QUESTION: I totally see where you are coming from with the notion that “love is the spontaneous reaction to beauty.” But how do you discern beauty — Is it in the object or in the subject?
Beauty is neither in the object nor in the subject. It is in their combination. Beauty is the link between the object and the subject.
Love causes the link to form, and beauty is the experience of the link. In technical Sanskrit, love is called भक्ति (bhakti), and the experience of beauty is रस (rasa), which is the essence of अानन्द (ānanda). Bhakti is the cause of forming a link between two entities. Rasa, which produces Ānanda is the experience of that link.
QUESTION: Is it instantaneous?
As soon as the link between lover and beloved is established, love instantaneously manifests.
QUESTION: Does it require varying perspective?
Yes, it does require distinct perspectives. There must be a lover and beloved (in Sanskrit: āśraya and viṣaya).
QUESTION: How does time affect it?
Time increases it.
Lust and love are different ways of reacting to beauty. Lust diminishes, because it is exhausting. So lust for a person or object diminishes markedly after experiencing that it does not actually fulfill our needs as well as we hoped. Love, however, always increases.
QUESTION: Beauty seems to be a great mystery. Like love, we all think we know it, but we struggle to explain it. Science can’t qantify it. Philosophy doesn’t clearly define it. And, like love, it is deeply subjective. The two seem deeply connected.
Yes, love and beauty are inseparable.
Śrī Viśvanātha, a bhakti-yoga master from a few centuries ago, explained that love disappears when you try to dissect it, but it also disappears if you do not try your best to explore and discover it. Only those who are in awe of love can “explore” it without “dissecting” it. Those who revere love and think of themselves as her servant, they alone can understand love, for love fully reveals her secrets only to them.
QUESTION: Can attractiveness disguising itself as beauty?
Attractiveness comes from a combination of factors, including beauty.
Or, it comes from how much you feel that an object or person will fulfill your needs. If you see someone or something that you feel will really fulfill your needs, you immediately feel attracted to it.
So, different people find different things attractive, depending on how (and how well) they recognize and understand their true needs.
QUESTION: I would say that attraction of the senses results in spontaneous desire.
Krishna says this explicitly in Gītā. “When the senses contact an object, desire arises.”
Beauty on the other hand is an appreciation that something is pleasing because it is has a benifical essence to it and it is worthy of our respect/devotion.
This shows the difference in our attitude towards beauty. One attitude is “I want to consume it.” This is called “lust.” The other attitude is “I want to worship it.” This is called “love.”
Lust is the desire for the beauty to become an object of our pleasure. Love is the desire to become annexed to the beauty, to augment, amplify, facilitate, and encourage it; to “serve” it.
So, we can see that there are two ways of interacting with beauty. One (love) is flawless and produces happiness. The other (lust) is a flawed way of interacting with beauty, and it produces hunger, which is stressful and leads to suffering. So, it is not guaranteed that beauty produces love. If the perceiver is flawed, it will not produce love, it will produce lust. If it produces love, it will produce pleasure and happiness. If it produces lust, it will produce pain and unhappiness.
So you can see that not only are beauty and love inseparable, happiness is also inseparable. So it is actually a trio: love, beauty, and happiness are all three facets of one single experience.
So the perceiver has to do some work (sādhana) to improve their perception (get rid of avidyā, ignorance) before they can really perceive beauty.