I would like to mention that we had on this issue a comprehensive discussion in another thread: post #193 and forward
Originally Posted by Viraja
Vaishnava understanding is that all forms of Lord Vishnu (Vishnu tattva forms) are eternal forms of God who eternally reside in Vaikuntha.
Originally Posted by Viraja
According to Gaudiya vaishnavas there is one form of Lord Shiva called Sadasiva. He is also one of Vishnu tattva forms, and thus He is also eternal form of God Vishnu, ie He is identical to Lord Vishnu. We can even say He is Lord Vishnu Himself.
Note here that no distinction is made between Vishnu tattva (category of Lord Vishnu) and Shiva tattva (category of Lord Shiva, ie Sadasiva) since it is assumed that they are from the same Vishnu tattva category.
Also note that according to Gaudiya vaishnavas there is another Lord Shiva who is not Vishnu tattva, who is different from Lord Sadasiva. This Lord Shiva is guna avatara Lord Shiva. He is one of 3 guna avataras known as Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. This guna avatara Lord Shiva is just a jiva soul and thus he is not the Supreme Lord.
Now, when we say "all forms of Lord Vishnu (Vishnu tattva forms) are eternal forms of God who eternally reside in Vaikuntha" by this we mean that these forms such as Narayana, Rama, Krishna, Sadasiva, Narasimha, Balarama, Sankarshana, ... etc, they all live eternally in Vaikuntha, and sometimes they descend from Vaikuntha to this material world as avataras. The word avatara literally means "one who descends".
It is also said that Brahman is only one, ie The Supreme entity (Brahman) is One who appears in many different personal forms. This Supreme Brahman manifested as God (the Lord) and His power (shakti) who is His eternal spouse (Goddess). Thus we have One Supreme Brahman manifested as various forms of divine couples Lakshmi Narayana, Sita Rama, Radha Krishna, Uma Sadasiva, ... etc. All these Gods and Goddesses are this single Supreme Brahman manifested in many forms. They are all Vishnu tattva category.
However there are other gods and goddesses who do not belong to this Vishnu tattva category. So they are not The Supreme entity (Brahman) but are jivas (jiva souls). In other thread (see my posts here: post #20 and forward) I explained that not all the gods and goddesses belong to the category of The Supreme entity (Supreme Lord or Supreme God) which is mentioned in the scriptures under the names Brahman, paramatma and Bhagavan.
In order to understand this concept, it is of fundamental importance to understand the difference between jivas (jiva souls, individual living beings or spiritual souls) and paramatma or Supersoul (Supreme soul, Supreme Self, the Self). Vaishnava conclusion is that the individual living entity (jiva) is eternally different from the Supreme Soul (paramatma) or The Supreme Lord who exists as Supreme God.
Here is an excerpt from Brahma-vaivarta Purana (http://brahma-vaivarta-puranam.blogs...-complete.html) which covers some of the points that I mentioned above:
Originally Posted by Viraja
105 “This is Sri Krsna, and this is, You, Radha. This is You, Radha and this is Sri Krsna Himself.” Neither the Vedas nor I can say this of You two. We cannot distinguish between You and say that one is different than the other. Who can say it?
106 O mother, above the material world is the spiritual world of Vaikuntha and Goloka. O mother, as the spiritual world is eternal, so You are also eternal.
The Supreme Brahman manifested as God (the Lord) and His power (shakti) who is His eternal spouse (Goddess).
Srimati Radharani or Radha (consort of Lord Krishna) is said to have the same status as Her Lord because it is said that Supreme Lord although essentially one being manifests itself as two, purusha and shakti -- male and female, the Lord (God) and His spouse (Goddess) who is His power (shakti). They manifest as eternal divine couple whose relationship is unbreakable and eternal, and they are always together.
58 Sri Radha is more dear to Me than life. Day and night She rests on My chest.
This verse illustrates Radha and Krishna are always together.
Now the following point about Radha and Krishna:
107 As the living beings in all material universes are part and parcel of Lord Krsna, so You are the powers and abilities that reside within all living beings.
108 All males are part and parcel of Lord Krsna and all females are part and parcel of You. Lord Krsna is the Supersoul present in the bodies of all conditioned souls. You are the resting place of Him.
Compare verse 107 with Bhagavad gita 15.7 where it is said every living being is a part of Lord Krishna, and Bhagavatam 1.3.28 where it is said all the gods mentioned are Lord Krishna's parts. (See these quotes in my post: post #62).
In fact everything that exists in the world, including all living beings, gods and goddesses is just the manifestations of the power or potency of Radha and Krishna. This is illustrated in the Pancharatra text called Sanatkumara-samhita (http://nitaaiveda.com/All_Scriptures...ra-samhita.htm) :
Texts 70 and 71
Please hear, O Narada, and I will tell you the meaning of these mantras. The material world is manifested by the Lord's maya potency and other external potencies. The spiritual world is manifested by the Lord's cit potency and other internal and everlasting spiritual potencies. The protector of these potencies is said to be the gopi Shri Radha, who is Lord Krishna's beloved.
Text 77 O Narada, please know that everything is Their potency (vibhutim - potency). Even if I had many hundreds of years, I could not describe all Their glories.
Text 72 The transcendental goddess Shri Radha is the direct counterpart of Lord Shri Krishna. She is the central figure for all the goddesses of fortune. She is the pleasure-potency of Lord Krishna.
Text 73 The wise say that She is the pleasure potency of Lord Krishna. Durga and the other goddesses in the world of the three modes are a million-millionth part of one of Her expansions.
Text 74 She is directly Goddess Maha-Lakshmi and Lord Krishna is Lord Narayana. O best of sages, there is not the slightest difference between Them.
Text 75 O best of sages, what more can I say? Nothing can exist without Them. This universe made of spirit and matter together is Their potency.
Text 76 She is Durga and Lord Hari is Shiva. Lord Krishna is Indra and She is Shaci. She is Savitri and Lord Hari is Brahma. She is Dhumorna and Lord Hari is Yama.
Compare this with excerpt from Brahma-vaivarta Purana (http://brahma-vaivarta-puranam.blogs...part-xiii.html) about Sri Radha:
Obeisances to She who resides in Vaikuntha¡ Obeisances to She who appears as Maha'-Laksmi¡ Obeisances to She who becomes Sarasvati the goddess of learning!
Obeisances to She who is Goddess Laksmi the queen of all opulences¡ Obeisances to She who is Goddess Laksmi the beloved of Lord Narayana!
Obeisances to She who is Lord Visnu's potency
Obeisances to She who is Savitri the mother of the four Vedas¡ Obeisances to She who is Durga'-devi the destroyer of obstacles!
Obeisances to to She who is the goddess of material energy who in Satya-yuga gave all the demigods their powers!
Obeisances to She who appears as Goddess Nidra¡ Obeisances to She who is beyond the modes of material nature¡ Obeisances to She who is the daughter of Daksa¡ Obeisances to She who is Sati-devi!
Obeisances to She who is the daughter of the mountains¡ Obeisances to She who is Parvati¡ Obeisances to She who is very austere¡ Obeisances to She who is Goddess Uma!
Obeisances to She who fasted not eating even dry leaves¡ Obeisances to She who is Gauri the most beautiful of fair girls!
Obeisances to She who resides on Mount Kailasa¡ Obeisances to She who is the queen of all opulences¡ Obeisances to She who is Nidra-devi¡ Obeisances to She who is mercy and faith!
Obeisances to She who is the fire's power to burn¡ Obeisances to She who is the beauty in the full moon and the autumn lotus!
Thus Radha and Krishna are manifested as all living beings, gods and goddesses including Lakshmi, Durga, Shiva, Indra, Shaci, Savitri, Nidra, Sati, Uma, ..., who are all parts of Radha and Krishna. All these gods and goddesses are either jiva tattva (jiva souls) or Vishnu tattva.
Not all the gods and goddesses are Vishnu tattva! Not all the gods and goddesses are same! We can say that all the gods and goddesses who belong to the Vishnu tattva category have the same status of the Supreme Brahman or paramatma. Yes, we could say so. But even then it does not make sense to say that, for example, Radha is the same as Lakshmi implying that there is no difference between them. Radha is eternally Radha, and Lakshmi is eternally Lakshmi. Lakshmi is a part of Radha and not the reverse. Besides Lakshmi is always with Narayana and not with Krishna.
Another important point to be noted: All the gods and goddesses who are Vishnu tattva remain eternally the same and do not change their status and form or physical appearance. That is why they are called "eternal"! For example Radha is always and eternally Radha. She never ceases to be Radha to become some other being or entity.
However this is not so with gods and goddesses who are jivas (jiva tattva category or jiva souls). Those gods and goddesses who are jiva souls have a material body, living in this material world and have a position which they get on the basis of their merits or good deeds (pious karma). Their material body is temporary, ie their life is temporary and they will perish, this material world is temporary and will perish also, and their pious karma is temporary also. When their pious karma is exhausted, they cease to be gods and goddesses and leave from their post of duty. Thus someone who is a jiva soul sometimes becomes a man, sometimes a god or goddess, sometimes even a demonic creature or lower being, sometimes even an insignificant insect. All this according to his merits, according to his karma.