He was a member of the warrior class and fought with the Toku- gawa against the loyotomi forces in the battle of Sekigahara and the winter and summer campaigns against Osaka Castle, distinguishing himself on the field. But from an early age he had been troubled by questions relating to the nature of life and death and had associated with such Zen monks as Taigu and Gudo. In 1620 he finally abandoned lay life and entered the priesthood, traveling about to various temples and going into retirement to conduct religious practices on his own. In 1624 he built a small hermitage for himself at a place called Ishi-no-taira in Mikawa. In 1632 he turned his hermitage into a temple called Onshin-ji; thereafter he became known as Sckihei Dojin, or Priest of Sckihei, Sckihei being the Sino-Japanese reading of the place name Ishi-no-taira. He attained full enlightenment in 1639.
His younger brother Suzuki Shigenari distinguished himself in the action to put down the peasant rebellion in Shimabara in Kyushu and was accord¬ingly appointed to act as local governor of Amakusa, one of the regions involved in the revolt. For this reason, Shosan went to Amakusa in 1641 where he worked to spread Buddhist teachings.
His aim was to adapt his teachings to the particular class to which his listeners belonged, whether samurai, peasant, artisan, or merchant, and to instill a kind of faith that would have meaning in terms of the daily life of the believers.
He wrote various works such as Bammin tokuyo, Fumoto no kusawake, Moanjo, Nembutsu zoshi, and Futari bikuni, which employ a simple, colloquial style suitable for readers of the lower classes. The last two works, which contain didactic tales, are important in literary history as early examples of the type of works of popular fiction known as kanazoshi. An account of his late years is preserved in a work entitled Roankyo by his disciple Echu.