lord. She is the servant of the spiritual Durgā and is not the controller of bhaktiservice.

Padma Purāṇa described the āvaraṇa devatās beyond māyā in Vaikuṇṭha:

satyācyutānanta-durgā-viṣvaksena-gajānanāḥ | śaṅkha-padma-nidhī lokāś caturthāvaraṇaṁ śubham || aindra-pāvaka-yāmyāni nairṛtaṁ vāruṇaṁ tathā | vāyavyaṁ saumyam aiśānaṁ saptamaṁ munibhiḥ smṛtam || sādhyā marud-gaṇāś caiva viśvedevās tathaiva ca | nityāḥ sarve pare dhāmni ye cānye ca divaukasaḥ || te vai prākṛta-loke’sminn anityās tridaśeśvarāḥ | te ha nākaṁ mahimānaḥ sacanta iti vai śrutiḥ |.

Durgā, Viṣvaksena and Ganeśa made of eternity, knowledge and bliss, Śaṅkha-nidhi and Padma-nidhi are in the fourth glorious circle. Indra, Agni, Yama, Nairṛta, Varuṇa, Vāyu, Saumya and Śiva are in the seventh circle. The Sādhyas, Maruts, and Viśvadevas are also there. All the others in the spiritual world are also eternal. Those in the material heavenly planets are temporary devatās.

Śruti says “The devatās associate with the Lord in the spiritual world.” Padma Purāṇa 6.228.60, 64-66

The ananya-bhaktas should not worry that the spiritual devatās share the same name with their material counterparts. Viṣvaksena and others should be honored since they are engaged in eternal service to the Lord in Vaikuṇṭha. Nor worshipping them is considered a fault. It is said “He who never identifies himself with, feels kinship with, worships or even visits those who are wise in spiritual truth (devotees)—such a person is no better than a cow or an ass.” (SB 10.84.13)

arcayitvā tu govindaṁ tadīyān nārcayet tu yaḥ na sa bhāgavato jñeyaḥ kevalam dāmbhikaḥ smṛtaḥ

He who after worshipping Govinda does not worship his followers is not known as devotee. He is simply a pretender. Padma Purāṇa 6.253.177

Thus it is said:

durgāṁ vināyakaṁ vyāsaṁ viṣvakṣenaṁ gurūn surān sve sve sthāne tv abhimukhān pūjayet prokṣaṇādibhiḥ

With prokṣaṇa and other items, one should worship Durgā, Ganeśa, Vyāsa, Viṣvaksena, the gurus and the various devatās. All these personalities should be in their proper places facing the deity of the Lord. SB 11.27.29

Thus Durga and other devas like Ganesa mentioned are eternal associates of Lord in the Vaikuntha, not the devatas of material realm.

Now, devas of material realm are described in Brahma Samhita:

Bs 5.43 — Lowest of all is located Devī-dhāma [mundane world], next above it is Maheśa-dhāma [abode of Maheśa]; above Maheśa-dhāma is placed Hari-dhāma [abode of Hari] and above them all is located Kṛṣṇa’s own realm named Goloka. I adore the primeval Purusha Govinda, who has allotted their respective authorities to the rulers of those graded realms.

Bs 5.44 — The external potency Māyā who is of the nature of the shadow of the cit potency, is worshiped by all people as Durgā, the creating, preserving and destroying agency of this mundane world. I adore the primeval Pursha, Govinda in accordance with whose will Durgā conducts herself.

In commentary Jiva Goswami says,

The abodes of Devi, Mahesha, and Lord Hari were described in the previous verse. Now, in the next five verses, it will be shown that Lord Krishna is the shelter of all of these abodes.

Thus, Durga is external energy or Bahiranga Shakti of Krishna.

Jiva goswami says the same in Tattva Sandarbha, text 33

The Lord does not interfere with the skillful actions of māyā, the controller of the material world, who has been his devotee without beginning. Desiring that the jīvas become favorable to him out of fear of māyā, the Lord teaches:

My māyā, made of the guṇas, fit for the jīva’s pleasure, is hard to surpass, but those who surrender to me alone can cross over this māyā. BG 7.14

The Lord, as ācārya, later teaches this particularly through his form of Vyāsa, a līlāvatāra. Vyāsa saw bhakti which destroys māyā (anarthas anarthopaśamaṁ). Thus there are coordinated functions of the māyā and the Lord concerning bewilderment of the jīva and desiring to make the jīva favorable.

“Māyā is a śakti and a śakti has ability to act. Śakti is merely a quality. Why then does māyā have the particular quality of being ashamed (if she is just an insentient śakti)?” Scriptures describe that there are controlling deities of these śaktis. One should see the discussion between Indra and Māyā (who is personified as a person)[Uma] in Kena Upaniṣad. Now let us return to the topic.

In commentary to 46th verse,

In this example Lord Shiva, because he is the controller of the mode of ignorance, is compared to the soot that is the by-product of these candles. Therefore He is not equal to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as are the forms of Lord Vishnu. In the following verses the various expansions of Lord Vishnu will be described.

In commentary to 49th verse, Jiva Goswami says:

Although Goddess Maya, who is also known as Durga, is a servant of Lord Karanarnavashayi Vishnu and dutifully carries out His commands, and although Brahma, Vishnu, and others are avataras of Lord Garbhodakashayi Vishnu, nevertheless Lord Govinda is the final shelter of all, and all others take shelter of Him. This will be further explained later in this book.

SB 10.87.28: You are the self-effulgent causeless one [free from the senses] who maintains the power of the sensory functions of all [creatures]. The devatas together with the material nature herself[Durga] take part in paying You tribute and partake of the offerings carried, just as the local rulers in a kingdom together with the sovereign who rules the entire country are of respect [for You] and enjoy their share. That is how they who are the appointed leaders perform their duties in fear of You.

That other devatas are automatically satisfied on worship of Hari is seen in

SB 4.31.14: The way one with watering the root of a tree satisfies the trunk, branches, and twigs and one likewise by offering food sustains the life of the [entire] sensory apparatus, so too each and everyone is honored when one is of worship for the Infallible One.

SB 11.5.41: Oh King when someone forsakes his material duties and takes to the shelter of Mukunda, the One Affording Shelter, he is neither the servant nor the debtor of the gods, the sages, ordinary living beings, friends and relatives, society or of the forefathers

In the 3rd chapter of 2nd canto, worshipping of various devas for fulfilling different desires is given first. Then it concludes with:

(10) Whether one is free from desire, is full of it or else desires liberation, someone of a serious consideration with all his heart in devotional service [bhakti-yoga] will honor the Original Supreme Personality.

(11) All these types of worshipers for sure develop, in their worship of the highest benediction in this life, unflinching, spontaneous attraction to the Supreme Lord through association with His pure devotees.

Now, can other devas be worshiped and if yes how?

Jiva Goswami says in Bhakti Sandarbha with respect to Shiva and Brahma and can be applied to other gods.

Brahmā, the original devatā, the instructor of bhakti for the world, situated on his lotus, considered how to carry out creation. He could not attain the knowledge by which the universe could be created. SB 2.9.5

Thus Mārkaṇḍeya speaks to Śiva:

varam ekaṁ vṛṇe 'thāpi pūrṇāt kāmābhivarṣaṇāt bhagavaty acyutāṁ bhaktiṁ tat-pareṣu tathā tvayi

I request one benediction from you, who are full of all perfection and able to shower down the fulfillment of all desires. I ask to have unfailing devotion for the Supreme Lord and for his devotees, especially you. SB 12.10.34

If one thinks that Śiva, the devotee, is equal to Viṣṇu, one does not attain bhakti. In Vaiṣṇava-tantra it is said:

Fools who concentrate their minds and see Viṣṇu on the same level as other persons do not attain pure bhakti to the Lord. He who sees Viṣṇu to be equal to Brahmā and Śiva is certainly a pāśāṇḍi.

The statements of non-difference with Viṣṇu are for śānta-bhakti-jñānīs. And also,

śuddha-bhaktāḥ śrī-guro śrī śivasya ca bhagavatā saha abheda-dṛṣtiṃ-tat-priyatamatvenaiva manyante

Whenever the scriptures describe the spiritual master and Lord Śiva as nondifferent from Kṛṣṇa, pure devotees understand this is because of their being the most beloved of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. (Bhakti-Sandarbha, Annucheda 216)

Jīva Gosvāmī clearly defined that a pure devotee's observation of the spiritual master and Lord Śiva as one with the Personality of Godhead exists in their being very dear to the Lord, not identical with Him in all respects.

Śiva should be worshipped as a Vaiṣṇava. If one has to worship Śiva in some circumstance, some Vaiṣṇavas say that one should worship the Lord within Śiva’s form.

There is a story in Viṣṇu-dharmottara. A great devotee brāhmaṇa named Viśvaksena wandered about the earth. One day he entered the edge of a forest. The son of the village leader came and said to him, “Who are you?” When the brāhmaṇa identified himself, the son said, “Today my head hurts. I cannot worship Śiva, my worshipable deity. You do the worship in my place..

The brāhmaṇa answered. I am a brāhmaṇa dedicated to Viṣṇu. I should worship only Viṣṇu. I worship no one else. Therefore go away quickly. Viṣṇu-dharma 3.354.12-13

When he said this, the son raised his sword to cut off his head. The brāhmaṇa, considered it not desirable to die by his hand said, “I will go there.” Going there, he thought in his mind, “Because he increases ignorance, for this reason, Śiva is in tamoguṇa. Nṛsiṁha should appear here to stop the worship of Śiva since ignorance can be broken with eradication of Śiva’s associates, just as the sun rises and with its rays destroys ignorance. I will worship Nṛsiṁha in the Śiva deity since Śiva’s worshippers have worshipped him in this form.” Taking a handful of flowers he said “I offer respects to Nṛsiṁha.” The son of the village leader raised his sword in anger. Suddenly the liṅga split and Nṛsiṁha appeared and killed the son with his followers. There is a Nṛsiṁha deity in the south named Liṅga-sphoṭa.

Thus the devotees worship Śiva as a Vaiṣṇava and some worship Viṣṇu in the Śiva deity.

Attaining the Lord by independent worship of devatās is denied in Gītā:

Those who are devoted to other gods and with faith worship them, worship me by the wrong method, O son of Kuntī. I am the enjoyer and master of all sacrifices. Those who do not know me as such continue to take birth. The worshippers of the devatās go to the devatās, and the worshippers of the Pitṛs go to the Pitṛs. The worshippers of ghosts go to the ghosts, and worshippers of me come to me. BG 9.23-25

Some good qualities arise by worshipping the followers of the Lord (devatās). It is also an offense to disrespect them.

11.3.26: With faith in the scriptures about the Supreme Lord and not >blaspheming other scriptures, one should with respect for the truth and with one's mind, speech and activities strictly controlled, be innerly peaceful and master one's senses

May Hayagrīva protect me from disrespecting the devatās when going on a path. SB 6.8.17

According to Murari Gupa in Karcha

The Lord [Chaitanya] Who is the ocean of grace went to see the lotus-face of Devi VirajA, seeing Whom all sins of the past millions of births are destroyed. Seeing Her, He prostrated to Her and asked to giver Her love and devotion.

This doesn't prove anything that Durga is equal to Krishna, even for Vaishnavas, it is said that seeing them one attains perfections. Here the worship is done as Vaishnavi.

Whatever I have stated above is the Gaudiya Vaishnava opinion picked up from the root sources whom all Gaudiya Vaishnava sects accept as authority.

Here are Hindi translations of Jiva Goswami works by Gadadhar subsect(who have nothing to do with Kedarnath Datta followers) of Gaudiya Vaishnavism:

Bhakti Sandarbha(Anuccheda 285)

Brahma Samhita

Bhakti sandarbha(Anuccheda 106)

Tattva Sandarbha(Anuccheda 33)

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