It seems a common tendency among modern-day gurus, even ones like Mataji or Swamiji who are obvious fakes, to claim to be the avatar or the world-teacher (jagadguru, sadguru) of this age. How much of this is due the genuine (whether deluded or valid) belief and/or experience of the guru in his/her own divinity, and how much of it is (ignoring the fakes here) simply a "teaching device", or even something accepted and expected because it is part of the whole tradition of being a guru, is not easy to determine. It seems that all these factors merge together. But I also feel that many gurus geneuinely believe their claim to avatarhood. Who knows, maybe some of them actually are avatars! ;-)
Okay, let's ignore the fakes and look at a few genuine gurus. I will list three: Da Free John (Adi Da), Meher Baba, and Sathya Sai Baba. Each claim to be (or claimed in the case of Meher Baba who has left his body) the supreme avatar of this age, and considered avatar of this age by their respective devotees (how many avatars of this age can there be???). Each seems to be genuine in their consciousness. Each teaches the way of Devotion to their followers.
Da is an interesting example. In his earlier books, like the The Knee of Listening, The Enlightenment of the Whole Body, and even The Dawn Horse Testament, he presents himself, quite reasonably and persuasively, as an adept - an adept enlightened even from birth, but not as the sole representative of God(hood) on Earth in this era. Later he started saying he was the Kalki avatar, the avatar prophesised in Hindu mythology. I originally thought this was crap his stupid followers were putting on him. As stupid humans have done to so many spiritual teachers since time immemorable. But then it transpired that, no, he himself genuinely believes he is the Avatar of this age, and teaches his followers to consider him as such.
In the case of Meher Baba and Sathya Sai Baba the situation is a little different. They claimed to be avatars from the start. Meher Baba says in former incarnations he was Buddha (even though Buddha enetered nirvana so he was never coming back), Jesus, Mohammad (who always said he was only a prophet, not God) and so on. Likewise Sai Baba said he was Krishna who had come again (I think Meher Baba also says he is Krishna).
There is a curious ambiguity with these gurus though. When a sycaphantic
disciple said to Sai Baba "you are God!" and he turned around and said
back to him "yes - but so are you!!!!" (c.f. Jesus: "I say unto thee -
ye are Gods"). We all have that divine nature within us. Another
time he said to a devotee "the only difference between me and you is that
I know that I am God but you dont know
that you are God" (or some words to that effect). Likewise, even
though Da claims to be the Avatar of this age, as one follower pointed
out to me in an email, "it is not that he is God and you and I are not,
it is that when the egoic mind is transcended it can be 'seen' that what
is true of His realization, is just as true for you and I as well."
It is the paradox of reconciling the theistic
avatar doctrine (I am God, you are not) with the egalitaritarian monistic
realisation (I am God, but so are you. You just have to realise it).
Sai Baba incidentally is like Da a very controversial figure - considered
God and avatar by his devotees, but accused of trickery, homosexuality,
and paedophilia by critics. But such accusations have always been
levelled against the genuine teachers (much more so than against the fakes)