LORD CAITANYA Mahaprabhu advises that one chant the names of the Lord always, since the Lord's names and the Lord are nondifferent.
A reader who got in touch with us on the vast network of computer networks known as the Internet wonders how this is so. "No symbol can be the same as the object or entity it symbolizes," he writes. "That is against the whole concept of names or symbols. Also, the names of the Lord exist only in our minds and while we think them or say them, but the Lord is omnipresent in space and time. If the two are the same, there is a clear contradiction. How can this contradiction be resolved?"
Here is how I replied.
If by "symbol" we mean "something that represents, and differs from, something else," then according to Vedic literature the names of the Lord are not symbols.
The Padma Purana says:
nama cintamanih krsnas caitanya-rasa-vigrahah purnah suddho nitya-mukto 'bhinnatvan nama-naminoh
"The holy name of Krsna is transcendentally blissful. It bestows all spiritual benedictions, for it is Krsna Himself, the reservoir of all pleasure. Krsna's name is the form of all transcendental tastes or relationships. It is complete, it is never contaminated by material qualities, and it is always liberated and spiritual; it is never conditioned by the laws of material nature. The name of Krsna and Krsna Himself are identical."
In the conditioned soul, there is a difference between one's name, one's form, and one's self. But in Krsna, the Absolute, no such distinction exist. That is the nature of the Absolute.
Therefore, if the Lord is omnipresent in space and time, so too are His names.
We may sometimes think of the Lord, but His existence does not depend on our thinking of Him; He exists before we think of Him and after. Similarly, when we chant or think of the holy name of the Lord, the holy name exists independently, both before and after.
To our conditioned mind and senses, this is fairly well inconceivable. Therefore the Padma Purana says:
atah sri-krsna-namadi na bhaved grahyam indriyaih sevonmukhe hi jihvadau svayam eva sphuraty adah
"Material senses cannot appreciate Krsna's holy name, form, qualities, and pastimes. When a conditioned soul is awakened to Krsna consciousness and renders service by using his tongue to chant the Lord's holy name and taste the remnants of the Lord's food, the tongue is purified, and one gradually comes to understand who Krsna really is."
In other words, as Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita:
bhaktya mam abhijanati yavan yas casmi tattvatah tato mam tattvato jnatva visate tad-anantaram
"One can understand Me as I am [as the Supreme Personality of Godhead] only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of Me by such devotion, one can enter into the kingdom of God."
Lord Krsna is nondifferent from His words as found in Bhagavad-gita and His holy names as found in the maha-mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. So by reading books such as Bhagavad-gita As It Is, by chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, and by rendering devotional service to Lord Krsna under proper guidance, one can attain perfection of life.