Shree Krishna employs the term “atha” to suggest that Arjun may consider other existing explanations about the nature of the self. This verse gains significance when viewed in the context of the diverse philosophical streams in India and their varied perspectives on the self. Throughout history, Indian philosophy has comprised twelve schools of thought, with six being Āstik Darśhans, recognizing the authority of the Vedas. These include Mīmānsā, Vedānt, Nyāya, Vaiśheṣhik, Sānkhya, and Yog, each with its own subdivisions. All these schools accept the eternal, unchangeable soul as the self, in accordance with the Vedas.
On the other hand, the remaining six schools, which do not acknowledge the Vedas, encompass Chārvāk vāda, the four Buddhist schools (Yogāchār vāda, Mādhyamik vāda, Vaibhāśhik vāda, and Sautāntrik vāda), and Jainism. These schools present divergent explanations for the nature of the self. For instance, Chārvāka vāda posits that the body itself is the self, with consciousness being a result of its constituent elements. Jainism asserts that the soul is the same size as the body, subject to change from birth to birth. The Buddhist schools reject the existence of a permanent soul, proposing a stream of renewed animation from lifetime to lifetime, ensuring individual continuity.