I recently finished Rich Brother Rich Sister: Two Different Paths to God, Money and Happiness (New York: Vanguard, 2009), by Robert Kiyosaki and Emi Kiyosaki. I have to take it back to the library tomorrow, so I’d might as well write my review right now!
Robert and Emi are siblings. Robert is a big-time financial guru who wrote the bestseller Rich Dad Poor Dad, and Emi is a Buddhist nun who was ordained by the Dalai Lama.
The book was not entirely what I expected. From the back cover, I anticipated an account about how two different people helped one another to see the world in a new light. Robert would teach Emi the value of money, while Emi would teach Robert about spiritual values. Because I am drawn to religion rather than get-rich-quick schemes, I thought I’d enjoy Emi’s sections more than Robert’s.
But things didn’t turn out as I expected, at least not entirely. For one, Robert says that the book was written so that Emi would have enough money for her cancer treatment. That’s a noble goal, but I’d prefer for a book to be written as a result of a profound experience in which lessons are learned, and there’s a felt need to communicate them to the outside world.
Second, Emi seemed to learn more from Robert than the other way around. Emi learned the value of money. She wanted to be a Buddhist nun living a simple life, but she realized that she needed money to cope in the United States, especially with our expensive health care system. Robert gave her tips on how to achieve financial independence.
And what did Robert learn from Emi? I’m not sure exactly. Robert and Emi became estranged from each other in their young adulthood because Robert served in Vietnam, whereas Emi marched in the peace movement. Robert eventually concluded that our involvement in the war had corrupt motivations, but he reached that conclusion through his own experience, not Emi’s influence.
The same went for a lot of his spiritual insights. He didn’t really get them from Emi, but from walking his own path of success and failure.
Third, I found myself enjoying Robert’s sections more than Emi’s. Robert writes in a light-hearted, conversational manner about the lessons he’s learned along life’s way. When he said that the religious people he knew were fine as wives or mothers, but became scary once they talked about religion, he pretty much had me hooked.
I also liked his story about how he became involved in self-help seminars. A girl he pursued invited him to them, and he reluctantly went, hoping she’d go out with him. When he failed to show a lot of interest, the girl told him that he needed that seminar more than anyone, since he was so needy. From that moment on, he tried to become a growing, spiritual, and successful person. He valued learning for learning’s sake, not out of competition or stress to earn a degree, to the chagrin of his academically successful father. Robert is open about his past mistakes and failures, yet he affirms that they were necessary to help him learn and grow as a human being. That reminds me of something I heard today from AA’s Daily Reflection: Nothing is wasted in God’s economy.
Regarding Emi, I got to learn about the Dalai Lama, meditation, and the Buddhist system of karma, but I wasn’t entirely clear about why she became a Buddhist. My impression is that it was something she kind of fell into. She talks about learning from her mistakes, since she admits that she wasn’t exactly the best mother. But I wasn’t entirely clear about how Buddhism shaped her life. That contrasts with a book I read a while back, Gabriel Cohen’s Storms Can’t Hurt the Sky: A Buddhist Path Through Divorce (see here), in which Cohen discusses how Buddhist insights helped him to cope with his hard divorce.
There were things that I liked about Emi’s story, but they didn’t have much to do with her Buddhism. She said that she’d always been a shy, socially-awkward person who was trying to escape from life, and I can understand where she’s coming from there. She also related that she worked as a Buddhist chaplain in Colorado Springs, a predominantly evangelical city (not to mention the headquarters of Dr. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family). She remarked that the area is quite friendly, as people greeted her when she passed them on the sidewalk, presumably in her Buddhist nun garb. Are friendly areas even real? Maybe!
Rich Brother Rich Sister has its flaws, since it sometimes reads as an infomercial, plus Robert comes across as a hero trying to rescue his sister. But it’s still enjoyable because it’s about people’s experiences, insights, and growth.