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Life Stories

Developing the Courage to Fight for the Unimaginable

How I used my mentor’s guidance to conquer my weaknesses and achieve an undeniable victory in my career. I’m Mayur Gupta, from New York.

Mayur Gupta in New York.
Mayur Gupta, who was recently named to Forbes’ list of the world’s most influential chief marketing officers, says he is determined to use his work to become a beacon of hope for others. Photo by Marco Giannovola

Living Buddhism: Hello, Mayur, thank you for sharing your experience with us. How did you begin practicing Buddhism?

Mayur Gupta: My wife, Savera, introduced me to the SGI in 2006. She had such a strong sense of purpose that it made me realize how much my life lacked focus. I had received a master’s degree, landed a good job in India and eventually moved to the United States through that job. Even though I was doing well at work, I did not have big dreams or a mission in life. My daily life was comfortable, which led to a fear of branching out and trying new things.

What was your first benefit?

Mayur: I first experienced the power of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo when my family was planning a trip overseas. My passport had to be renewed, but the week of the trip, it still hadn’t arrived. This was the first time I took a seemingly impossible challenge to the Gohonzon and tested my practice. The night before our trip, my passport arrived. It may seem like a small thing, but for me it was a big deal. My old self would have given up, but this time, I chanted to the Gohonzon, willing every cell in my body toward victory. I learned that I could make the impossible possible.

How did you develop your practice?

Mayur: Well, I began actively helping other young men strengthen their Buddhist practice and participated in young men’s training groups such as Gajokai and Soka Group. I also began studying Ikeda Sensei’s encouragement, but struggled with the concept of having a mentor in life. Until that point, when I was trying to reach a goal, my motivation was to make my family, especially my mother, proud. But through learning about Sensei’s life and actions for kosen-rufu, quite naturally, he became someone I also wanted to make proud and share my victories with. Over time, I saw Sensei as someone who had shown undeniable proof of this practice, and as a disciple, I wanted to show undeniable proof as well. He gave me the courage to fight for the unimaginable.

How did your life develop?

Mayur: Since I began living my life based on a vow, my family and I have received tremendous benefits, from winning over life-threatening health challenges to overcoming family discord. I must say, the greatest benefit of all has been my wife and I welcoming our daughters, Samaya and Alaya, into the world.

A few years ago, I began chanting with the question: How can I prove the greatness of my mentor and the power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo? I wanted to show undeniable actual proof of my practice while making great contributions to the world. An unimaginable goal came to mind: To become one of the leading chief executives in the country. I felt this goal would be the perfect GPS for my life. It would allow me to prove that when you put kosen-rufu at the center, you accomplish the unthinkable in every aspect of your life.

Mayur with his family (l-r): wife, Savera, and daughters, Samaya and Alaya, enjoying a family trip on the French Caribbean island of St. Barthélemy, November 2019. Courtesy of Mayur Gupta.

That certainly is a bold determination. What happened next?

Mayur: In 2019, I was hired as a chief marketing officer (CMO) for a food tech and delivery company, which took us from Chicago to New York City. This was followed by a series of other victories. I was appointed as an independent board member for the largest news publication company in the country, our daughters got into their dream school and we found an apartment within walking distance to the SGI-USA New York Culture Center. Finally, to my astonishment, I was named one of Forbes magazine’s 50 game-changing marketing leaders in 2019. I viewed this as a small step toward fulfilling my life’s mission to prove the greatness of this Buddhism.

Buddhism teaches that when you make a strong determination, obstacles are sure to follow. Was this the case for you?

Mayur: Yes, 2020 was a rollercoaster professionally. Despite being one of the top performing executives on the management team, I felt the company’s values were diverting from mine. At the beginning of last year, I was mentally tired and emotionally drained. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic struck. I harbored doubts about my own potential and was gripped with fear of losing my job.

On April 24, I was asked to part ways with the company. I knew deep inside that I had won by staying true to my beliefs and values despite the looming uncertainty for me and my family. When my wife and I shared the news with our daughters, who are 10 and 6, we all hugged each other with joy, laughter and a strong determination to transform poison into medicine. We chanted as a family to kick off what was going to be the hardest professional battle of my career.

Mayur gives a talk at Ad Age Next in New York, January 2017. Photo by Ad Age

What happened next?

Mayur: The excitement soon gave way to a constant tug of war between my inner negativity and Buddhahood. I challenged my anxiety, fear and doubt with vigorous, determined chanting. The more I chanted, the more I felt appreciation and a fierce conviction that I would win no matter what. I cannot tell you how many times in a given day I would swing from one side to the other. But I never went to bed giving up.

I threw myself into SGI activities and encouraging the members as a chapter men’s leader. Every time my doubts crept in, I went back to the Gohonzon. I placed a card on my Buddhist altar where I listed everything I had gratitude for and read it every day. I proudly told the members about my struggles because I wanted everyone to see how one could struggle joyfully with this practice. And I knew that this would make my eventual victory report all the more encouraging for everyone.

I also chanted to share Nichiren Buddhism with others. I had many young people reach out to me through an online professional networking platform, asking about my life philosophy. In 2020, I shared SGI Nichiren Buddhism with at least 25 people, and nine of them have started chanting and attending meetings.

Is there a particular piece of guidance that inspired you to persevere?

Mayur: Yes, I studied one piece of Sensei’s guidance from “Letter to Misawa,” where he writes:

Josei Toda often used to remark: “When it comes to battling serious karma and undergoing our human revolution, huge obstacles and hardships can in fact serve as a powerful impetus, propelling us forward. Just ambling along a level road won’t help us change our karma.” The greater the difficulties and challenges we encounter, the greater the life state we can develop. Therefore, we mustn’t be intimidated by the three obstacles and four devils—that is, the obstacles and hindrances that invariably arise in the course of our Buddhist practice. Our wisdom derived from faith allows us to see through such phenomena, recognizing them for what they are, based on Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings, and regarding their occurrence as an opportunity to change our karma. We can then stand up with even deeper conviction and courage, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with unwavering resolve and forging boldly ahead. (The Hope-Filled Teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 167)

I desperately wanted to win for my family, my fellow SGI members and my mentor.

How did these causes manifest in your environment?

Mayur: I had to face a series of setbacks before having a breakthrough. After eight rounds of interviews for a chief marketing officer position at a Fortune 500 company, I reached the final round only to be passed up for the role. Two weeks later, another company offered me a position as CMO, however, out of nowhere, they decided to not move forward with the offer. I felt dejected. But by going back to Buddhist study, I could clearly see that devilish functions were trying to sway my resolve so I would give up hope. I chose to fight back with faith.

Then, something beyond my imagination transpired. I was approached by the largest news company in the U.S. to join them as their chief marketing and strategy officer. This was not even in my plans since the company already had a president who brought stronger experience and skills than mine.

On September 8, 2020, I started my new role, where I am responsible for establishing an authentic cultural brand that stands up for unbiased journalism with a mission to help build local communities in which people and local businesses can thrive. I am determined to make my work the stage of my kosen-rufu efforts from where I will be a beacon of hope for everyone in my environment. Also, a month later, on October 1, I was ranked No. 14 on Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s most influential CMOs.

“The way we united as a family with joy and appreciation is the greatest actual proof and will stay in our hearts forever.” Courtesy of Mayur Gupta

What an incredible victory! What have you learned through your struggles in 2020?

Mayur: I would say there are three main lessons. 1) The way we united as a family with joy and appreciation is the greatest actual proof and will stay in our hearts forever. 2) I understood practically how to identify and not be defeated by the three obstacles and four devils. 3) I can now clearly see my own negative tendencies as a professional that I need to transform.

What are your aspirations toward 2030?

Mayur: Toward 2030, I want to introduce more than 100 people to the SGI so they can transform their lives as well. I’m also striving for unimaginable victories at home, work and in society. I really want my daughters and my nephew to become capable and trusted young women and men who can support the kosen-rufu movement and stand up for world peace alongside Sensei.

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