Demons kidnap Ariel’s mother. She didn’t know they existed until she saw one drag her mother into a hole in the ground. The shock jolts her from her normal reality. Ariel becomes aware of the power of negative emotions—represented by the demons—to trap us. And so the story begins with the same realisation as individuals taking their first step on the path towards enlightenment.
In Buddhism, Mothers represent unconditional love because traditionally they love us regardless of what we do, and so we naturally love them back. We care about them, and we respect them because of everything they have done for us. And because we all have had many lives, everyone has, at some time or other, been our beloved mother. Thinking that everyone has been our mother makes it is easier for us to consider all beings with love, to care about them and want to keep them from suffering, to rejoice when they are happy and to see everyone as equal.
Ariel’s compassion arises naturally when her mother is kidnapped. She doesn’t want her mother to suffer, in fact she can’t bear the thought of her mother being trapped in a demon’s nest underground. She has to do something about it, and she comes to realise that, in order to free her mother, she must make the trek to the top of the mountain and defeat the master demon—her ego. Her motivation for the journey to the top of Diamond Peak is to free her mother from the suffering of being held in bondage by the demons of negative emotions and, by extension, to free all beings from the same suffering. In Mahayana ad Vajrayana Buddhism, this is the motivation for following the path to enlightenment. Buddhists in these traditions do not seek enlightenment for themselves alone, they seek it in order to help others find the same state themselves. So Ariel’s journey is motivated by compassion.
Later, Ariel learns that the stuff the demons are made of infects all human beings, like a parasite, and traps them, to varying degrees, in the dissatisfaction caused by letting negative emotions rule them. This demons stuff is the cause of our anger, hatred, greed, prejudice and ignorance—the five kleshas / destructive emotions—and the causes of wars and all human cruelty and unhappiness. When she defeats the master demon, all the demons and the demon stuff in all beings will vaporise along with the master demon, so she will not only free her mother from the demon’s nest but will also free all beings from the demon stuff that keeps them in bondage.
This reflects the ability of enlightened beings to help others achieve realisation simply through the spiritual power of their enlightenment. When we come into the presence of realised masters, our minds tend to naturally still and, if we are open enough, we feel the power of their peace, compassion and wisdom. In their presence, we can taste our own enlightened state, and their very existence inspires us to take the same path.
As Ariel progresses up the mountain, she comes to realise that she and all human beings have the power, through defeating the master demon, to curb the growing cruelty and ignorance of the human race, and her motivation grows from the desire to free one person from the demons to that of freeing all beings. Her compassion moves from a limited compassion to a great compassion—Bodhicitta, the desire to achieve enlightenment for the sake of others.