In MN 8 for example there's this:
Ṭhānaṃ kho panetaṃ, cunda, vijjati yaṃ idhekacco bhikkhu vitakkavicārānaṃ vūpasamā ajjhattaṃ sampasādanaṃ cetaso ekodibhāvaṃ avitakkaṃ avicāraṃ samādhijaṃ pītisukhaṃ dutiyaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja vihareyya.
Here's Ven Sujato's translation:
It’s possible that some mendicant, as the placing of the mind and keeping it connected are stilled, might enter and remain in the second absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of immersion, with internal clarity and confidence, and unified mind, without placing the mind and keeping it connected.
Here is Nyanaponika Thera's
It may be that after the stilling of thought conception and discursive thinking, he gains the inner tranquillity and harmony of the second absorption that is free of thought-conception and discursive thinking, born of concentration and filled with rapture and joy
And Piya Tan's
It is possible, too, Cunda, that with the stilling of initial application and sustained application, by gaining inner tranquillity and oneness of mind, he attains and dwells in the 2nd dhyana, free from initial application and sustained application, with zest and joy born of stillness [samadhi].108
108The 2nd dhyana is known as “the noble silence” (ariya,tuṇhī,bhāva) because within it initial application and sustained application (thinking and discursion, vitakka,vicāra) cease, and with their cessation, speech cannot occur. (S 2:273); cf Kāma,bhū S 2 (S 41.6) where vitakka and vicāra are called verbal formation (vacī,saṅkhāra), the mental factors responsible for speech (S 41.6/4:293), SD 48.7. In Ariya Pariyesanā S (M 1:161), the Buddha exhorts the monks when assembled to “either speak on the Dharma or observe the noble silence” (ie, either talk Dharma or meditate).
So what is it that is stilled -- and how (by what method) is it stilled -- does the doctrine say only, "first, think of something which causes joy; then secondly, rest in joy without that thinking"?
Is vitakka just "thought"? I get the impression that Buddhism classifies thought as another type of sense-object, perceived by the 6th sense i.e. by the mind -- is that right? And is a way to still thought meant to be to focus on a specific thought (perhaps an object or focus of meditation), and/or on other senses (e.g. bodily sensations)? And isn't that just fighting fire with fire? :-)
Or is the way meant to be, perhaps, to focus on a different khandha (e.g. focus on a sensation or perception or formation of joy, instead of on any of the six sense consciousnesses)?
Piya Tan suggests (n the footnote quoted above) that it's especially the type of thought associated with speech: discursion. What about day-dreaming though, imagining sights and situations -- imagining seeing someone or being somewhere, a memory of the past, usually speechless? Night dreams seem pretty random and mostly especially visual (unrelated to speech), they just bubble up from somewhere. Is that phenomenon simply a fact, i.e. the way things are, or is that indicative of some kind of problem?
It -- i.e. undirected/involuntary imagination -- seems harmless enough, sometimes pleasant or entertaining (or a bit surprising, the endless variety of fleetings imaginings), ending, restarting, morphing, kind of empty.
In primary school, teachers complained I was moony ...
dreamy and unaware of one's surroundings, for example because one is in love.
... or dans la lune in French which means, "to be absent-minded; to be distracted".
I take it that's a bad thing, is it? Like "heedless"? It doesn't seem especially immoral -- it's not like I'm spending my time plotting to murder someone. The worst that might be said about it is perhaps that it (i.e. daydreaming or non-applied thought) is a waste of time (or of "precious human life") -- is that even so, and/or is that only the restless of ego of a type A personality:
The hypothesis describes Type A individuals as outgoing, ambitious, rigidly organized, highly status-conscious, impatient, anxious, proactive, and concerned with time management. People with Type A personalities are often high-achieving "workaholics". They push themselves with deadlines, and hate both delays and ambivalence. People with Type A personalities experience more job-related stress and less job satisfaction.
I think I've read -- from non-Buddhist modern popular science -- that dreaming is the mind's attempt or mechanism for integrating recent experience with long-term memory, and/or rehearsing for (simulating) potential future events.
This kind of topic or mental activity seems quite large or time-consuming in life but I don't really know what Buddhism says about it -- whether it's good, bad, or normal, how to avoid it, how to use it properly -- I don't even know which words (of Pali, Tibetan, or other) might be used to describe the phenomena.
How about papanca for example, is that an apt description? My problem with that word is, I recognise it as pejorative (i.e. that "one should avoid that") -- but I don't know how it's prescriptive (i.e. "what one should do to stop that"). And/or is that restlessness, uddhacca?
Dreaming -- a stream of images -- seems to me an automatic process. Like a heart-beat, one might be conscious of it or not but seems to be always happening either way. Like it happens continuously, in a room inside my brain/mind -- and I can shut the door on that room, by paying attention to something else, especially to waking sense-impressions like what I'm currently seeing or hearing, or to some "intentional" or "concentrated" mental task (e.g. reading or writing, or driving, data-processing) -- but the room with its stream of bubbling dreams is always there and becomes apparent again when "sense-impressions" and "directed thought" stop, when the (little) "door" opens.
This question is more or less a continuation of the question about Mahayana doctrine about dreams and illusions
I think I understand those answers, the difference is that this time I'm hoping for answers that are are little more prescriptive and less descriptive.
I think (I hope) that I have no strong emotional reactions to dreams, I'm not aware of fighting (e.g. as described in Andrei's answer) or nightmares (as mentioned in Yeshe Tenley's answer).
It's just that I'm aware of kind of dreaming and even day dreaming, sometimes speech-based (imagining or rehearsing or repeating speech), sometimes only visually imaginative (similar to dreaming). Should I try to stop it and of so how? Replace it with something else, another mode of thought? Continuing to dream seems like getting lost in sensuality (especially the consciousness of the sixth sense) -- thinking I ought to do something else sounds like it might be "desire for becoming" or "for existence" -- so I'm not sure I understand what Buddhist doctrine is on this subject, what practice it recommends.