William M. Bodiford

A photo of William M. Bodiford
E-mail: bodiford@g.ucla.edu Phone: 310-206-8235

William M. Bodiford is a professor emeritus in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he taught courses on religion in the cultures of Japan and East Asia, and Buddhist Studies. In addition to UCLA, he also has taught at Davidson College (Davidson, North Carolina), the University of Iowa (Iowa City, Iowa), Meiji Gakuin University (Tokyo and Yokohama, Japan), and ICU (International Christian University; Tokyo, Japan).

Contact Information:

William M. Bodiford
UCLA Asian Lang & Cult
Box 951540
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1540



He received his Ph.D. from Yale University (New Haven, Connecticut) in the Department of Religious Studies, where he specialized in Buddhist Studies under the direction of Professor Stanley Weinstein. In addition to Yale, he also received graduate training at the Institute of Health and Sport Science (Taiiku Kagaku Kenkyuka), Tsukuba University (Tsukuba, Japan), where he studied the intellectual history of martial arts in Japan under the direction of Professor Watanabe Ichiro, and at the Graduate School of Buddhist Studies, Komazawa University (Tokyo, Japan), where he studied Asian Religions under the direction of Professors Kagamishima Genryu and Ishikawa Rikizan.


His research spans the medieval, early modern, and contemporary periods of Japanese history. Currently he is investigating religion during the Tokugawa period, especially those aspects of Japanese culture associated with manuscripts, printing, secrecy, education, and proselytizing. Although many of his publications focus on Zen Buddhism (especially Soto Zen), he also researches Tendai and Vinaya Buddhist traditions, Shinto, folklore and popular religions, as well as Japanese martial arts and traditional approaches to health and physical culture. Finally, as a contributor to the Soto Zen Text Project (SZTP), he contributed draft translations and notes to Record of the Transmission of Illumination (an annotated translation of Keizan Jōkin’s Denkōroku, 2 vols.) and to Treasury of the True Dharma Eye (an annotated translation of Dōgen’s Shōbōgenzō, 8 vols.). He also contributed substantial introductions to both of these publications.


He is a member of the editorial board of “Studies in East Asian Buddhism” and “Classics in East Asian Buddhism” (Kuroda Institute).

A few of his publications include:

Zen Studies

  • Soto Zen in Medieval Japan.
  • “Dharma Transmission in Theory and Practice.”
  • “Remembering Dōgen: Eiheiji and Dōgen Hagiography.”
  • “Zen Buddhism” (in Sources of Japanese Tradition, vol. 1).
  • “Rewriting Dōgen.”
  • “Shamon Dōgen at Ninety.”
  • “A Once-Every-Thirty-Three-Year Kannon Festival.”
  • “The Enlightenment of Kami and Ghosts.”
  • “Zen and Esoteric Buddhism” (in Esoteric Buddhism and the Tantras in East Asia). 
  • “Zen in the Art of Funerals.”

Buddhist Studies

  • Going Forth: Visions of Buddhist Vinaya (editor).
  • “Anraku Ritsu: Genealogies of the Tendai Vinaya Revival in Early Modern Japan.”
  • “Buddhist Ecological Thought and Action in North America
  • “The Monastic Institution in Medieval Japan: The Insider’s View.”
  • Encyclopedia of Buddhism (associate editor).
  • “When Secrecy Ends: The Tokugawa Reformation of Tendai Buddhism.”
  • “The Medieval Period” (in The Nanzan Guide to Japanese Religions).
  • “Bodhidharma’s Precepts in Japan.”
  • East Asian Buddhist Studies: Reference Works (editor).

Japanese Studies

  • “Inoue Enryō in Retirement: Philosophy as Spiritual Cultivation.”
  • “Matara: A Dream King Between Insight and Imagination.”
  • “Myth and Counter Myth in Early Modern Japan.”

Martial Art Studies

  • “Zen and Japanese Swordsmanship Reconsidered.”
  • “Soke: Historical Transformations of a Title and its Entitlements.”
  • “Religion and Spiritual Development: Japan” (in Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia, 2001, first edition).
  • “Written Texts: Japan” (in Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia).
  • “Lives and Afterlives of Bushidō: A Perspective from Overseas.”


  • “Colloquial Transcriptions as Sources for Understanding Zen in Japan,” by ISHIKAWA Rikizan.
  • Kokan Shiren’s “Zen Precept Procedures.”
  • Keizan’s “Dream History.”
  • Chido’s “Dreams of Buddhism.”
  • Takuan Soho’s “Marvelous Power of Immovable Wisdom.”
  • Kyokai’s “Karma Tales.”
  • Genshin’s “Avoiding Hell, Gaining Heaven.”
  • “Taking the Vinaya Across the Sea.”
  • Eisai’s “Zen for National Defense.”
  • “Emptiness and Dust: Zen Dharma Transmission Rituals.”
  • Bassui’s “A Zen Master Interprets the Dharma.”

The Sōtō Zen Text Project (SZTP)

  • “Introduction.” In Record of the Transmission in Illumination (an annotated translation of Zen master Keizan’s Denkōroku), vol. 1, edited by T. Griffith Foulk.
  • “A Glossary of Terms, Sayings, and Names pertaining to Keizan’s Denkōroku” (contributor). In Record of the Transmission of Illumination (an annotated translation of Zen Master Keizan’s Denkōroku), vol. 2, by T. Griffith Foulk.
  • “Introduction to the Shōbōgenzō.” In Treasury of the True Dharma Eye: Dōgen’s Shōbōgenzō, vol. 8, edited by Carl Bielefeldt.