In reading about the Zen pioneers Nonin (Daruma school), Eisai (Rinzai school) and Dogen (Soto school), I learned more about the times of Honen and Shinran, especially the pressures from the Tendai sect (headquartered on Mt. Hiei) that the Zen groups had to contend with. I think it helps to appreciate Honen and Shinran more when we see how teachers like Dogen broke away from their Mt. Hiei training and sought out what they saw as the fundamental essence of Shakyamuni’s teachings.
Also in reading Dogen’s eloquent distillation of the Buddha’s teachings (which he wrote in simple Japanese to communicate to the common people), we see a lot of similarities with Shinran’s thought. It seems a shame that the two didn’t cross paths. Dogen was turned off by nembutsu practice early on in his search after leaving Mt. Hiei (he said people reciting nembutsu sounded like croaking frogs to him) and in his later years, I think all the persecution from Tendai forces was getting to him and he became more crotchety, blasting Rinzai adherents and insisting on strict monastic practice (similar to Martin Luther’s turning away from the concerns of common folk and writing anti-Semitic bombasts). So it is unlikely that Dogen would have been receptive to Shinran and his teachings.
But in the person of Shuichi Maida (Dr. Haneda’s teacher), Dogen does meet Shinran and we can appreciate Dogen’s expression of niju-jinshin, the two-fold deep entrusting (aware of the limitations of the self and the unlimitedness of the Dharma).
Section Two of Genjokoan:
If we carry our self and learn and attain ten thousand Dharmas, then we call that being lost.
If ten thousand Dharmas advance and make us learn and attain self, then that is real awakening.
Buddhas are those who greatly awaken to their lostness.
Lost beings are those who are greatly lost by awakening.