I'm still entirely convinced that the man functions as a perfectly adequate image upon which to project the idea of God, making him more a stand in than incarnation, something that is true of every guru who has millions of followers.
Not just gurus. In India and elsewhere, it's common for people to go to temples and project their ideas of God onto a statue, i.e., a piece of rock. Since human beings are in many ways non-inferior to rocks, it's not surprising that this dynamic of projecting God onto someone/something works with human gurus also.
One thing that's cool about Satya Sai Baba is that he illustrates how much we warp our understanding when we WANT to believe something. SSB's "miracles" are so obviously magic tricks. If he could really materialize anything, why doesn't he do it in the open, rather than ALWAYS doing the miraculous materialization hidden from the viewer? His sleight-of-hand has even been caught on video. Yet people who want to believe, believe.
I watched a documentary on SSB. I'm not sure if it's the same one that mmm just posted. There were interview with this long-time, very rich devotee... I think he was once the owner of Hard Rock Cafe or some similar hip, ultra-successful business. Give the devotee credit for admitting on camera that he does believe it's probably true that SSB diddles kids. And yet it didn't change the devotee's belief that SSB is Lord of the Universe.