Krishna has two forms; Krishna consciousness represents the unmanifest; the other form is Krishna as manifest form of Brahman or God consciousness.
Krishna avatar is synonymous with self-realization.
Normally desires and negative thoughts core our consciousness with ignorance. The journey to self-realization involves removal or shedding of this ignorance which can only be done by the eight spiritual principles as described by the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. These include: Yama (self-control); Niyama (self-discipline), Asanas (bodily postures); Pranayama (control of breath), Pratyahara (one pointed), Dhyana (contemplation) and Samadhi (self-realization).
Ignorance can be symbolized by a prison, which represents darkness; narrow-minded approach (small entry gate) and limitedness to everything (small room). The chains in the prison denote the bondages of lust, greed, desires and ego.
The birth of Krishna in the prison means “self-realization out of ignorance”. It can only be acquired by adhering to the eight principles of Ashtanga Yoga with Tapas (Abhyasa) or hard work.
Krishna, born, as the eighth child of Devaki and on Ashtami, represents tapas of the eight limbs of yoga. The self-realization can only occur after the seven steps have been successfully negotiated and the mind is purified during the process.
In the state of Samadhi, there is spontaneous birth of the self. In this state (sama = equal; dhi = intelligence), one controls equality and balances himself between the good and the bad.
The symbolization is that, as Krishna was born, the chains that bound his father fell off; the doors that had been bolted flew open and the prison guards immediately fell asleep. Vasudeva, his father, took Krishna and went to Gokul, after placing Krishna in a basket and walking across the Yamuna river, where at the same time Yashoda, consort of Nanda, had given birth to a female child.
The “chains” here stand for the bondage to the external world and the five senses. A self-realized person is free of these bondages. The opening of gates symbolizes control over lust, desire, greed and attachments. The sleeping guards symbolize that in a self-realized state, one is totally cut off from the world. Everything else perishes and one gets detached.
The thunderstorm, the rain, and the fire, all represent the internal turmoil of uncontrolled desires and hatred. The moment Krishna’s feet touch the turbulent water, everything settles.
The spiritual lesson is that by turning inwards and towards one’s pure consciousness any turbulent state of mind can be controlled.
While acquiring all that, one must control the ego and keep the desires inwards and not have ego egocentric desires.
Controlling the ego is depicted as a snake sitting over the basket and guarding Lord Krishna.
The baby girl born at Gokul represents the Mayashakti, which was killed by Kansa (the ego of the body).
It is easy to control one’s desires and attachments, but controlling the Ego is the most difficult. This is illustrated by the fact that at the time of birth of Krishna, Kansa was still alive. It took many years for Krishna (self-realized state) to kill the ego (Kansa).
Acquiring a state of self-realization should not be the ultimate goal in life. After self-realization, if the ego is not controlled, one can misuse one’s spiritual powers. The ultimate aim in life should then be to kill the ego, which is what Krishna ultimately did.