patim me kuru te namah
iti mantram japantyas tah
pujam cakruh kumarikah
Each of the young unmarried girls performed her worship while chanting the following mantra. “O goddess Katyayani, O great potency of the Lord, O possessor of great mystic power and mighty controller of all, please make the son of Nanda Maharaja my husband. I offer my obeisances unto you.”
According to various acaryas, the goddess Durga mentioned in this verse is not the illusory energy of Krsna called Maya but rather the internal potency of the Lord known as Yoga-maya. The distinction between the internal and external, or illusory, potency of the Lord is described in the Narada-pañcaratra, in the conversation between Sruti and Vidya:
janaty ekapara kantam
saiva durga tad-atmika
ya para parama saktir
praptir bhavati nanyatha
anaya su-labho jñeya
yaya mugdam jagat sarvam
“The Lord’s inferior potency, known as Durga, is dedicated to His loving service. Being the Lord’s potency, this inferior energy is nondifferent from Him. There is another, superior potency, whose form is on the same spiritual level as that of God Himself. Simply by scientifically understanding this supreme potency, one can immediately achieve the Supreme Soul of all souls, who is the Lord of all lords. There is no other process to achieve Him. That supreme potency of the Lord is known as Gokulesvari, the goddess of Gokula. Her nature is to be completely absorbed in love of God, and through Her one can easily obtain the primeval God, the Lord of all that be. This internal potency of the Lord has a covering potency, known as Maha-maya, who rules the material world. In fact she bewilders the entire universe, and thus everyone within the universe falsely identifies himself with the material body.”
From the above we can understand that the internal and external, or superior and inferior, potencies of the Supreme Lord are personified as Yoga-maya and Maha-maya, respectively. The name Durga is sometimes used to refer to the internal, superior potency, as stated in the Pañcaratra: “In all mantras used to worship Krsna, the presiding deity is known as Durga.” Thus in the transcendental sound vibrations glorifying and worshiping the Absolute Truth, Krsna, the presiding deity of the particular mantra or hymn is called Durga. The name Durga therefore refers also to that personality who functions as the internal potency of the Lord and who is thus on the platform of suddha-sattva, pure transcendental existence. This internal potency is understood to be Krsna’s sister, known also as Ekanamsa or Subhadra. This is the Durga who was worshiped by the gopis in Vrndavana. Several acaryas have pointed out that ordinary people are sometimes bewildered and think that the names Maha-maya and Durga refer exclusively to the external potency of the Lord.
Even if we accept hypothetically that the gopis were worshiping the external Maya, there is no fault on their part, since in their pastimes of loving Krsna they were acting as ordinary members of society. Srila Prabhupada comments in this regard: “The Vaisnavas generally do not worship any demigods. Srila Narottama dasa Thakura has strictly forbidden all worship of the demigods for anyone who wants to advance in pure devotional service. Yet the gopis, who are beyond compare in their affection for Krsna, were seen to worship Durga. The worshipers of demigods also sometimes mention that the gopis worshiped goddess Durga, but we must understand the purpose of the gopis. Generally, people worship the goddess Durga for some material benediction. Here, the gopis prayed to the goddess to become wives of Lord Krsna. The purport is that if Krsna is the center of activity, a devotee can adopt any means to achieve that goal. The gopis could adopt any means to satisfy or serve Krsna. That was the superexcellent characteristic of the gopis. They worshiped goddess Durga completely for one month in order to have Krsna as their husband. Every day they prayed for Krsna, the son of Nanda Maharaja, to become their husband.”
The conclusion is that a sincere devotee of Krsna will never imagine any material quality to exist in the transcendental gopis, who are the most exalted devotees of the Lord. The only motivation in all their activities was simply to love and satisfy Krsna, and if we foolishly consider their activities to be mundane in any way, it will be impossible for us to understand Krsna consciousness.